Monday, March 30, 2015

The Last Post (for now)

1st State BIKES was started by the need for on-road safety and advocacy in Delaware, and to support the Delaware Bicycle Council. In doing so, it filled an obvious void left by Bike Delaware, the State's League of American Bicyclists supported bicycling advocacy organization. In nearly two years, 400 articles were written or cross-posted, that run the gamut of bicycle advocacy as described in the LAB's 5 Es. These included Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation, mostly as they pertain to riding on our public roads. Missing from LAB's equation, however, is a 6th "E" that was somehow forgotten: Equality. As described by the American Bicyclist Education Association, it stands for the following:
Equal Level of Service is a critical part
of bicycle advocacy.
  • Uniformity: Ensuring uniform laws throughout a state to protect against access, movement, and equipment ordinances that discriminate against cyclists.
  • Access: Affirming the legal rights of bicyclists to use all highways, and all parts and features of those highways, particularly the roadway itself (i.e. the part designated for driving of vehicles, excluding shoulders, sidewalks, etc.), except possibly for controlled access freeways for which sound and reasonable alternatives are available.
  • Movement: Affirming that the default behavior for motorists, lane control on laned roadways, is also the default behavior for bicyclists. This means no bicyclist (class) specific movement rules that prohibit lane control or restrict turning movements or the use of turn lanes. Also unacceptable are any laws that prevent cyclists from making the same movements as other drivers or subject them to more restrictive lane usage rules than other drivers. This equal legal roadway movement status does not prevent or inhibit bicyclists from using special facilities, which serve as options for bicycle travel.
  • Equipment: Ensuring that minimum bike propulsion, fit, braking and lighting requirements are adequate for effective operation and precluding restrictions unrelated to safety or effective operation.
Due to our high percentage of arterial roads, however, equality is not always safe, easy, or desirable. Geographically, only a small percentage of Delaware is truly urbanized or early 20th century suburban where bicycle driving (aka "vehicular cycling") can be effective. For those wishing to ride away from the road for transportation, very few rail trail or other right of way (row) possibilities exist. As a result, shoulder and bike lane riding with high speed traffic is very common here compared to many other States. It is for this reason that we have advocated for well designed infrastructure treatments that define a bicyclist's safest position on the roadway, especially leading up to and through intersections. We also worked with DelDOT to improve our warning signs for bicyclists, and offered to help with the targeted removal of generic (symbol only) signs over time. Known in the manuals as the W11-1, this sign is no longer applicable in most locations, since Bike Delaware campaigned to eliminate "Share the Road" from DelDOT's manuals based on a technicality. Another notable success was bicycle-friendly rumble strips - not only in Delaware, but in Maryland as well (though in recent applications, some important specs have been ignored, hence the need for continued advocacy).

Jennifer Wallace stresses the importance of non-profit accountability
during the 2015 Delaware Environmental Summit in Dover. Transparency
is a foreign concept to some bicycling organizations in Delaware,
including co-ops.
With the LAB refusing to help our cause, having stated as much in writing, we have little choice but to accept the fact that separated infrastructure (sidepaths and off-alignment trails) is the first choice among Delaware's bicyclists. As a result, riding for transportation and recreation in the built environment - at least for those that appreciate leaving from home - will remain a huge uphill battle. Bicyclists are a virtual no-show for even the simplest of action items that could positively impact bicycle-friendliness in the 1st State. They seldom show up at DelDOT public workshops, or sign petitions regardless of how well publicized. Progress will be difficult, as long as Delaware's bicycling community - including its cooperatives and mountain bicyclists - refuse to unite in a single front that works together for its own common good.

There needs to be one large tent that all of us can work under, as seen in other bicycle-friendly States. The approach needs to be holistic, and all-inclusive. Unfortunately, even Delaware's most committed road bicyclists are content to follow the lead of an organization with a very small tent - akin to a Chinese cocktail umbrella - that lobbies exclusively for separated facilities. In doing so, they are undermining the efforts of those that do advocate for on-road safety and infrastructure. Further, the State's recreational clubs continue with monetary support of said organization, despite the lack of an annual report, and the lowest level of transparency and accountability for a non-profit. No one even questions the acceptance of charitable donations collected on behalf of the Phillip Bishop tragedy, and why at least some of it wasn't allocated for PSA campaigns like this one.

Here is a sampling of the issues, where said organization (Bike Delaware) has damaged the cause of road bicycling:
  • Absent on anything to do with the Vulnerable Road Users Law. Never supported the Delaware Bicycle Council on matters of legislation, i.e. Refused to "babysit" the 3' passing law by attending its hearing, and only agreed with it in principle.
  • Hijacked the LAB's Bicycle Friendly State's year to year rankings, providing instead what appeared a linear climb to the top for Delaware. Has everyone believing that our Top 5 ranking is based almost exclusively on pathway funding, when in fact it was also due to State legislation and policy changes/additions that address bicycle safety (the work of others).
  • Undermined a bus PSA banner that read "Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights", to where DelDOT replaced it with "Safety Begins With Sharing".
  • In a negative letter giving borderline support, the E.D. almost undermined AASHTO standard bike lanes on Rt.13 in Dover, which have since improved the safety of hundreds of commuters including migrant workers along the corridor.
  • Did not support a joint survey with RideShare Delaware, aimed at the users of the Rt.13 bike lanes, to find out whether or not they felt safer as a result.
  • Publicly stated that bike pocket lanes are "human meat grinders".
  • Despite initial support, and DelDOT's requesting it, the E.D. steadfastly maintained that SB-120 (a law to provide legal protections for bicyclists using a dedicated right turn-only lane as a continuation of a bike lane) wasn't necessary.
  • Pushed for the removal of our widespread (on most major roads) Share the Road signs, but did not support the efforts of others to redesign and replace them with something better (i.e. Bicycles "In Lane").
  • Has never once supported the application of Complete Streets during a Pave & Rehab project. Unfortunately, most often, these are the only chance we have at improvements.
  • Did not support an on-line petition for the enforcement of bicycle parking ordinances in New Castle County, given how often they are waived.
  • Did not support an on-line petition for the creation of an on-road Wilmington to Newark marked route, one that DelDOT would watch for enhanced safety improvements.
  • Never rallies attention to DelDOT public workshops unless it's for a separated facility or pathways project. It was the work of other advocates that drew attention to and won bicycle accommodations through Delaware's first "Diverging Diamond" Rt.1 overpass on Rt.72, coming next year.
  • Does little to memorialize bicycling fatalities, unless it benefits their agenda or bottom line. Did nothing to rally bicyclists to attend the Eloy Sandoval and Phillip Bishop vehicular manslaughter hearings, despite the proven advantages of doing so. For the latter, a Bike Delaware board member did attend and actually said that "it could've been any one of us" when referring to the defendant's horrific crime.
As of April 1, 2015 1st State Bikes is discontinued. We urge those of you that are following us until now (if you support road bicycling safety) to rethink your membership with the League of American Bicyclists, and instead support the American Bicyclists Education Association. This is an organization that, much to the chagrin of the LAB, is trying to address the needs of today's bicyclists in the built environment (an environment that won't be changing much for most Americans, for many generations to come) in the form of education, enforcement, and correctly designed infrastructure. This blog, as you see it now, will remain on-line indefinitely as an archive for those who might stumble upon it for the first time, and wish to read about our former projects and/or progress.

Pedestrian Channelizing Islands, aka "Pork Chops", are an ongoing problem in Delaware. In 2009, DelDOT committed in writing to maintain 5 feet of offset for bike lanes through intersections and side streets. This requirement is also in their Bicycle Policy. In the May 2013 picture above, a bicyclist is unnecessarily forced out into the lane of high speed traffic to continue in a bike lane. Without continued oversight, guidelines such as these will continue to be ignored or forgotten.
The future? Delaware bicyclists show overwhelming support for facilities that remove them from public roads, and thus, sacrifices their legal rights as vehicles. As very few actually use these facilities, they fall into serious disrepair, and are left to abandonment by DelDOT or adjacent landowners who are supposedly responsible for their maintenance.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pick your favorite candidates for "Bicycles In Lane" signs

Given our recent project to optimize and consolidate bicycle safety signage in Delaware, DelDOT will be accepting bicyclist's input to help them locate some of the first "Bicycles In Lane" signs. While not the celebrated "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" sign recently won in Maryland, it is an acceptable compromise nonetheless. It is a warning sign that now carries a brief, yet powerful educational message to drivers that bicyclists are legally entitled to ride in the lane of traffic.

The map below contains the input of a very few road safety advocates. You will need to zoom in for a closer look. If you know of a good candidate road, and it is not on the map with green highlight, just submit a comment below with your suggestion(s), or send it via email.

According to the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the bicycle warning sign by itself is used to indicate "bicycles ahead", i.e. crossing or entering the roadway. With the removal of "Share the Road" as a sub-sign, or "plaque", most of these signs are no longer effective when it comes to bicyclists using the roadway. Therefore, in order to move forward with DelDOT, and achieve effective and correctly placed signage, a more comprehensive and holistic approach is needed. This includes the removal or replacement of many - if not most of the existing signs, mainly, the W11-1 warning sign.

After folks are given a chance at input, we will then construct a roll out plan with DelDOT. Such a plan will start by paring down the above candidates to those most in need. In other words, the best roads to go after in terms of traffic volume, bicycle counts, incident likelihood, etc. From there, the remaining candidates - and continued requests - may be documented, and addressed over time.

We sincerely thank DelDOT for their willingness to engage in this project. It is a good compromise for both parties, that will not only increase safety, but will also help remove unnecessary sign clutter.

Sadly, bicyclist interest has been weak. For more info, visit the complete timeline on this project.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Who better appreciates DelDOT ... drivers or bicyclists?

Traffic . . . they don't care about us. Ya know, they want the pot holes fixed, yet, they want you out of their way. So . . . you have to deal with it.

Hopefully, DelDOT's crews understand that most of us in the bicycling advocacy community do appreciate their efforts to make our roads safer. Bicyclists even passed a bill that identifies roadside construction workers as vulnerable road users, adding additional penalties.

Here is just a sampling of the many instances where advocates heaped praise on DelDOT for their positive actions:

Technicians from DelDOT Traffic adjust a faulty detector at the intersection of Route 273/Brownleaf Road. The signal was not tripping for bicyclists, and was reported by Bike Delaware's then Vice President, Caroline Honse. (photo by Caroline Honse).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Roads were not [originally] built for cars"

How cyclists, not drivers, first fought to pave US roads

From VOX -- Nowadays, it's common to view city streets as largely a place for cars. Bikes, if anything, are seen as a very recent intrusion on them.

But the surprising truth is that back in the 1890s and early 1900s, it was mainly cyclists who first advocated for cities in the US and Europe to pave their streets and build new roads. Then as cars became practical, wealthy, privileged people adopted the car as their leisure toy of choice, and the bicycle's central place in what's now called the Good Roads Movement was largely forgotten.

"The people who were making and promoting bicycles were the same people who later made and promoted cars," says Carlton Reid, who uncovered this history in his fascinating, meticulously researched book Roads Were Not Built for Cars.

In fact, Reid argues, the car's eventual domination was not as inevitable as it might seem today - and the bicycle itself may have been necessary to pave the way for it. [Full article ...]

Friday, March 20, 2015

DelDOT, and the Legend of Purgatory Swamp

From the Pencader Heritage Association -- William Ditto Lewis, who served the University of Delaware as librarian and archivist for 31 years, described one of the main roads leading south from Newark as follows: “From time out of mind the southern continuation of this street [Chapel Street] had led into the Purgatory Swamp and had been known as the Purgatory Road.” [More ...]

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According to Wiki -- The word "Purgatory", derived through Anglo-Norman and Old French from the Latin word purgatorium, has come to refer to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation, and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.

Users of the Route 72 corridor (aka "Purgatory Swamp Road") are hoping that, indeed, the dangerous conditions are short lived. This legendary road has become the scene of much risk and suffering as folks on bikes try to negotiate numerous potholes, old patches, crumbling rumble strips and debris among the fury of high speed traffic. And appeals to DelDOT's on-line reporting system so far this year have gone unanswered.

Because Route 72 is centrally located in Delaware, and offers one of a very few truly safe crossings of I95 further north on Chapel Street, it is very popular with bicyclists and pedestrians. Some commute to work, others ride for recreational purposes. Usually, they are heading south to Route 40, Delaware City or the C&D Canal. Whatever the reason, pavement conditions along Route 72 are atrocious, and have been for years.

Sandy Schriever manages a smile in the Spring of 2014, just south of Reybold Road. Sandy commutes several times a week on Route 72 between Newark and Glasgow. In the above photo, the shoulders were recently swept by DelDOT, though long rifts of gravel debris remained. The situation today is much, much worse; crews recently applied loose tar and chip patches that only further added to the chaos.

In July of 2014, the author loaded his bike on a fishing boat, and was able to circumvent a portion of Route 72 thanks to "Indian Ed" Yoder, a chief with the Newarquois Indian Tribe. Ed is a real Native American, and spends full time hours overseeing Sunset Lake and the Newark Anglers Association. Read all about it HERE.

We are praying that DelDOT will see us out of Route 72 Purgatory - soon. Conditions like these are evidence that DelDOT is in financial distress. Unless new sources of income are found, they may become insolvent and conditions like these will become the new normal. This clearly doesn't have to happen. It is shameful that, after years of gas prices in the mid to upper $3 range - now in the low-mid $2 range - they refuse to raise the gas tax by even a nickel to cover such desperate repairs. Our legislators should be deeply ashamed of themselves for putting such a small pittance before safety.

A look in January, form just south of DuPont's Glasgow Site.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Bicycle-Friendly" South Main Street in Newark

Tuesday, March 17 was about as ordinary as one could expect riding into Newark via S. Main Street (formerly Elkton Road). But even with bike lanes, that still isn't enough for some motorists who simply detest those not driving being on 'their' road.

Not only is it sad beyond belief that bicyclists must endure this kind of harassment, it is also sad that the City and DelDOT planners saw fit to include 12' travel lanes in a 30 mph zone, in an up and coming "village-like" part of town. The result, as seen in the video above, is narrow bike lanes straddling long stretches of curb. Savvy bicyclists will ride near the white line, or even in the lane to avoid debris and keep a safe distance from curbs and pedestrians, as cars wiz by at induced speeds far exceeding the speed limit in most cases. For a very compelling argument on why 12' travel lanes are disastrous for safety, visit HERE.

A center turn lane further north - on the approach to Delaware Ave - is 16' wide. It comes at the expense of wider bike lanes, which is completely uncalled for in a 25 mph zone. One excuse offered by Wilmapco was that transit routes require 12' lanes, due to the possibility of sideswipe collisions with buses. No evidence has been found to substantiate this claim. In fact, it is not uncommon to find 10'-11' lanes in other U.S. cities that provide bus service.

Where wide center turn lanes are concerned, today's DelDOT engineers are beginning to realize this absurdity, as evidenced by the upcoming Route 72 widening project. Having them reduced to 11', and thus adding a couple extra feet of bike lane was a major victory. This would not have happened without the intervention of a few dedicated road bicycling advocates, and a project engineer that was willing to consider non-motorized safety.

Unfortunately, today's offender will probably strike again; next time against someone a lot more skittish and not wearing hearing protection. Someone that might be startled, swerve, and possibly fall into the lane next to them (or on the curb). The Tag number is 965952. I will forward a link to this blog post to the Newark Police, in the hopes that they will follow up and ticket this motorist. But I'm not holding my breath, given such widespread lack of enforcement for even the most basic traffic violations, never mind where a bicyclist or pedestrian is concerned.

Most drivers are too stupid to realize the speed that an infuriated bicyclist can travel, especially in an urban environment. The motorist's tag number was easily captured further up the road, along Delaware Avenue.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Active: How Many Americans Are Cycling?

From Active -- Public health institutions, trade associations, and advocacy organizations regularly report on recreational cycling or transportation but People for Bikes (PfB) looked at cycling participation in America across all age groups and more reasons for riding than is traditionally included. The top-line results: Almost 104 million Americans rode a bicycle at least once in 2014 and that 45 million of them used a bike for transportation over that same time period. There are roughly 318 million people in the US, according to current US Census estimates.

The study, in the form of an online survey, took place in November and December of 2014 and is impressive in size: over 16,000 adult respondents, who reported on their own cycling behavior and that of almost 9,000 children in their households. The respondents were selected as a representation of general population. The study has a +/- .7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence interval.

Past the headliner of total Americans who ride, there are some other findings, both encouraging and troubling. [Full article ...]

Monday, March 9, 2015

Official Rules, Informal Rules, and the Rules of Society

You’re with a group of non- bicycling friends, at work, or at a public advocacy workshop, and suddenly find yourself on the defensive. It doesn’t matter if you idolize John Forrester and call yourself a bicycle driver. All bicyclists impede traffic, and run red lights and stop signs, and by default, you're one of "them".

Caught off guard, you struggle for an answer, and attempt to clear yourself of wrongdoing. But the attempt is futile, because it's not about breaking traffic laws. You are singled out because bicyclists violate the laws of society. Complaining about scofflaw bicyclists sounds better than just saying they don't want you on the road in the first place. They think you belong on the sidewalk, a bike path, or in a local park, regardless of Title 21, Chapter 41.

Motorists complaining about bicyclists breaking the law is hypocritical at best. Put simply, all modes follow “informal rules”. No one actually decides what these informal rules are, hence, why the written law is the official rule. For bicyclists, it could be that stop signs are treated as yields. It's not on the books, but neither is driving 5-10 mph over the speed limit, speeding up on yellow, tailgating, using i-Phones, or any number of violations that virtually every driver engages in with known deadly consequences. And surprise: Just with speeding alone, most motorists break the law for much greater periods of time than most bicyclists.

The fact is, everyone bends or breaks the law at the intersection of convenience, payoff, and low probability of harm to oneself or others. Where rolling stops are concerned, it's not that bicyclists don't have respect for driving laws. It's because bicycling is a mode of transportation that lends itself well to rolling stops. It’s a slow-moving vehicle with a huge field of view and the ability to stop on short notice. And it should be noted that most drivers don’t fully stop at stop signs either if the intersection has good sight lines and is visibly clear in advance.

If motorist's complaints about bicyclist's disregard for vehicle laws were genuine, then the longer term solution would be to revise said laws with considerations for bicycling – under certain parameters (i.e. near stops permitted). Then, commit to education and enforcement.

Automobile advocacy groups have been doing this since the dawn of the motor age when it comes to behaviors that aren’t perceived as threatening to other road users. More recently, these included right turns on red and increasing the maximum speed limit from 55 mph to 65. Many more took place in the earlier 20th Century. This ultimately led to cars wresting our streets and towns from pedestrians, bicyclists, carriages, and streetcars. Driving is now a 'right' and 30,000+ fatalities per year is considered an acceptable price to pay to maintain it.

But since lawbreaking is hardly the reason for despising bicyclists (if it was, drivers would be equally disdainful of fellow drivers - even more so), safe infrastructure, education and enforcement becomes all the more important. The City of Newark is commonly viewed as Delaware's mecca of scofflaw bicycling, largely because of its student population and high modeshare. Wilmapco put together an excellent Bicycle Plan, which addresses a wide range of infrastructure needs. That alone will have a meaningful long term impact. The University of Delaware could also make a big difference - in the shorter term - if they cared about the issue from an education standpoint. Unfortunately, they have done virtually nothing for the cause, even though many of their students are foreign and clueless about even the most basic traffic rules. Some come from foreign countries where riding against traffic or on the left side of the road is the standard, or standards are non-existent. We are not aware of anything that the U of D is doing to that addresses these issues with orientation of new students. Meanwhile, not only are other universities (i.e. University of Maryland) busy publicizing bicycle safety, they also offer bicycle safety classes for credits.

There is little question that, as advocates, we have our work cut out for us when it comes to education and enforcement. Infrastructure is a big piece of the compliance puzzle. In Portland OR - probably the most bicycle-friendly city in America - studies have shown that 94% of bicycle commuters comply with traffic laws. Most of it has to do with respect and feeling welcome in the design of the transportation system.

See also:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Save Open Space: Cycle For Cecil on Saturday April 25th

Join us on Saturday, April 25th 2015 at Fair Hill for Cycle for Cecil. There are a variety of distances offered: 15 miles, 35 miles and 65 miles. It is a great way to see the natural beauty of Cecil County! Sign up on-line with HERE.

This is a beautiful ride through the beautiful countryside of Cecil County Maryland. Cecil County is located in the north east corner of Maryland, on the Delaware border. The ride will take you through some of the vast open space that Cecil County Land Trust has worked to protect. The ride has multiple stops for drinks, snacks, and restrooms. The roads are very well marked, and the views are amazing!

The Cecil Land Trust is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization  that preserves farmland, woodlands, natural habitat and historic rural communities in Cecil County. One of our goals is to provide assistance to those interested in land conservation. You can help our cause by coming on this ride!

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Monday, March 2, 2015

NJBWC's Cyndi Steiner on Biking and Walking Communities

Jill Horner interviews Cyndi Steiner, Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, about Biking and Walking Communities. NJBWC was created to address on-road safety issues, mainly a safe passing law. Currently, they are going for 4 feet, which is already the law in Pennsylvania.

NJ remains the only State in the NE without a safe passing law. Thanks to the efforts of the Delaware Bicycle Council, Governor Markell signed SB-38 in July of 2011, giving Delaware bicyclists 3 feet.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Who really has the back of road bicyclists in Delaware?

1st State BIKES is disappointed to see this recent claim attributed to Senator Dave Sokola:

The following is the list of Sokola-sponsored bills related to bicycle safety in Delaware, and who was actually responsible.
  • SB-269, Vulnerable Road Users Law. On August 12, 2010, Delaware’s Governor Markell signed SB 269 into law. The bill, a project of the Delaware Bicycle Council, enhances the penalty for drivers convicted of careless or inattentive driving who cause serious physical injury to cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. Other than a blog post reporting its passage, there was no formal support from Bike Delaware.
  • SB-38, 3 Foot Passing Law. On July 25, 2011, Governor Markell signed SB 38, Delaware’s 3 Foot Passing bill. A project of the Delaware Bicycle Council, Delaware became the nineteenth state to have a passing law to protect cyclists. The law not only provides additional legal protection, it provides an important educational opportunity. Bike Delaware's Executive Director made it clear that Bike Delaware would "support" the bill, but not "babysit" (be present) when the bill came up for vote in the General Assembly.
  • SB-120, an amendment to Title 21 that legalizes the use of right turn-only lanes as shoulders for bicyclists. This bill was required by DelDOT in order to proceed with experimental right turn-only lane/shoulder treatments, which at the time was a Bike Delaware project. Bike Delaware's Executive Director James Wilson publicly declared that the bill was unnecessary and refused to assist in its passage until the 11th hour, when he helped usher it onto the House floor at the insistence of the Delaware Bicycle Council Chair. He has also referred to bike lanes as "human meat grinders" and never actually advocated for converting shoulders.
  • HB-235, cycling as Delaware's official sport. Does this even effect "rules of the road?"
That said, Bike Delaware did have the back of a road bicyclist who was following the rules of the road as stated in Title 21, 4196. They helped him prevail after being ticketed for putting safety first while biking in a sub-standard width lane.

Also visit our 4 part series: Who is advocating for on-road safety in Delaware?