Saturday, December 31, 2016

Unique opportunity to transform Newark's Main Street

Newark's Main Street is up for Pave & Rehab in 2017. Advocates have a historic opportunity to greatly improve bicycle safety and comfort downtown, if the City communicates to DelDOT their desire to participate in a national green lane experiment. DelDOT will not initiate this on their own; it will take the City, or the Newark Bicycle Committee, to spearhead the effort, with DelDOT in a supporting (and application) role. According to NACTO's website:

. . . in 2009, the city of Long Beach received FHWA and CTCDC approval to experiment with a shared lane marking that is set within a 5’ green painted area at the midpoint of the roadway in the left-most and right-most lanes.  A study conducted as part of the experiment measured a 100% increase in cyclists and an improvement in bicyclist lateral position in the roadway.

It is important that cities participate in these studies, in order for new infrastructure concepts to be adopted into National and State manuals as standard treatments. For example, in 2007, Ithaca NY was among several cities that participated in the use of Sharrows, and having them included in the 2009 MUTCD for the first time.

Newark is moving forward with "Parkettes". It goes without saying that designating Main Street's right lane (clearly marked) for mixed use would only increase safety. Sitting outside within the confines of a parking space, immediately adjacent to passing traffic will be a leap of faith for most people in the current environment. Though uncommon, parkettes have been struck by cars.

It should also be noted that for many years, Newark officials (most notably Mayor Vance Funk) declared that they had a vision for a Main Street bike lane, even if it came at the expense of one side of car parking. Instead, we have businesses and city planners scrambling to add a parking garage.

Though it has been strictly outlawed, most UD students and locals that bike Newark simply refuse to ride in Main Street's right lane in its current configuration (sharrows only). Aggressive and distracted driving are among the top reasons cited, and that's not about to change anytime soon.

Conclusion: Though there would need a push, and some initial work involved, Newark has a unique opportunity to improve bicycle and (future) parkette safety on Main Street. They would encourage more folks to ride in the right lane where they belong. Mode share for non-motorized traffic would increase. The City would be participating in a national process to have shared green lane infrastructure nationally approved. They would be making due on their long promised Main Street bike lane, though a shared lane compromise (but one we could all embrace). It would be a great shame if Newark did not pursue this idea, and chose to commit this upcoming Pave & Rehab project with only Sharrows to show for it, for the duration of its life, which could be 15 years or more.

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