Thursday, December 28, 2017

Delaware set for first place in pedestrian fatalities (again)

Why did Bike Delaware quash proposed reforms to the State's vehicle code in the interest of walking (and bicycling) safety?

What can we say, about Delaware's consistent ranking among the worst States in the U.S. when it comes to pedestrian fatalities? Unfortunately, 2017 will almost match 2015, when the State took the #1 spot per capita -- even beating Florida. Currently at 32 dead, that translates to 3.9 per 100,000 residents, and will likely get us there.

DelDOT is adding crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, etc whenever possible, on a limited budget, usually during repave and reconstruction projects. But facilities can only do so much; Delaware has an enormous problem when it comes to aggressive and distracted driving. Most use "smart" phones behind the wheel --  and very few drive defensively. Law enforcement is weak to non-existent, mainly throughout the State's unincorporated zones (most of the State's suburbs). Combine that with some pedestrians who are wayward and/or wear "dark clothing" -- as the press loves to point out -- and that's what gives us this horrible distinction.

As most are now aware, the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness was created in October 2015 to begin addressing the issue. Unfortunately, little they propose will change anything; their main focus is reigning in careless pedestrian behavior. Without stepping up vehicle law enforcement, too many drivers will continue to speed, act with aggression and intolerance, share attention on the road with their "smart" phone, and fail to account for vulnerable road users. As a result, they see them when it's too late. According to every national study ever conducted on the subject, use of phones while driving is the equivalent of  DWI -- yet even texting is readily dismissed by law enforcement as a societal norm. This gross disparity is where most of the problem lies.

Shortly after its inception, the ACWPA was gifted a historic opportunity to reform Delaware's vehicle code for the purpose of pedestrian safety. On Christmas Eve, 2015, Amy Wilburn (former Chair of the Delaware Bicycle Council) and Frank Warnock sat together at Friendly's Restaurant and crafted language for a Senate bill. They did not re-invent the wheel; they merely borrowed language found in States ranking far higher than Delaware, including those at the top like Massachusetts and Oregon.

For reasons we'll never understand, the Council handed Bike Delaware control of a subcommittee that ultimately quashed any notion of changing the law. Passage of the "Pedestrian Bill", as it was referred to, would have been just the shake-up Delaware needed to put the focus on pedestrian safety and motorist's behavior around them. Instead, they thought it best to go on victim blaming,  and to better accommodate bad driver behavior. Until that changes, we will continue to be the "1st deadliest State" in the nation where walking is concerned.

Finally, DelDOT's stubborn insistence on utilizing the 85th Percentile when setting speed limits is literally killing us. Too often, this method results in highway speeds that are permitted through zones rich in walking and bicycling activity, including residential, retail -- even in front of schools. By assuming that basically 85% are "good drivers", this too is a direct contributor to the problems outlined above.

In the years ahead, let's hope life overtakes the need for speed and saving scant seconds in every trip we take, regardless of transportation mode.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act weakens 3' Passing Law

We reviewed the updated vehicle code resulting from the passage of HB-185 (Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act), found in DE Title 21, Chapter 41, Section 4116. Missing is any reference to safe passing distance of bicyclists unless being overtaken by a vehicle in the same lane, assuming it is wide enough to safely share. Riding within shoulders and/or bike lanes is not accounted for, which are very common and count as a lane in their own right.

A Newark commuter enforces the 3' passing law - with a shovel. 
The original vehicle code wasn't the clearest either, but it could have been construed that motorists are to move out at least 3' regardless. By not including shoulders and/or bike lanes, Bike Delaware failed to cement these as applicable; therefore, you are not covered under the safe passing law because you are in your own lane of travel. Motorists who overtake while straddling the white line -- common, often deliberate -- are permitted to do so as long as keeping to their own lane. In a 4' bike lane, for example, the bicyclist's footprint can occupy as much as 3' elbow to elbow. For a motorist with a tire on the white line, this would leave a foot or less passing clearance. This is especially terrifying in high speed conditions.

As we already discussed in previous articles, HB-185 did include some long overdue updates to the vehicle code, and we applaud the hard work that went into that. Unfortunately, what could have been a great bill ended up fair, and somewhat hurting past progress as seen here. The bill also came up short by failing to include any anti-harassment language, except a ban on frivolous honking, as we discussed in this analysis.

This is what to expect when you have a LAB sanctioned State organization whose approach to advocacy lacks pragmatism and balance. Their inner sanctum only recognizes total separation from traffic -or- total integration with cars, and nothing in-between. As a result, they do not support on-road bicycling infrastructure, but at the same time, believe it is they -- and only they -- that represent the interests of bicyclists in the State of Delaware. Because of this, they would never think to engage the wider bicycling community for input. Had they done so, we might not be faced with this predicament.

Conclusion: We'll again repeat that, as a non-profit organization, Bike Delaware must become more open and transparent. Nobody knows what they are doing until it is already in motion. It's time for them to lift the veil of secrecy, and put their projects out to comment among the broader bicycling community. Most would agree, for example, that upping the law to a 4' passing distance anywhere a bicyclist is encountered would suffice. Lane changes could still be required with narrow or multiple lane configurations, and an anti-harassment component could have been included. Let's hope that any efforts to amend the bill, or further update the vehicle code is carried out in a more open and accessible manner.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

SR896/I95 Intersection Project Page

The public workshop for the Route 896 (S. College Ave) and I95 intersection project was very successful, according to DelDOT. Hopefully, the bicycling community was present, and voiced our needs. According to the project page:

We are still in the preliminary stages of our project development process. A public workshop was held on December 5, 2017. Thank you to all who were able to attend! We will solicit comments for a 30 day time period. A preferred alternative will be chosen in Spring 2018 and we will begin design.

We had a very successful public workshop on December 5, 2017 with over 120 people in attendance! For those who were unable to attend, below are copies of the boards that were shown. We have 3 different alternatives that will address the purpose and need of the project. We will be collecting comments for an additional 30 days. Please utilize the official comment form on our website.

Facilitating bicyclists and pedestrians is nowhere mentioned in the scope, so it will be up to citizens and advocates to encourage DelDOT in this direction, citing the State's multi-modal Complete Streets policy. According to the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration:

The intent of Delaware’s policy is for “the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) [to] enhance its multi-modal initiative by creating a Complete Streets policy that will promote safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and [transit] riders of all ages to be able to safely move along and across the streets of Delaware.”

There should be no justification whatsoever for nixing multi-modal accommodations from these plans. SR896 is open to bicyclists, and there is a long history of conversation that a safe passage over I95 here is sorely needed. It is the direct route south out of Newark, and would ultimately connect with new and existing pathways parallel to SR896 en-route to Glasgow and points south.

What can you do to help us advocate, and get this included in the project? It is very early in the planning, and these simple steps may just make the difference:

  • Visit the project page, and use the comment form
  • Email your comments to the project engineer and CC to ensure it's recorded.
  • Cross-post this as an action alert to other pages, and share to other orgs on social media sites, i.e. Bike Newark, Newark Bike Project, etc.
  • Email Bike Delaware and ask that they approach DelDOT, advocating for a safe, multi-modal connection here, over I95:
  • Talk this project up on Bike Delaware's web and social media pages (1st State Bikes is blocked) and if they don't support it, ask them why

Below are reduced-size JPG images of the 3 options. As discussed, none contain bike/ped facilities of any type. Should they be included, a multi-user pathway (MUP) could be extended between I95 and Old Baltimore Pike on the south side, on plentiful county-owned lands (Iron Hill Park). From there, existing pathways continue on the southbound side, past Glasgow HS, 4-Seasons, and Glasgow Business Community. These could be readily connected to the Rt.40 corridor via Old SR896 and its future pathways currently being built piecemeal.

We will contact DelDOT to inquire on a periodic basis, and provide updates as they come available.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

DBC fails to recognize Amy Wilburn, Chair of 8 years

It's almost never that we call out DelDOT and/or the Delaware Bicycle Council for something shameful. But here, we are clearly justified.

Amy Wilburn served as Chair of DBC for 8 immensely productive years, from 1997 through 2015. As such, she initiated, presided over, and/or worked alongside others on the following projects (in no particular order):
Amy was on DBC's 10/5-2016 agenda for 5 minutes, where they planned to at least acknowledge her tenure:

. . . but as seen in these meeting minutes, that never happened.

Bike Delaware, unhappy with DBC's focus on road advocacy and safety, tried to replace Amy in 2015 with their Executive Director James Wilson, who was defeated handily by the loved incumbent. Bike Delaware would finally have their way in 2016, with Tom Hartley taking the Chair uncontested (upon Amy's decision not to run for a historic 9th term).

Amy was deliberately cropped out of this photo on Bike Delaware's website, of Governor John Carney signing the "Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act" on 10/5/2017 in Newark.

For those that do not know who or what the Delaware Bicycle Council is, their website contains the following history:

The Delaware Bicycle Council was established in May of 1990 by House Bill 505 to "consider, review and work on matters pertaining to bicycling, bicycle safety and bicycle safety education and to make recommendations to various state agencies." Originally organized with nine members, the Council was expanded to 15 members in May of 1996 by House Bill 556. Members are appointed by the Governor with staggered terms and include representatives from the Department of Transportation, The Council on Transportation, The Department of Education, The Delaware State Police, The Office of Highway Safety, The Division of Parks and Recreation, The Council on Greenways and Trails, The Division of Public Health. In addition, seven citizen members are appointed - two from New Castle County, one from Kent County, one from Sussex County and three At-large. The Council meets at least five times a year. Staff support is provided by DelDOT's Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator at 760-BIKE.

With this level of participation and oversight by multiple other organizations, it disturbs us that volunteer recognition at this level was blatantly disregarded. The internet is teaming with books, guides, pages of information pertaining to its importance. For example:

"It is also important to give both appreciation and recognition. Appreciation expresses “thank you” for time and effort, which can be done in a variety of formal and informal ways. Recognition, with its root “cognition,” conveys the message that one is mindful of and values the unique contributions made by a volunteer."  ~John L. Lipp

Let's hope the DBC and/or DelDOT recognizes this issue, given the importance of cultivating new volunteers and new relationships that will help move bicycling forward in Delaware.

Friday, December 1, 2017

CRITICAL Workshop: I-95 and SR 896 Interchange Project

I-95 and SR 896 Interchange Project
Glasgow HS Cafeteria, 1901 S. College Avenue, Newark
Tuesday, December 5, 2017, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM (directions)

From DelDOT's Website:

The public is invited to attend the I-95 and SR 896 Interchange workshop. The interchange currently experiences peak hour congestion and has safety concerns throughout the day. Alternatives have been analyzed that will improve safety and traffic operations.

We welcome your input and comments on the project and encourage you to identify and discuss project related issues. Interested persons are invited to express their views in writing, giving reasons for support of, or opposition to, the proposed changes.

Comments will be received at the workshop or can be mailed to DelDOT Community Relations P.O. Box 778, Dover, DE 19903, sent via email to or by fax (302) 739-2092. Visit the project notification page for more info.

Since the beginning, Advocates have been asking DelDOT to add multi-modal safety at the I-95 crossings in New Castle County. A direct link from Newark to Four Seasons, Glasgow HS, Glasgow Park, the Rt.40 corridor, and points south on SR 896/S. College Ave has never been considered with road construction along the corridor. Soon, another opportunity will present itself with the above project.

History has taught us that Bike Delaware will be a no-show or even oppose the effort, so if we truly want connectivity from town to town and place to place, bicyclists must stand up and ask for it. Please take a moment out of your schedule to attend this workshop, and submit comments in favor. Or at least submit comments via email:

In the above snip taken from Google Earth, the yellow lines represent a combination of paved multi-user pathways and 25 mph frontage roads with wide shoulders -- all reasonably safe for bicycling. Red is where additional pathways should and could easily be added on already govt owned lands. The SR 896 intersection is circled in red. It would require some additional engineering to include a safe multi-modal provision to connect Newark.

Despite the horror of an interstate cloverleaf intersection, some bicyclists are still seen going for it.

A tangled mess ensues as you're greeted by cars coming off of I95 westbound to SR 896 southbound. A W11 Bicycle Warning Sign is seen as the merge unfolds, but is largely ineffective -- if it's even seen.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Advisory Lane Roads on DBC meeting agenda for 12/6

Courtesy of Streets MN
Bike Delaware's James Wilson will be discussing "Advisory Lane Roads" at the next meeting of the Delaware Bicycle Council. From the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professional's article:

What's an advisory bicycle lane? Also called a "non-compulsory bicycle lane” or "suggestion lane” (translated from the Dutch "suggestiestrook”), it’s a bicycle lane into which motor vehicles may legally encroach. Therefore, the line demarcating the lane is dashed instead of solid. An advisory bicycle lane is often—but not always—used in conjunction with centerline removal.

Generally, a mandatory bicycle lane is preferable; an advisory bicycle lane should only be used when a mandatory lane cannot be used. Advisory bicycle lanes should be considered 1) when street width is inadequate for mandatory bike lanes or 2) where cars are likely to encroach on a bike lane as it approaches a bike box. Advisory bike lanes should not be used where they are likely to be blocked by parked motor vehicles.

Advisory bike lanes in conjunction with centerline removal on roads with substandard width are common across Europe and are generally well received by cyclists.

A  year ago, we suggested THIS opportunity for Newark's Main Street (probably lost now). It's time to move past talking about shared lanes to actually implementing them, even if on a FHWA experimental basis. As it stands now, the MUTCD forbids any kind of delineated bicycle lane within a normal vehicle lane; data from the field is needed over a long period before these are approved in the manuals.

Delaware Bicycle Council Meeting
DelDOT Administration Building-Felton/Farmington Conference Room, 800 Bay Road, Dover
Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM

 I.  Welcome, Introductions, and Minutes (0-5 minutes)
  • Minutes Review from October 4, 2017 – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
II.  Council Membership (0-10 minutes)
  • Discuss Members Profile for the website and other website updates – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
  • Discuss Greenways and Trails appointment to Council – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
III. Old Business (0-5 minutes)
  • Bridgeville Bicycle Trail Ribbon Cutting – 1st Recipient of Innovation Grant – 0-5-minutes  (Tom Hartley)
IV. New Business (0-60 minutes)
  • Nominees for 2018 Chair (Voting to occur at February 7, 2018 meeting) – 0-5 minutes (Tom Hartley)
  • Bicycle Friendly State Ranking – 0-10 minutes (John Bare)
  • Advisory Lane Roads – 0-15-minutes (James Wilson)
  • Council discussion and vote on Innovation Grant - 0-30 minutes (Fran Cardaci)
 V. Updates (0-30 minutes)
  • DelDOT Bicycle Plan – 0-30 minutes (Andrea Trabelsi)
 VI. Public Comments (0-10 minutes)
  • Opportunity for Non-Council Members to Address the Council 
Next Meeting: Wednesday February 7, 2018 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Please e-mail John T. Fiori and Tom Hartley with any potential agenda items at least two (2) weeks prior to meeting. Visit DBC's webpage at

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Save The Orphanage Property 3rd Press Release

With the loss of the Orphanage Property, and with that, what appears any possibility of a regional park for the entire Ogletown-S.Newark region, it is important that we continue to document exactly what went wrong, and hold those in charge accountable. Issuing a press release is an excellent way to do this, and reach a maximum audience including the media.

Whether it was a vested interested in the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" (CHP), corruption, or simple indifference, one thing is abundantly clear; both property owner and political will was lacking. The Ogletown-S. Newark region was already known to be dis-enfranchised in matters of community, place-making, and local access to quality regional parkland facilities. What has taken place here only cements this issue further, and in a way that can never be reversed.

View the official press release in PDF

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Drilling down on the Chestnut Hill "Preserve" TIS

Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) Advocates continue fielding questions from concerned New Castle County citizens over the Traffic Impact Study (TIS) for the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". Folks want to know why the Unified Development Code was disregarded in the approval of the project by the Dept of Land Use (DLU) and the NCC Council. As a result, only two steps remain before demolition and construction will begin; closing on the sale of the property with the developer (presumably Joseph Setting II, or involving his company), and then NCC issuing the building permits. According to Senator Bryan Townsend, closing is expected by the end of this week.

The way we see it, the developer will be doing this at their own peril. The TIS is flawed, with DelDOT's findings excluded in the scope. According to Vic Singer, this is irregular and inconsistent with County law:

Victor Singer (13 years former
Chair of NCC's Planning Board)
The area of influence, under UDC Section 40.11.124, needn't extend beyond the third intersection in any direction from any access/egress feature of the proposed development unless the Land Use Department and/or DelDOT expand the scope at the scoping meeting.

For the Chestnut Hill Preserve TIS, DelDOT did indeed add six intersections to the TIS scope, to include the Route 4 intersections with Salem Church Road and Library Avenue. And a 9/9/2016 DelDOT letter (with copies to the LU Department) reminds the TIS author of that addition and acknowledges the author's and DelDOT's finding that both above-mentioned intersections would be well into the "E" LOS range, and that no remedial system improvements are contemplated. (read Vic's full essay)

Here are the adjustments needed to fix the TIS:

It should also be noted that Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) was down significantly in 2010 due to the great recession, and gas prices were approaching $4/gallon. People were consolidating trips, using other means, and/or driving less in general. If these intersections were a grade "E" in LOS in 2010, it's a virtual certainty that they're an "F" now (for a simple chart showing each grade and the delays involved, open the CMS report and turn to page 3).

As seen in this FHWA trend above, national VMT dropped significantly in 2010. The result was gasoline "demand destruction", which triggered a surplus resulting in the record low (adjusted for inflation) pump prices we are seeing today. VMT since returned to where it left off, and has continued to new record highs.

Above: This interactive map, courtesy of Wilmapco, clearly illustrates Vic's allegation. If we examine the SR4-Salem Church Rd intersection alone, we see an "E" grade fail in 2010 (ditto for SR72-Library Ave). The odds are overwhelming that it would score an "F" if measured today, in 2017. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference, since both letters are a fail and come under the same UDC rules. But it does show how dire the situation is out on SR4, a hospital corridor and evacuation route no less.

Let's hope that God's kindness, love of thy neighbor, charitable giving, and just plain sanity will lead to the Felician Sisters canceling whatever deal is pending with the developers, and go with a NCC/State offer instead. For a whole host of reasons too numerous to mention but thoroughly documented on this website, the correct use of the Orphanage Property is within the public realm, as a regional park.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Shared Right Turn-Only Lane a hit at DelDOT's Innovation Fair

Mark Luszcz, Chief P.E., DelDOT
big tip of the helmet to Mark Luszcz, Chief P.E., and his Team at DelDOT Traffic for working with Advocates in pioneering the shared right turn-only lane treatment. It is the opinion of 1st State Bikes that, if Bicycle-Friendly State rankings were based on DOT responsiveness alone, Delaware would top the list.

The design, testing, and implementation of this basic yet anxiously awaited treatment exemplified Advocates working alongside DelDOT to improve safety in the built environment. The boards below, displayed on easels at their Innovation Fair, capsulized the effort to attendees, which included these quotes:
  • "For virtually no added cost beyond a little extra paint, bicyclists (and e-bikes, and even mopeds) are now encouraged to ride in the most optimal position where visibility (and thus safety) is concerned. Few things can improve arterial roads for multi-modal safety, but adapting road shoulders to bike lanes and sharing right turn-only lanes does improve awareness and respect. It validates bicyclists as legitimate road users by defining a continuous lane that accounts for the laws of movement. It's a win-win for all road users, and has become the envy of other State's advocacy organizations that can only wish their DOT was this creative and forward thinking. A big tip of the helmet to Mark Luszcz and his Traffic Dept from bicyclists statewide."  ~Frank Warnock, Chair, 1st State Bikes
  • "Although it is fortunate that many of Delaware’s arterial roads have a shoulder, before the shared bicycle/right turn only lane and accompanying legislation, cyclists were legally required to merge into high speed traffic at intersections with a right turn only lane.  Cyclists now have a choice: they have the on road facilities and the legal right to maintain a continuous and predictable line of motion outside of the lanes of high speed traffic.  This adds to comfort and safety for many of us cyclists, and is greatly appreciated."  ~Amy Wilburn, Past Chair, Delaware Bicycle Council
  • "Good decision on the road markings ... this will increase vehicle awareness of bikes on the roadway ... and add clarity to the new law."  ~Fred Tarburton, Citizen Advocate
Though Advocates still diverge with DelDOT on some issues, it has been a superb working relationship, especially since Complete Streets was enacted. It's also important to note that it's not always a one-way street; Advocates have a history of helping DelDOT when it comes to efficiency and streamlining. This includes improving W-11 warning signage, reducing "share the road" sign clutter in favor of a more targeted approach, and helping revise their sweeping program to focus on areas most prone to debris.

Thank you DelDOT for featuring this project and we look forward to many more in the future!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Editorial: Don't let traffic overwhelm New Castle County

Hat tip to Matt Albright of the Wilmington News Journal, for his willingness to post our editorial in Delaware On-Line today. It is planned to be the feature "DE Voice" column in Sunday's paper. In it, you will see the contrast of opinion to Richard Hall, General Manager of NCC's Dept of Land Use (DLU), who wrote this editorial on the same day. A paragraph from each best sums the difference in viewpoints:

Current LOS standards consider only vehicular traffic.  Should incentives be considered for projects that include walking and bike paths, ride-sharing programs or shuttle service to transportation hubs?

Most millennial workers do not want to be tied to their cars. They want to live in mixed use communities, walking between home, work, shopping and entertainment. And those preferences extend to increasing numbers of retirees who want to live in places where they can “age in place,” where they do not need their cars to go out to eat, shop or visit their doctors.

This argument is flawed. While the statistics show that Millennials are rediscovering the cities and driving less than their parents – and we applaud that — the same cannot be said for the suburbs. Any conclusion to the contrary cannot be a valid excuse to weaken or eliminate vehicle level of service as a tool for controlling unnecessary development.

Mr Hall makes some good points. New Urbanism and the incorporation of multi-modal transport definitely has its place, and offers hope for the future. However, these projects are best suited to cities and more urban environments, where populations have tapered off or declined, and the infrastructure (connecting grid streets, traffic calming, effective transit, etc) is already in place and likely under-utilized. These are often referred to as "TOaDs", or, Transit Oriented Developments.

Developments designed to reduce car dependence are not, however, viable when surrounded by suburban sprawl, disconnected streets, non-existent sidewalks, and limited transit services. Most who live in Delaware's suburbs face this predicament, having little choice for even the shortest of trips. They either drive their car, or walk or bike out to a busy arterial road to reach needed services.

Seeing that the DLU is looking to use multi-modalism as a way to relax current Level of Service (LOS) requirements, we wrote the following email to Mr Hall today. We're asking for some study data and/or other facts concerning the success of TOaDs in the built suburban environment, as infill or destroying a region's last remaining open spaces:

Greetings, Richard,

I read your thoughtfully written editorial. We are wondering if you can supply us with any study data or known examples where TOaDs -- built as their own entities surrounded by typical, auto-dependent suburbs -- functioned even somewhat independently. We are looking for examples where these developments -- disconnected from surrounding communities -- still met expectations in terms of new urbanism/multi-modalism, reduced car ownership, and thus reduced or eliminated impacts on roadway/intersection LOS.

As a big supporter of New Urbanism concepts, and someone who bicycles for ~90% of my transportation needs, I am aware of this working out well in existing dense or urban environments. features like quality Transit, fully connected sidewalks, and calmer, grid-patterned streets are already underutilized or readily adapted for the purpose of multi-modalism.

The message we seem to be getting from the DLU, including at the panel discussion, is that such a concept can be readily applied to DE's vast suburbs without much loss of road system LOS.

Thank you so much and hope to hear from you soon.  --Frank Warnock

It has never been more apparent just how eager Delaware's developers and economists are to hobble NCC's Unified Development Code (UDC), and to stop advocates from using the TIS to limit or halt needless development. Their goal is to fast track their projects, with little or no regard for its impacts on the already overwhelmed roads and intersections that will serve it.

The idea that TOaDs can work in the suburbs as their own independent entity is laughable at best, yet this is the vision pursued by developer-friendly Bike Delaware. Virtually everyone who buys into these communities will still own a car, and will drive to their job, to Wal-Mart, to their doctor, and to everything else that can only be reached outside the development via arterial road.

The Chestnut Hill "Preserve" isn't even billed as a TOaD, yet the DLU all to eagerly relaxed the TIS by eliminating failed signalized intersections in the scope.

Let's hope sanity prevails, and the building permits for this project in its entirety are not issued.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Delaware slips to #7 in Bicycle Friendly States ranking

While still an honorable top 10 ranking with the League of American Bicyclists, Delaware's slip to #7 comes as no surprise.

Delaware drops a few spots this year, despite passing the Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act. This reflects the incongruity between Delaware’s federal data on ridership and safety and its recent efforts to improve bicycling. Federal data for Delaware shows that not many people bike to work and that Delaware is one of the 10 least safe states to bike. While the safety data in particular can be scrutinized because it does not account for recreational riders, these two data points comprise a significant headwind for this coastal state.

While many of Delaware’s roads were designed for high-speed car and truck traffic, neighborhoods were built as isolated communities. Delaware needs to focus on connectivity between neighborhoods, such as bikeway networks, so that walkers and bicyclists have safe and comfortable routes to destinations.

Below is a sampling of problem areas, with comments:

This undeserved high ranking comes as quite a surprise. While Delaware does have anti-distraction laws on the books, they are rarely if ever enforced. It is to the point that motorists are routinely seen holding the phones in clear view of other road users, including the unresponsive police. This behavior is far more obvious and dangerous to bicyclists and other vulnerable road users, with vehicles drifting in and out of shoulders and bike lanes, across lanes, and through stop signs and red lights, while drivers look down at their devices. The few of us that do bike must be totally vigilant, monitoring what goes on behind as much as what's ahead, and adjusting our line in defense. Until Delaware begins strictly penalizing motorists for reckless endangerment and putting other's lives in danger, it will be extremely difficult to increase bicycling mode share.

The Guardian published an excellent article, with this brilliant follow-up to our original post Why bicycle mode share is less than 1%. There are several reasons why bicycling is stuck at 0.2% of mode share, and the big push to fund separate infrastructure does not guarantee any tangible increase. Rock bottom gas prices reduce the incentive, while monster pick-up trucks, hulking SUVs and a return to the 70s muscle car era all contribute to the meanest of streets.

Driver education is all but worthless unless testing is redundant, i.e. a re-test with every re-registration or at the very least, license renewal. As it stands now, DMV won't even distribute multi-modal educational materials or post PSAs. Once a juvenile receives their license for the first time, everything they've learned at DMV is all but forgotten within the first year or two. Like most everyone else, they start using their smart phones behind the wheel, and making up the laws as it suits them. Defensive driving also falls at the wayside -- very few Delaware motorists drive defensively.

Bike Delaware's 15/15 ranking reflects just how out of touch the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) is with advocacy in our State. Bike Delaware has a proven track record of non-support and even undermining efforts at road bicycling infrastructure, education and enforcement. With a pro-development Executive Director, it's obvious why; the very notion that we can retrofit the built environment is a threat to TOaD (transit oriented development) and non-motorized pathways connectivity "for everyone". The organization has their followers believing that this can happen, even throughout New Castle County's auto-dependent suburbs.

A significant part of any plan is shoring up the legal code with legislation. A Pedestrian Council subcommittee, under the direction of Bike Delaware's James Wilson, thwarted an attempt at a major overhaul of the State's vehicle code. The bill had legislator support and would have significantly increased pedestrian's rights and safety under the law. It also would have defined the laws of movement for bicyclists on pathways, and placed more onus on motorists to yield at intersection crossings.

Even with LAB's vision of what makes a bicycle-friendly State (BFS), it will be difficult for Delaware to maintain a top-10 ranking -- never mind #1 -- unless we unite around a balanced and pragmatic approach to bicycle advocacy. LAB has been formally told on several occasions that serious problems exist with their sanctioned State organization, in that advocacy must focus almost exclusively on trails and pathways. We at 1st State Bikes prefer a more balanced and inclusive approach, one that recognizes that there are many different bicyclists, but that all deserve access to facilities that accommodate each cyclist's unique needs, whether they ride for recreation, transportation, or both.

Monday, October 23, 2017

How can we "retrofit" the suburbs?

While Stevenage England has demonstrated that even the best of separated networks is no guarantee for "build it and they will come", multi-modal safety should still be top priority in any civilized society. The chance to enrich one's community, care for the environment, and live sustainably must be put in the hands of the people, regardless how they choose to travel. That is a moral imperative.

Again, relative to other States, DelDOT has made enormous strides in this area, in spite of a challenging budget. They know that, in spite of the numbers, many people do in fact bike for many different reasons -- not just transportation. They realize we have an indigent population whose only transportation is the bicycle. They know that many fitness and recreational clubs exist, and they sponsor rides whose only arena is the public roads. They understand that folks are out there now trying to consolidate trips and reduce or eliminate auto usage in favor of more Earth-friendly means of transport. Then there are the economic benefits that bicycling brings to the State, and its role in building local and regional economies. Governor Markell famously embraced bicycling, knowing full well that our future depends on making Delaware more attractive for education and commerce. Finally, there are the grim statistics that place Delaware as a consistent top 10 in bike/ped fatalities, and the dire need to improve safety.

Above: As a case study, we took this Google Earth snip of the 4 Seasons (north of Glasgow) region of New Castle County, and traced out a crude bicycle-friendly network. The area enjoys excellent proximity to retail, employment, schools, dining, trails, parkland, and has several low stress connections to these features. If we really wanted a test case for "retrofitting the suburbs" in Delaware, there may not be a better place to try it out at reasonable cost.

Regardless of what has been achieved in terms of road paint, signage, and a few pathways projects, DelDOT can't do it all. As mentioned previously, making bicycling attractive takes a holistic approach, all of which can be found in the 6 "Es" of advocacy. This includes getting New Castle County on board, and having a pragmatic and effective State advocacy organization that is willing to work within the built environment. Sadly, both are lacking at this time.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

1st State Bikes set to expand in 2018

At 1st State Bikes, we are looking to increase our scope of influence in 2018, and hope you will join us! Among our goals will be the appointment of a min. 7 member advisory committee, the crafting of a mission statement, the improvement of marketing strategies, and to strengthen our existing watchdog efforts. Below is a sampling of what our organization commits to:
  • The support the ABEA's sixth "E", which surpasses the League of American Bicyclists (LAB's) five with the addition of "Equality". That is, bicycles are considered and treated as equals with all other road users in traffic laws and policies.
  • To serve in the role of parity to Bike Delaware's segregationist views, that bicyclists must ride apart from cars (and thus roads in general) to be safe, driven by the fear factor.
  • To promote Complete Streets, in the form of planning, engineering and infrastructure that facilitates the laws of movement.
  • To monitor DelDOT projects, attend workshops, and rally comments on their annual Pave & Rehab (road resurfacing) list summary.
  • To advocate for safer roads in terms of increased education and law enforcement, that will better protect vulnerable road users.
  • To resist mandatory use laws, though still supporting dedicated bicycle facilities -- on and off the road -- that are designed to best practices.
  • To be the voice of safety for everyone who bikes and walks, from the indigent to the commuter to the recreational, that depend on today's built environment.
  • To fight for transparency with any organization that purports to represent the interests of everyone in the bicycling community.
We are not a 501(c)3 organization, and have no reason to be. Meetings will be held quarterly if necessary. If you would like to contact us for an advisory position on 1st State Bikes, email:

Below: Bike Maryland is an exemplary organization in terms of balance and transparency, and working to represent all advocates and organizations that have a stake in bicycle safety and encouragement. All sources of funding, including charitable giving are strictly accounted for. When an organization fails in these capacities as Bike Delaware (with LAB's backing) surely has, it becomes necessary for independent oversight.

The California Bicycle Coalition, below, is completely on top of what's going on through all facets of advocacy, and monitors everything. They, like any model advocacy org, are not the least bit apprehensive about sharing proposed legislation, policy additions and changes.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

John Allen: Right turn-only lane as dual-destination lane?

John Allen penned a wonderful piece back in 2013, explaining why the use of a right turn-only lane (RTOL) as a through lane for bicycles does not have to violate the rules of movement in most cases. Excerpts:

Installations formalizing this [shared RTOL] treatment have been made in a number of places in the USA. It is accepted under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices if shared-lane markings are used, though state laws generally still do not allow it…

Most importantly though, treating a right-turn lane as a dual-destination lane when it is empty, or lightly-used, or carrying slow traffic while the through lane is blocked, and riding at its center or left side does not violate the rule of destination positioning and does not lead the cyclist into a conflict. I yield when entering the lane (if there is any vehicle to yield to) and I never place myself to the right of right-turning traffic. I have never gotten into a hazardous situation by doing this. I must anticipate that a driver waiting in line in the through lane to the left may decide instead to turn right and enter the right-turn lane late. This is the same concern as when overtaking any line of stopped traffic, and the countermeasure is the same; stay far enough away from the stopped traffic to be able to avoid a merging vehicle.

In my opinion, the assertion that a cyclist should never ride centered or left in a right-turn lane when proceeding straight across an intersection is rigid, legalistic, and impractical. But on the other hand, it doesn’t make sense everywhere, either as an informal practice or a standard treatment. That is why, in my opinion, a standard is needed to establish where it may be formalized, and education is needed, as always, so cyclists will be able to judge when it is advisable or inadvisable.

Examples of shared right turn-only lanes being installed by DelDOT
This was the very platform that 1st State Bikes advocates used in convincing DelDOT that a shared RTOL/bike through lane treatment made sense. The project ran from 2011-2016 and has now resulted in a RTOL design that accommodates bicyclists and encourages safe positioning relative to turning traffic. And it comes at only the cost of a few extra man hours and a little added paint with each pave & rehab project. Delaware bicyclists are also covered under SB-120, a bill that was passed in 2012 to legalize the use of RTOLs in this manner. With everything in place, what we see now is continuous shoulders and/or bike lanes with "mixing zones" (a painted symbol and broken taper line) in advance of intersections. Depending on the conditions, the bicyclist can take the through lane, or legally choose to continue up the middle or left side of the RTOL to continue straight.

This design is becoming the new normal on Delaware's primary roads, so why are we posting this now? Nationally, John Allen is a renowned advocate for bicyclists’ rights as participants in vehicular traffic. He is looked to and admired by the "Bicycle Driving" movement and those who advocate alongside the American Bicyclist Education Association (ABEA). Yet, John is pragmatic when it comes to dedicated bicycling facilities, gauging their safety and his approval by whether or not they adhere to the laws of movement. The above mentioned DelDOT project and treatment does just that.

John adds (October 2017): A lane may serve more than one destination, while forbidding a destination to one or another category of vehicles. A lane where a truck route turns right, but other traffic may also proceed straight, is exactly the same in principle as a lane where all motor traffic must turn right but bicyclists may also proceed straight. Bicyclists must ride left or centered in the lane for this to work. A bicyclist who rides at the right side of the lane risks a right-hook collision – hence the shared-lane markings. And there must be a receiving lane at the far side of the intersection, so bicyclists do not merge inside the intersection.

A big tip of the helmet to John Allen for contributing to this article. We encourage you to visit John's website for a wealth of information on bicycling safety in the built environment!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act featured in Bicycling Magazine

 Governor Markell signs into effect the Vulnerable Road Users Law in 2010
Surrounded by cycling fanfare, Governor Carney signed the Bicycle-Friendly Delaware Act into law this afternoon in Newark.

Our critical analysis of HB-185, both pro and con, was posted on June 21. We will not discuss it any further here, except to say that at least one valuable opportunity was lost. In their usual secretive manner, Bike Delaware crafted something with zero input from fellow advocates or anyone else in DE's bicycling community.

Sad -- but expected -- it takes another source or article (here, Bicycling Magazine pens Carney's signature a day early) for some of the finer and more sought after details to emerge. Clearly, the Idaho Stop (rolling, yield stop) provision was the main goal of the bill, with most of the rest intended to diversify the language and limit discussion on the floor. The best chance at passage came by circumventing a prolonged debate that killed the Idaho Stop in other States. It was a brilliant move and it worked.

From Bicycling's article, these excerpts reveal a pleasant surprise, something advocates thought they could only ever hope for, and doubted would even be considered with the passage of HB-185:

None of the new rules will have an impact, however, without public awareness. Bike Delaware aims to launch an educational campaign across the state, while Whitmarsh said officers will get a chance to read the new laws and ask questions at upcoming training sessions. He also said the department will promote the changes to the press.

Bare, who took the lead on crafting the legal language of the bill, said making sure drivers, cyclists, and police understand the law is essential to its success.

“There is no limit to the number of ways that something like this can fail,” Bare said. Starting the conversation before the rollout, he said, gives the state a head start.

We hope Bike Delaware stays true to their word above. But in order to do so, they will need to break from their usual pattern of secrecy and provide regular updates on how their PR campaign is progressing. Laws and changes to laws are completely useless if the public is unaware of it, except maybe after a crash (if the victim is still alive, knows about it, and can cite it to the judge). If an effective PR campaign is achieved, Bike Delaware will deserve much in the way of kudos for moving the State forward in a more bicycle-friendly direction. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

SR 273 & Red Mill Road Intersection Workshop

Complete Streets coming to the SR 273 and Red Mill Road Connector? Citizen participation at the project workshop is strongly encouraged.

Where: Christiana High School Cafeteria, 190 Salem Church Road (corner of Chapman Rd) in Ogletown.

When: Tuesday October 24, 2017, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) is holding a Public Workshop to obtain comments from surrounding residents and the general public for intersection improvements at the intersection of SR 273 and Red Mill Road. Please click on the link above for full details.

Pedestrians, bicyclists, the handicapped, and motorists are strongly encouraged to attend. The current intersection design has multiple safety issues, including the lack of pathway facilities up to SR 273. A crosswalk and bike lane were narrowly retrofitted a few years ago, thanks to Senator Karen Peterson. This project page says it includes the addition of sidewalks that should safely connect Harmony Woods and Liberty Square Apts to said crosswalk. An email from the project engineer did confirm that bike lanes are also included, and thus the Complete Streets Policy being adhered to.

The intersection is a key connection in the on-road Wlmington to Newark bike route, as well as for bicycle commuters piecing together neighborhoods and side streets to avoid arterial roads. Please show up and let DelDOT know what you would like to see included in this project. If you cannot attend, please submit comments to using the title of this post as the subject line. Safety and fluidity for all is at the forefront!

The above video showcases riding through the intersection from Old Ogletown Road. We hope that DelDOT engineers take note at :42, and that foot and pedal traffic is frequently seen out there.

Eloy Sandoval-Mateoz waits to cross SR 273 from Red Mill Road before the addition of bike lanes and a crosswalk. He was killed in July 2014 by a reckless driver at the next intersection to the west, Ruthar Drive.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

DelDOT moving ahead with progressive crosswalk signage

The R10-15, that includes both foot and peddle traffic
Advocates for pathway safety are feeling some solace after Bike Delaware's quashing of the pedestrian safety bill: DelDOT is moving forward with the testing of multi-modal yield signage at crosswalks.

It's bad enough that Delaware has an outdated and ambiguous pedestrian code. But to anyone reading it, bicycles are largely unaccounted for and misunderstood on pathway facilities of any kind. For example, if a crash were to occur while riding on a parallel (with the road) pathway, especially where it enters a crosswalk with apparent right of way, there is nothing in the vehicle code and no clear legal standards that apply. It will fall on the courts to determine fault, and in nearly every case, the motorist finds favor.

In any civilized society, laws typically provide that turning traffic must always yield to through traffic, regardless of which side the vehicle is on. Unfortunately, the typical right turn in Delaware is designed to maintain speed, usually with a radius curve and yield sign. The first leg of the crosswalk starts midway here, where it's brought perpendicular to what is normally and expected to be a parallel pathway. With this, motorists are lured into a sense of entitlement, thinking that it's only incumbent upon pathway users to yield to them.

The new R10-15 will certainly help. From the desk of DelDOT's Matt Buckley:  "... at Amy [Wilburn's] request, we're going to document the effectiveness of ​the following modified R10-15 sign at Rockland Rd/W Park Drive. If the before vs. after results are promising, then we will consider adding a similar sign in an addendum for SR72/Old Baltimore Pike. Theoretically, the supplemental plaque below a conventional YIELD sign should read TO EVERYONE; therefore, we're suggesting a tweaked version of the standard R10-15 sign"

In this example via Google Streetview, we see a MUP (multi-user pathway) traveling south in parallel with Route 72/Chapel St, until it reaches a radius right turn at Old Baltimore Pike. The zebra-striped crossing is brought somewhat perpendicular, making it appear instead as a  traditional crosswalk to motorists. Legally, the pathway facility and all legs of its crosswalk should be treated as parallel, requiring right turning cars to yield to users in the crosswalk (note: improved language in the Pedestrian Bill would have included simple intent to cross as reason to yield, whereas current language requires physically being in it).
An early step in the right direction: The standard yield sign with a "to pedestrians" blade is found on New Linden Hill Rd at Skyline Dr in Pike Creek.

A big tip of the helmet goes to DelDOT's Traffic Division for pursuing this progressive and long overdue bike-ped safety signage.