Thursday, May 4, 2017

Making the case for BMUFL signs on S. Chapel Road

A safe N-S route that crosses I95 has been an ongoing challenge for Delaware bicyclists. Among the few viable options, none have been as frustrating as Route 72 (S. Chapel Rd) south of Newark. It's often viewed as the "safest" choice for most trips, given its parallel multi-user pathway (MUP) and no interstate access ramps. However, as appealing as this may sound, the MUP is narrow, debris-filled, often times obstructed, and presents a bone-jarring ride between Route 4 and Old Baltimore Pike.

Advocates first started asking for its repair in 2004, hoping to attach it to a Pave & Rehab project for the four lanes of road (high speed, no shoulder) itself, but unfortunately, that was denied. Relatively high bike-ped usage isn't enough justification, apparently, as it continues to be neglected with conditions going from bad to deplorable since that time. It even shares a parking lot with an auto repair facility, where vehicles completely block the MUP just south of I95. This video is just one example of numerous occasions, and when confronted, the manager makes it clear that the parking lot extends to the curb and that "people walking or biking through there do so at their own risk".

With several appeals to DelDOT's bicycle coordinator, we are told to contact the Canal District, or the Roadside Control Hotline. Unfortunately, by the time they arrive, the problem is cleared. The blocking vehicles come and go throughout the day, and DelDOT will not accept photos or video as evidence of the problem.

If history is any measure, we cannot count on a new and safe bi-directional MUP along this section of Route 72 anytime soon. The video above makes that abundantly clear. DelDOT could help increase safety now for the many bicyclists using the Route 72 corridor by designating the right lane as shared use. "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" is the most appropriate signage, with at least two in each direction.

It is time to stop waiting and hoping this MUP will be rehabbed someday. Installing "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" will help increase the safety and comfort of those already riding in the right lane -- especially when it's crowded like the above. Any parallel path, regardless of its condition, makes motorists much less tolerant of bicycles being on the roadway and in the "car lane". Because we don't educate our drivers, most of them think bicyclists only belong on the sidewalk, in parks or on bike paths in any case.

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