Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Is Bike Delaware a Tool of Developer Interests? (Updated: 7/17/2019)

7 things to consider if you support Bike Delaware and believe in their mission and vision.

SB-130, Enterprise Districts
  • Bike Delaware's signature legislation centers around land use. At the core is SB-130 Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Districts, which promote large, high density mixed use developments. Selling them as multi-modal could see NCC relax vehicle level of service (LOS) requirements, and put such development on the fast track. Only recently, NCC Council largely dismantled traffic impact requirements in the approval of even major building/land use projects in much the same context as Bike DE's SB-130. These are questions that organizations like the White Clay Bicycle Club should be asking -- as themselves a sponsoring/donating non-profit -- and hold Bike DE accountable.
Lobbying efforts
  • Lobbying for high profile trails and pathways projects. These increase surrounding property values, draws developer interest, and ultimately becomes a selling point for homes clustered nearby.
Dissing and undermining of on-road bicycling safety efforts
  • Ignoring efforts at road bicycling education and infrastructure. Any pragmatist would agree that we need to fix what we already have -- before heaping on more development. This would rightfully suggest that we can and should retrofit the built environment -- first. Instead, Bike Delaware advocates for multi-modalism with new housing developments, giving these a higher likelihood of density waivers and project approval (tip: doesn't work when surrounded by auto-dependent suburbs).
Never attends DelDOT workshops
  • Bike Delaware never attends workshops for individual DelDOT reconstruction and/or pave & rehab projects. Projects usually include sidewalks and/or painted bike lanes, with clear opportunities for upgrades to (e.g.) cycle tracks and/or protected bike lanes. An organization whose mission it is to build complete bicycling networks suitable for everyone -- including children -- would have a major presence with each and every project, regardless of size and scope. Instead, we have roads, sidewalks and intersections routinely rehabbled/reconstructed using the same bad engineering practices instead of, for example, installing 8' wide asphalt multi-modal pathways.
Developer-friendly Staff and Board of Directors
  • In addition to their Executive Director, at least two of Bike DE's board members have ties to the building industry, development firms, and property management. Their profiles can be read HERE.
Touting the impossible
  • Selling an impossible vision to Delaware's bicycling community, by insisting that we can build a low-stress bicycling network locally accessible to everyone, including 8-80 year olds. The facts say otherwise. (tip: a course in home rule and county land use would also help).
Fails to appear with any charity watch organization
  • Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, Universal Giving, Philanthropedia, GiveWell, Great Nonprofits, and others do not include Bike Delaware as one of their ethical, creditable non-profits worthy of charitable donations.
Few bicyclists like seeing this sign
Conclusion:
What little open space remains in NCC is mostly what planners and developers refer to as "infill", where any type of connectivity is fiercely opposed by existing neighborhoods. Most larger tracts -- also surrounded by car-dependent sprawl -- are either off limits or being hotly contested for open space acquisition. That said, if they really are intent on paving over most of the State's remaining farmland in Kent and Sussex, it might be possible to build enough contiguous TOD that more folks do indeed bike and walk between communities, and use transit if the State arranges and funds it. Alternatives to car usage might become a little more popular. But then you have the cheapest gas in history (inflation factored) to ruin the incentive, and examples like Stevenage to explain around.

Delaware's recent fall from #3 to #7 as a Bicycle Friendly State was largely due to a lack of low stress connectivity and a bicycling mode share that barely registers. Unless the State is prepared to spend enormous sums and begin using eminent domain, connectivity that the 8-80 yo "interested but concerned" folks can use to circumvent arterial roads and intersections will remain impossible. Govt would have to strategically condemn and raze private properties in order to install non-motorized pathway connections between developments, and designate their streets as "bike boulevards". Doing so would draw the ire of adjacent residents, and trigger a frenzy of lawsuits. Except in a rare case or two, it isn't going to happen.

The Oil Crisis of 1973 was the last time in U.S. history that bicycling was truly popular for transportation purposes. With mode share currently at 0.2% in Delaware, major Govt spending on bike path infrastructure by confiscating private property would be political suicide. Bike Delaware should also understand that where cities and countries have high bicycle mode share, car ownership and fuel costs are prohibitively expensive and/or inconvenient. Raising the cost of driving to encourage alternative modes would again be political suicide.

So decide for yourself what Bike Delaware's true motive is, and just who may be bankrolling their staff and for what purpose. Organizations like the White Clay Bicycle Club lavish thousands of dollars every year on Bike DE, knowing full well that they are anything but transparent about their finances.