Monday, October 28, 2019

Bike-Ped Dead: 6 Solid Reasons For Delaware's Dismal Ranking

Even with a flashing beacon, motorists still have
the right of way to continue, at speed, through
DelDOT's crosswalks without penalty -- as long
as peds (and bikes) are side-lined and waiting.
This is a completely backwards approach.
Delaware is once again poised for a dismally high position -- if not taking the nation's top spot for walking fatalities again this year. Ditto for bicycling - in a runaway - but we will cover that in a future article. Here, in no particular order, we will examine what we believe are the top 6 reasons for why this is so and will likely never change:

1) Motor vehicle priority and right of way through crosswalks and intersections. Delaware gives motor vehicles priority and right of way through mid-block crosswalks and radial turns, and puts the onus on pedestrians to create his or her own opportunity to cross. This doesn't change even with DelDOT's flashing beacons installed at a few of them; peds are still sidelined, waiting to make the first move -- hoping cars will stop. In no way is this progressive or conducive to pedestrian safety.

The way it should be. With a little enforcement. Mass
sees far greater compliance using this simple sign than
DE will ever see using stick figures and beacons.
2) An antiquated traffic code for pedestrians. There are numerous discrepancies and problems that a complete overhaul of Delaware's vehicle code is LONG overdue. The language is so antiquated that it even includes a holiday as impacting where and how to enforce it, including "soliciting contributions shall not apply on the Saturday immediately prior to Father's Day". Advocates volunteered many hours of time and did an overhaul, presenting it in legislative bill form to Delaware's Pedestrian Council. Ultimately, the State's defacto walking advocacy org, Bike Delaware, infiltrated the Ped Council and quashed the effort.

Crosswalks through highway-speed kill zones.
3) Wide lanes, slip lanes, and unregulated radial turns that induce high speed and discourage defensive driving, even in known pedestrian hot spots. Instead of traditional crossroads, most of Delaware's suburban thoroughfares consist of radial turns to keep motor vehicles moving as quickly as possible through intersections. This seriously compromises pedestrian safety, since the beginning and end of the crosswalk is unregulated and never signalized. As they are induced to maintain speed, motorists seldom yield, and usually just barrel on through even when pedestrians are present. This is not at all conducive to pedestrian safety, and not only adds to the danger, it discourage walking in the first place.

Non-drivers will often create "goat paths", as
the State and its Counties will not seek out and
try and include these important connections
with area rehab & reconstruction projects.
4) Very few pathway facilities that make safe connections between existing communities, commerce, and civil services. Lack of connectivity in development codes, and an ignorance of livability concerns throughout most of Delaware's planning history have all but sealed the fate of its suburban dwellers. Bike Delaware at one time made mention that connectivity is their mission, which includes piecing together what few streets do connect to try and create low stress networks. But for the vast majority of disconnected and unincorporated suburbs, they have yet to demonstrate how interconnecting pathways can be added without violating private property rights and/or invoking imminent domain -- never mind the exorbitant costs involved. In the end, those walking and biking are inevitably forced out onto arterial roads and their high speed intersections to reach most destinations.

5) An apparently fraudulent "Advocacy" organization in Delaware that will not support reforms, including a bill proposal (see #2 above) to update the traffic code in the interest of safety. "Bike Delaware" lobbies for reforms with priority on new housing construction only, helping developers achieve density waivers. With the occasional bone thrown to seasoned cyclists, they can focus on builder's profits with advocacy for "TOD" (Transit Oriented Development) and have this slip by virtually unnoticed. They ignore even the simplest ideas for retrofitting the built environment and have no record of endorsing open space conservation and park opportunities. Virtually all of their efforts are focused on the more privileged areas of the State including Old New Castle, the home of their Exec Director himself. For the unincorporated and disenfranchised folks who lack open space, bike paths and/or regional park access from home, they have to settle for what's on offer. This includes the high speed arterial roads and highways discussed here, for pleasure activities such as biking, walking and jogging.

6) Very little police presence and law enforcement to begin with. It is no secret that the police in Delaware -- in particular State and County -- are either stretched way too thin or even working without a contract. In what's become a culture of "anything goes", progressive reforms that include, e.g. stronger crosswalk signage with actual fines posted will remain out of the question. Unless a rare sting, the police are never around to actually enforce it, except perhaps in court after an injury or fatality. It is not uncommon at all for residents in unincorporated areas to go weeks or months without seeing a squad car in their region. When everyone knows that they can stretch, bend or break even the most basic laws of civility and predictability, higher crash counts inevitably follow. While the actions of the pedestrian (or bicyclist) is always cited as contributing or not, a gross lack of defensive driving due to paltry driver education, no redundant education, and virtually no law enforcement is a far greater problem overall.

Summary: Though certainly not alone in this, Delaware's built environment is a microcosm of the death and carnage now accepted as "normal" in the U.S. -- normal by placing motor vehicle traffic at human scale. Earlier govt planners, engineers and architects foisted this upon us by trashing livability in favor of "Stroads" that incorporate driveways, streets, parking lots, etc as directly connected to highways. Post WW2 design should have included frontage, service, and ring roads, and other treatments that allow highways to stay just that: relatively uninterrupted carriage ways between larger destinations with ample walking-biking cross-through (tunnel under) opportunities. Now dangerous by design, the State and its Counties (along with their Advisers and Advocates) are unable or unwilling to provide the needed tools and coping strategies.

View the proposed updated Delaware Vehicle Code for Pedestrians in pdf format, that was quashed by Bike Delaware and the Delaware Pedestrian Council with no further discussion. It was crafted by using the best of language from progressive States, e.g. Washington, Oregon, Mass, etc where motorist's respect for non-motorized road users is visibly higher than in Delaware, and the statistics are there to back it.

View the 2018 pedestrian fatality statistics for the whole of the U.S. Delaware took a "rest" from the top 5 in 2018, but is set to return in 2019.

Read an article in Strong Towns comparing Streets, Roads, and "Stroads", and what we can do to eliminate the latter in favor of livable streets and communities.

Watch James Howard Kunstler on YouTube destroy the very notion of cars as human scale.

Friday, October 25, 2019

"Share the Road" makes a comeback in Delaware

This modified W11 Bicycle "Share the Road" sign is found along Churchmans
Road just south of I95. Others have been reported in the DE City vicinity.
Brand new "Share The Road" signs are appearing along various Delaware roads. We have received several emails from our followers, one with the photo evidence seen at right. The signs appear to be showing up with repave or reconstruction projects, which contradicts Bike Delaware's commitment to ending "Share The Road" (oh, the horrors), not only from roadway signage but in all other DOT contexts and vocabulary. The photo at right was recently taken on Churchmans Road, SR58 in New Castle County, where the latest little piece of the East Coast Greenway (parallel bike path) was added.

According to Bike Delaware's IRS Form 990 for 2018: "Bike Delaware partnered with DELDOT in campaigning to end “Share The Road” signage in Delaware". Bike Delaware did indeed make the push to end "Share The Road", though not everyone agreed with the idea and most didn't believe it was a priority if given a choice of other advocacy pursuits. Upon the retirement of STR, Bike Delaware -- off the backs of former and non-member Advocates -- went on to take credit for the design and implementation of a replacement sign. With DelDOT's generosity and willingness to act immediately, The W11 In Lane sign replaced STR and became an instant hit, used primarily in lane-only configurations.

What is 1st State Bikes position on STR? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with sharing the road, or "Share The Road" on a sign. That said, we did not argue with the technicality used to justify its removal, as long as a suitable replacement was found. The average travel lane in Delaware is substandard width (11'-12' in most cases), therefore, it is impossible for a bicyclist and most cars to fit within the same lane - abreast - when factoring in the 3' Passing Law. Regardless, the fact that Bike Delaware made the removal of this sign and phrase a priority (and fissures now appear in its oversight) shows the length they will go to win over the support of Delaware's road bicyclists while secretly pushing a much bigger agenda.

"Share The Road" sign on Casho Mill Road in Newark, similar to those used by PennDOT (Oct 21, 2019)

W11 sign with "Share The Road" plaque found on Apple Road in Newark (Oct 21, 2019)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Senator Bryan Townsend (a time capsule)

Introducing, an all new web page that will serve as an on-line environment and quality of life time capsule for Senator Bryan Townsend (Delaware's District 11). Here, you can follow the ascension of the State's most prolific con-artist, as he makes his way to the top of the political dung heap, en-route to State Governor or a U.S. Congressional Seat. Already in his young career (38 years old), Mr Townsend has destroyed former Gov Russell Peterson's legacy by selling out Delaware's Coastal Zone to industry. He also refused to champion saving open space and critical habitat area (for both humans and wildlife) right in his own district. He, along with Rep Ed Osienski, denied Ogletown-S. Newark its last chance for its own regional park with open fields and a complete Trails & Pathways network already in place. That he posts articles on social media about the environmental crisis we now face only serves as a mask for his bought and paid-for agenda.

Help us spread the word; please share our posts around the Internet, including on social media, as you see fit.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

In matters of transparency, Bike Delaware is a joke

It's critical that donors to a non-profit know exactly
where and what their money is going toward.
"Secrecy is one of the shadier sides of private and public life"  ~Ian Hacking

Bike Delaware falls far short compared to other similar orgs when it comes to the activities they are engaged in, particularly those of their Exec Director who has been confirmed as a lobbyist for land-use matters (favoring developers) at the County level. It appears that their startup documents and a Form-990EZ is Bike Delaware's only known record-keeping and reporting.

To learn how an advocacy organization should go about its business, click on the images below from neighboring Bike Maryland, which takes matters of transparency very seriously. On their home page, note the newsletter subscription, as well as an up to date blog of current events and action alerts. Their website is also fully searchable, so folks can readily investigate what the organization is up to and grab at opportunities to get involved at every level.

Other Neighbors (in pdf format):
Bike Pittsburgh 2017 Annual Report and Strategic Plan 2016-2019.
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia Annual Report FY2018.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Ogletown Road and the Folly of Bike Delaware

Forced to ride in the lane during sidewalk rehab activities on Ogletown Road, between the Newark Post Office
and Marrows Rd. The high speed lane or a 5' sidewalk will continue as the only options along this stretch. 

It's hard not to laugh when reading Bike Delaware's pages, adorned with slogans such as:

"Making cycling and walking safe, convenient, and fun in Delaware"

"OUR MISSION: Bike Delaware advocates for safe, convenient and fun cycling and walking for everyone"

"Bike Delaware’s organizational mission is to make cycling and walking safe, convenient and fun transportation options in Delaware"

"Our vision is bikeway networks that everyone can use to get where they want to go on a bike"

To anyone paying attention, it's only made "safe, convenient and fun" when it brings high profile attention to Bike Delaware, or if you happen to live in one of the State's few privileged locales or regions. Otherwise, you're SOL.

The photo at top was taken on Oct 5, 2019 on Ogletown Rd/SR273, between Marrows Rd and Library Ave in Newark. Bicyclists who are trying to access the Post Office are completely disenfranchised. The only access available to them is the high speed traffic lanes or a 5' sidewalk directly adjacent, with narrow twisting curb ramps. Access from behind the P.O., perhaps via College Square, is completely fenced off.

The Marrows Rd to Library Ave/SR72 phase of Newark's "Main Street Improvements" project is now underway. Ironic that nobody -- not even Wilmapco made a strong case (if any) that bicyclists cannot safely access this critical service, as well as other buildings along this stretch. But most ironic was the absence of Bike Delaware, that they didn't care to address this gross deficiency with DelDOT during the planning of this project or at any time before construction began. Here was a prime opportunity to include bicycle access in the form of, e.g. an 8' asphalt sidepath or shared use facility instead of the lane with cars or a narrow sidewalk. Yet they didn't even publicize the project notification for this critical aspect, never mind the project itself.. Wilmapco was content to leave it in their Newark Bicycle Plan as something for "future study". It will now be 15-20 more years before another rehab/reconstruction opportunity might present itself.

A recently repaved section of sidepath along Library Ave in Newark. At 6'
wide, it fails all known engineering criteria for a bi-directional bikeway facility,
and qualifies as just a sidewalk.
Of course, none of this comes as any surprise. Similar projects are going on all around Delaware that present clear opportunities for dedicated bike (and ped, shared) infrastructure, adjacent to or outside the lanes of traffic. Of crucial importance is when there is no shoulder or bike lane on a given road, and access can only be had by taking and controlling the lane of traffic -- often times at freeway speeds. Another example is SR72 in Newark and further south -- aka S. Chapel Street -- that many bicyclists use as a bike path connection between S. Newark, Bear, and points south. Advocates fought for 17 long years to upgrade the deteriorated 6' of asphalt sidepath to a more formal 8' shared use or "cycle track" facility. DelDOT finally agreed to "rehab" the existing facility using the same failed design standards used in the 1980s when it was first built.

Conclusion: For the disenfranchised and "unwashed" that populate the vastness of Delaware's suburban landscape, you'll be hard pressed to find anything positive going on for bicycling and pedestrian advocacy. Bike Delaware appears a fraud, a fake organization that pretends to care about bike-ped safety for all of us, but whose real mission it is to fast track high density development projects and profits to their corporate masters. This comes at the expense of key infrastructure safety and improvements in the built environment, never mind the loss of our last remaining wildlife, forests, fields, wetlands, and parkland opportunities. Bike Delaware does little or nothing at all to bring attention to individual DelDOT projects and workshops -- even when absolutely critical and presenting a one time-ever opportunity for making key connections. They are a virtual no-show in person and on their website when it comes to -- at the very least -- rallying Delaware bicyclists to the very projects that could possibly make their bicycling "safer" and more "convenient".