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".

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