Sunday, October 18, 2020

East Coast Greenway Fail in Ogletown

According to the East Coast Greenway (ECG) website

The East Coast Greenway is a walking and biking route stretching 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida, connecting our nation’s most populated corridor. The East Coast Greenway is designed to transform the 15 states and 450 communities it connects through active and healthy lifestyles, sustainable transportation, community engagement, climate resilience, tourism, and more. The Greenway offers a safe place for bicyclists, walkers, runners, and more — of all ages and abilities — to commute, exercise, and visit new destinations.

For Delaware's portion of the ECG: Enjoy the charming historic city of New Castle before continuing on the New Castle Riverfront Greenway along the Delaware River and heading westward to Newark, starting out on the Penn Farm Trail. The route incorporates a mix of side paths and roads to Newark, a small college town near the Maryland border where travelers will find themselves on the James F. Hall Trail before hitting the road again to the Maryland border.

There are numerous infrastructure and safety issues with the East Coast Greenway (ECG) in Delaware. Among them a section of shared use path (SUP) along Route 4 in Ogletown, where it crosses Augusta Drive to a 1 block section of shared Route 4 frontage street. This crossing is impeded by a raised N-S center median and there is no marked crossing through it. Crossing here is taking your life in your hands, with high speed traffic blindly turning onto Augusta exactly where ECG users attempt to cross.

Very recently
, this intersection was marked out for a traffic signal upgrade (photo left). In contacting DelDOT, it turns out that other features are being replaced as well, including pedestrian refuge islands and corner curb ramps. An existing pedestrian crosswalk across Route 4 to the "Shops at Augusta" (a small strip mall) will also be refreshed, but DelDOT will not be adding a crossing of Augusta to maintain ECG continuity.

Why isn't the ECG part of this upgrade? Even leveling the median for an unmarked at-grade crossing would be of help, as bicyclists are likely to circumvent around nearer to the lanes of Route 4. We wrote to DelDOT to inquire, and learned that none of this would be considered. In their words, "this signal rebuild has a limited scope and would not be able to address the geometric issues regarding the installation of a new crossing on SB Augusta Drive. However, as you requested we can add the R10-15 (turning vehicles yield to pedestrians sign) on the right side of SB Augusta Drive. It will be added at the end of the construction. In addition, we will forward your request for this intersection to DelDOT Project Development or the PAR program for further investigation or consideration in future projects" and "it would have doubled the scope of the project in both time and cost".

Adding a R10-15 on southbound Augusta is hardly solace for what should have been. This was a big pathways opportunity missed that could and should have earned the scope of this signal project. Minus any fix -- even a simple median leveling as suggested -- Augusta will now remain an impediment, as an unmarked and unsafe crossing in the ECG for years to come. It will still require stepping over or biking around a median in an uncontrolled manner (YouTube video). Meanwhile, there are plenty of examples of crosswalks added in similar rehab projects around Delaware one could point to. And, It has been understood for a decade now that Complete Streets improvements should be considered via reconstruction & rehab projects if at all possible -- even if additional funds might be needed. The ECG right of way should be of no exception.

Par for the course.
 Just like the loss of the Orphanage Property as a park and pathways system (the region's last chance), privilege does indeed matter. Ogletown-S. Newark is 'undeserving' of these amenities based largely on socio-economic status. Other regions of higher rank and privilege fair much better in Delaware when it comes to multi-modal and community investment. Think: would it be the same outcome if this involved the Delaware Greenway in North Wilmington?

For the record: As we have seen over and over again, it was just another failure on the part of oversight orgs such as Bike Delaware, WilmapcoDE Greenways, and area Legislators that a critical greenways/pathways improvement opportunity came and went with nary a peep. If they weren't made aware, perhaps DelDOT lacks the mechanism to reach out when a rehab or reconstruction project impacts a SUP pathway system like the ECG? Each of these org's missions emphasizes the need for multi-modal connectivity and networks that facilitate safe bicycling and walking. Bike Delaware in particular has a dismal track record in this regard.

Above: Google Streetview. East Coast Greenway 8' wide SUP is seen coming down from the above left straddling the Route 4 shoulder/bike lane to the side street intersection of Augusta Drive. A narrow sidewalk continues north on Augusta but there lacks any safe crossing of Augusta to continue east bound on the ECG (or vice versa).

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Frederick casualty signifies incompetence of Bike Delaware

As is so often the case, Bike Delaware is quick to highlight bicyclist casualties, particularly as they pertain to high speed arterial roads. Unfortunately, few Delaware bicyclists realize this org's lack of transparency, and the disingenuous nature of their work. Unless it's a high profile project (e.g. rail trail) that draws media attention to them, Bike Delaware has little to no interest at all in improving bicycle infrastructure and safety. Below are just some of our featured articles over the last few years, clearly making the case:

CRITICAL: I-95 and SR 896 Interchange Project

Ogletown Road and the Folly of Bike Delaware

Where is Bike Delaware on projects that really matter?

Where is Bike Delaware on these top 5 action items?

Above: Most of S. College Ave south of I95 has some type of separate biking infrastructure, including 8' wide asphalt paths and 25 mph frontage roads with shoulders. The intersections are still dangerous by design, with the usual slip lanes and unregulated crosswalks. But bicyclists and walkers can stay off the highway nonetheless. The segment (marked as a red line above) where Mr Frederick was killed is the only section of S. College/SR896 that does not have such a facility, even though it easily could have when the highway was last "upgraded". For the record, Bike Delaware never advocates for these types of facilities, and in fact, they even opposed past efforts at dedicated funding that would have addressed such individual needs and projects.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Boycott Sierra Club Over The Orphanage Property Travesty

Sierra Club: Corporatism over Grassroots
Originally published in Ogletown Resilience

As our readers are all too aware, the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club would not support or endorse the effort to Save the Orphanage Property (STOP) as critical habitat area, as a wildlife refuge, as a regional park, and a trails & pathways opportunity for Ogletown-S. Newark that will never come again. We urge all of our readers to see through the facade and the fraudulence of Sierra Club, and to ignore all of their events including Earth Day. Alternatives can be found, including this one with Delaware Estuary.

The below article is from 2011, but nothing has changed since. Corporatist money has no place in non-profit environmental organizations -- whether that be at the national, state or local levels. This article explains why, after repeated asks for Sierra's endorsement of STOP, their reply was "this isn't something we generally do". Ditto from DE Audubon Society, given they too are a national org and thus accepting of corporate payoffs and kickbacks.

  • According to the Associated Press, in 2002 Sierra Club head Carl Pope threatened to dissolve the southern Utah chapter for “speaking out against the Bush administration’s push toward war with Iraq.”  The Sierra Club’s Board of Directors had passed a resolution “supporting efforts to strip Iraq of weapons of mass destruction” (i.e., supporting the war) ...
  • This is the first time in Sierra Club’s 116-year history that it has endorsed a product and even Club executive director Carl Pope, who’s been a driving force in the partnership, admitted that the decision by a well-known environmental group to endorse a company known for its bleach, plastics, and chemical products is “controversial.”
  • Until progressive groups successfully address the challenge of funding themselves independent of the elite individuals and institutions that act as enforcers of a corporate agenda, they will not be able to successfully advocate for progressive causes. Any success they might have will mean that their funding dries up, and they will cease to exist.
  • The Sierra Club is a marquee name that has indeed gone for the green:  cash.  Environmental activists should carefully examine the way in which the organization is operating, and whether its agenda is worthy of continued support.

STOP to Delaware's Environmental Organizations: Epic Fail

Do you support environmental conservation in Delaware? Support and donate to the Delaware Nature Society. DNC, along with a dozen other local and State orgs, didn't hesitate and immediately jumped on board to help save the Orphanage Property.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Where is Bike Delaware on these top 5 action items?

One of numerous "goat paths" in New Castle County. Without the State's
advocacy org working with DelDOT on pathway connections between
neighborhoods and commerce, foot traffic will make their own.
A frequent question we receive at 1st State Bikes is this: What exactly is Bike Delaware doing in the interest of bicycle & pedestrian safety? What are they actually doing to advocate for local access to pathways, connectors, and regional parks in order that folks can stay out of harms way -- not just for bike/ped transportation but for recreation as well? They did advocate for some local spur trails to connect a few high profile projects, such as the Jack Markell Trail in New Castle. Beyond that, it is very difficult to quantify any efforts they are making. There is virtually no organizational transparency, nothing to the effect on their web platforms, and countless opportunities have come and gone without their support or involvement. If anything, they have a history of undermining the advocacy efforts of others, that could have brought sweeping reforms e.g. the updating of the vehicle code for pedestrians.

In no particular order, here are 5 badly needed action items that Bike Delaware -- along with State and County legislators -- could and SHOULD be working on right now:

Update Delaware's vehicle code for modern times, commensurate with other progressive States

Delaware consistently ranks in the top 5 most deadly States to walk in, even taking #1 just a few years ago. An overhaul (pdf) of Delaware's vehicle code for walking was completed 4 years ago in bill form. The draft "Pedestrian Bill" was modeled after other progressive States such as WA, MA, OR, etc. It brought Delaware's code up to date with our built environment and modern times. As it stands now, Delaware's code is overwhelmingly car-centric, placing the onus squarely on pedestrians not to get killed. It actually requires a person to be in a crosswalk before a yield is legally required, whereas other States require simple intent to cross. In other words, you could stand at the curb waiting for all eternity, because motorists are legally permitted to continue (at speed) through crosswalks unless you physically place your body out there - in harms way.

Other issues with Delaware's current pedestrian code include dispensation for soliciting just prior to Father's Day which has no relevance today. Meanwhile, the State's death and injury rate -- consistently ranking top 5 per-capita in the U.S. -- continues unabated. The legal system targets pedestrians, holding motorists blameless in virtually every case. Routine patterns such as smart phone use, speeding, and aggressive driving are never cited, though most drivers engage in it. Updating the language would be a monumental step in the right direction, helping to provide a sensible basis for education and enforcement and to give pedestrians the confidence they need to use proper facilities where available. (NOTE: Bike Delaware actually quashed Advocate's attempts at a bill to update the vehicle code to increase safety and priority of pedestrian travel. You can view the updated code in pdf here).

Fight that everyone has local access to their own regional park(s)

According to Nemours and the CDC: Comprehensive recommendations for reducing the prevalence of obesity identified improving access to outdoor recreational facilities as a key strategy for creating safe communities that support physical activity. A comprehensive review of more than 100 studies supports the CDC’s recommendation. The review found that time spent outdoors and access to recreation facilities and programs near their homes correlated positively with increased physical activity among children and adolescents. Additionally, the economic benefits are critical to community health and wellbeing.

In the corrupt defeat of regional park Advocates in Ogletown-S. Newark, losing the last significant open space on the entire Rt.4 corridor suitable for such a purpose had serious implications for biking in the region. Gone forever is a bicycle-friendly destination, key trails and/or pathways connections between several existing developments, local place-making and an enhanced quality of life. Now being paved over with hundreds of unneeded homes, thousands of residents are forever condemned to racking up and driving their bikes (or sneakers, if walking or running) 15-20 minutes, either to Glasgow or Pike Creek if they wish to enjoy such a facility. This contradicts Gov Ruth Ann Minner's Livable DE and Bike Delaware's Trails & Pathways initiatives, among others. (NOTE: Bike Delaware is not on record anywhere, at any time (since their incorporation) as having supported open space acquisition and preservation. If anything, the record shows that they prioritize development, even when an entire region will lose its last park opportunity forever).

Advocate for a "20 IS PLENTY" campaign or similar

One of the most popular advocacy campaigns in the world is 20 Is Plenty. Without question, Bike Delaware should be at the forefront and leading this effort for their State. We asked Senator John "Jack" Walsh (D: Dist 9) to explore the possibility of such a campaign based on chronic speeding in Harmony Woods in Ogletown. DelDOT is unwilling to implement speed humps due to flawed and/or inadequate speed study data using the 85th Percentile. Then the legislators cite constant demand (i.e. "everybody wants speed bumps") as a further problem. We received the following reply from Mr Walsh:

We have completed an initial review with DelDOT and received a relative cost estimate that would be necessary if we were to change the residential speed limit from 25 MPH to 20 MPH statewide. The estimate ranges from approximately $550,000 to $1.1M for the installation of 2 signs per development since we maintain 1,501 developments statewide. This type of effort would involve fabrication and installation of over 3,000 signs at a minimum. However, the estimate doesn’t account for 1) developments that have multiple access points or speed limit signs (some developments have as many as 4-5 access points, if not more). 2) Speed limit signs co-posted with radar speed signs within developments. 3) Roads within municipalities that are state or locally maintained, such as Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth, Lewes, etc. We have also discussed these bills with our colleagues, and we will continue to do so over the next few months. For the reasons listed above, however, we are not confident that we would be able to move legislation you proposed forward at this time.

Demand min 8' wide asphalt bike paths instead of sidewalks where shoulder bike lanes do not exist

There are numerous projects (or potential projects) all around Delaware that present clear opportunities for dedicated bicycling infrastructure, adjacent to or outside the lanes of traffic. Of crucial importance is when there is no shoulder 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. An infamous example is SR72 (S. Chapel Street) that many bicyclists use as a bike path connection between Newark, 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.

The Marrows Rd to Library Ave/SR72 phase of Newark's "Main Street Improvements" project is another example. Ironic that nobody -- not even WILMAPCO made a strong case (if any) that bicyclists cannot safely access buildings along this stretch, in particular the post office. But most disturbing 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 (and this). 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.

Reform County Codes to better facilitate bicycling

While New Castle County does mandate bicycle parking with new construction, the most glaring deficiency in their Unified Development Code (UDC) involves the retrofitting or reconstruction of existing structures. Essentially, a building and its property is only bound by rules set forth on the day of its first recorded plan; more recent requirements -- including bicycle parking -- can be disqualified, unless the project expands the building by least 1,000 square feet.

In NCC, for an existing structure, multi-modal access and improvements are put squarely in the hands of the business or property owner. They can omit said access in favor of dozens of other choices, as long as it meets this "400% improvement" matrix, however that's determined. And the problem isn't just limited to reconstruction; missing code requirements are sometimes found on brand new buildings.

In short, this represents a major opportunity for Bike Delaware to advocate for change, by asking for bicycle facilities to be a required feature in all construction types. They should also spearhead a call or write-in campaign to encourage and assist bicyclists in their own efforts to attain bicycle parking or access where it is needed most, e.g. shopping malls and strips.

Also of note: NCC continues to use motor vehicle barrier types that include hanging chains or cables. These force bicyclists -- that are permitted -- into an inconvenient detour situation, which can be very dangerous. When it comes to keeping out cars, appropriately spaced bollards (one removable) perform the exact same function as a gate, yet allow non-motorized users to pass through safely as if nothing was there.

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. The above five advocacy goals are just a few of the many outlined on this website over the last 7 years that could help turn things aground. As the self-proclaimed #1 bicycling and walking advocacy org for the State, it is incumbent upon Bike Delaware to act and to advocate for the best possible retrofits and improvements in THIS built environment, in all contexts. In other words, advocate to fix what we already have. Unfortunately, Bike Delaware's main focus is walkable-bikeable design with NEW housing developments and increasing builder's profit margins. Unless this changes, walking and bicycling as "safe, convenient and fun" will continue to flat line or even decline in Delaware.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Senator Jack Walsh obtains quotes for "20 is Plenty" in Delaware

Dear Senator Walsh,

In researching problems of speeding on neighborhood streets, there are Cities and States around the country that have come up with non-infrastructural solutions that quantifiably reduce speed. These involve flexibility in lowering speed limits by 5 (via unique signage and/or a campaign), or more effectively enforcing existing ones with better or more pronounced signage. Please review the following two PDFs of bills that were passed in 2 States: Washington and Oregon.

It has become clear that "everyone wants speed bumps"; that is the immediate answer anytime when asked for at a meeting. If so, then we have a serious problem in DE with speeding in residential areas. If a vocal resident is one of the lucky ones, the State sets out to measure 85th percentile, then they may issue a warrant if it exceeds 5 mph. Apparently, these asks are frequent, and costs high for installing speed bumps. And many are rejected even if there is a demonstrable speeding problem as in the case of Medley Drive.

As your constituent, would you consider writing a bill, perhaps combining the best of the two above, gather some co-sponsors and bring it to the floor for a vote? It may be tabled, or not pass the first time, but after repeated attempts, it might. Then, DelDOT would be free to try other calming means, e.g. signage, that is far less expensive than speed bumps, and could save lots of money and asphalt. We will attach a couple examples of such signs.

As an annual top-5 most deadly State in the U.S. for walking, we ask that you (and/or your Colleague Rep Bentz) consider writing and introducing such a bill, and if you will not, please explain why. Here is some additional reading on the subject (here and here).

Thank you very much, and we look forward to your reply.

Frank Warnock & Angela Connolly

Senator Jack Walsh responds:

Good Afternoon Mr. Warnock,

Thanks again for sending us those bills. We have completed an initial review with DelDOT and received a relative cost estimate that would be necessary if we were to change the residential speed limit from 25 MPH to 20 MPH statewide. The estimate ranges from approximately $550,000 to $1.1M for the installation of 2 signs per development since we maintain 1,501 developments statewide. This type of effort would involve fabrication and installation of over 3,000 signs at a minimum. However, the estimate doesn’t account for:
  • Developments that have multiple access points or speed limit signs (some developments have as many as 4-5 access points, if not more).
  • Speed limit signs co-posted with radar speed signs within developments.
  • Roads within municipalities that are state or locally maintained, such as Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth, Lewes, etc.
We have also discussed these bills with our colleagues, and we will continue to do so over the next few months. For the reasons listed above, however, we are not confident that we would be able to move legislation you proposed forward at this time.

However, we have asked for an estimate for a radar signs to be installed on Medley Dr. This will show drivers how fast they are going along with displaying the speed limit. We will review once receiving the estimate.

Have a nice day,

Jack J Walsh
State Senator 9th District
O: 302-744-4163
C: 302-660-6295

Editors note: Why isn't Bike Delaware working on this? Unfortunately, their record suggests they won't, given other priorities.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Entropy made visible: Bryan Townsend's Senate District 11

Hypocrite: Townsend on Facebook
Paradoxically, Senator Townsend (District 11, New Castle County) remains hugely popular among his Ogletown-S. Newark constituents despite his colossal failure as a legislator and representative of their best interests. But then again, Delawareans in general have a penchant for taking it up the backside, all the while begging for more. They stay loyal to his Facebook page, where Mr Townsend cross-posts environmental issues with a sense of outrage, and what appears genuine anger and remorse toward our planet's death spiral under the Trump administration. There is simply no end to the lies and con-artistry this man is capable of, given his dismal record as a State Senator right here in Delaware. The hypocrisy is staggering, as charity is supposed to "begin" at home.

Not only is Mr Townsend one of the worst environmental enemies (as chronicled on this page -- see "Top Articles" series in the right column) to serve office in any State, he also has zero interest in quality of life and green transportation that includes walking and biking. His district IS entropy made visible, with infrastructure at least as bad or worse than most 3rd world countries.

And where is Bike Delaware on this issue? Nowhere, that's where. Here are a few local examples, found just in Ogletown, that make critical connections between communities, circumventing arterials roads:

"Pathway" connecting Cherokee Woods with Our Redeemer Church/Chestnut Hill Estates.
"Bike Path" along Route 4, in front of the Christina Early Education Center. Zero maintenance or repair.
"Curb ramp" and pathway between Ogletown Rd and Route 4 at D&H Jamaican. Not only is this not ADA-compliant, it has never been maintained in any way, much less rehabbed or resurfaced.
Pathway connecting Todd Estates/Newark Oaks/Brookside to Jennie Smith ES and George Kirk MS. This facility is heavily relied upon by school children walking and biking to school, easily the healthiest thing a child can and should engage in. Most who use it walk or bike through the adjacent driveway instead, before reconnecting near the trip hazard (below) further up.
Also along the pathway connection above; a major tripping hazard, the result of settling concrete slabs and zero maintenance or repair.
Death trap: Posted speed limit of 50
(55-60 prevailing) in front of 
Ogletown area schools.
This is what you can expect under failed leadership, in this case Senator Townsend and cohort Rep Ed Osienski, along with their NCC Democratic colleague Lisa Diller. The trio -- most influential among them Townsend -- also could have gifted their districts a regional park on Route 4 on the former Orphanage Property. Instead, they lied and chose to hide that possibility from Advocates and the broader public for a full 2 years or until such time it was committed to development and couldn't be stopped. All the while, Route 4 is slowly but surely evolving into a Kirkwood Hwy or Route 13, with endless lane expansion projects, installations of overhead lights, clear cutting of trees, and other assaults on community life and place-making.

Despite being one of the most, if not the most disenfranchised regions of the State, these legislators go on enjoying broad support among their constituents, easily defeating their challengers in each election cycle.