Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Livable, Walkable, Bikeable Delaware Charade

Is Delaware protecting the natural environment? Are elected and appointed officials retrofitting the suburbs for walkability/bikeability and bringing place-making to the building and re-development of retail strips and malls? Are they providing nearby regional park access and connections for all its residents? For the privileged class living in regions such as Newark proper, Old New Castle, Pike Creek and N. Wilmington, those polled might say "yes" -- at least to some degree. For most folks who live in the vastness of Delaware's nameless faceless unincorporated suburbs, the answer is a resounding no.

Unless you live in one of these privileged regions, it could be argued that the State is going in reverse, backwards, doing the opposite. Virtually everything we see involves the wholesale destruction of the environment; suburban sprawl, loss of our last remaining green spaces, paving of wetlands and critical habit areas, and overwhelming favor lavished on automobiles as opposed to walking and biking. Despite years of talk to the contrary, New Castle County in particular remains a large, dense, disconnected auto-centric nightmare pocked with housing developments built far and away from local services, commerce, and employment centers. These require cars and driving for all of these needs, in direct contempt of climate mitigation, staggering obesity rates, disconnected family and social life, and a host of other socio-economic ills.

Below, in no particular order, is a sampling of initiatives and/or organizations found on-line, that most Delawareans do not benefit from, or even know about. Their built environment has not outwardly changed for the better, and in most cases, probably for the worse -- while any remaining "naturehood" dwindles or disappears altogether:

Livable Delaware
Direct investment and future development to existing communities, urban concentrations, and growth areas. Protect important farmlands and critical natural resource areas. Encourage redevelopment and improve the livability of existing communities and urban areas, and guide new employment into underutilized commercial and industrial sites. Protect the state’s water supplies, open spaces, farmlands and communities. Promote mobility for people and goods through a balanced system of transportation options. Provide an opportunity to promote sustainability of our economic and ecological growth and will maintain and enhance the qualities that make Delaware a unique place to live;

Blueprint for a Bicycle-Friendly Delaware
Developed through a participatory planning process, the Plan provides a framework that will inform policies and investment strategies for promoting bicycling as a safe mode of transportation in Delaware. The Blueprint envisions a more integrated approach to local land use and transportation planning.

Delaware Sierra Club
According to their website: "The Sierra Club dates back to 1892 and is the oldest and largest environmental advocacy organization in North America. Our mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet. For more than 45 years, the Delaware Chapter has blazed trails to protect the environment and to provide opportunities to enjoy and explore the natural beauty of our state". NOTE: Delaware Sierra Club, Audubon, and others place corporatism before grassroots and did not support the STOP (Save the Orphanage Property) campaign to save critical habitat, wetlands and open space ideal for a regional park in Ogletown -- the last chance of its kind.

WILMAPCO (and other DE MPOs)
The Wilmington Area Planning Council is the regional transportation planning agency for New Castle County, Delaware and Cecil County, Maryland. As the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), WILMAPCO is charged with planning and coordinating transportation investments for the region based on federal policy, local input, technical analysis, and best practices. NOTE: Despite assisting with the East Coast Greenway (ECG) planning and design, this org fails to oversee improvements to the facility, often times a once in decades opportunity.

Delaware Complete Communities and Summit
The Delaware Complete Communities Planning Toolbox aims to help build local government capacity to develop complete-communities planning approaches, community-design tools,
and public engagement strategies.

Bike Delaware
An org that claims a mission of "making cycling and walking safe, convenient and fun in Delaware", yet their record speaks otherwise. The evidence shows that they are a fraudulent "Advocacy" organization that will not support reforms, including a bill proposal to update the traffic code in the interest of pedestrian (and thus bicycle pathway) safety. They have never once advocated for open space and/or to ensure all Delawareans have regional park and thus biking/walking/jogging pathway access. "Bike Delaware" lobbies for reforms with priority on new housing developments only, e.g. helping builders achieve density waivers with the promise of TOD design concepts.

Delaware Trails & Pathways Initiative
The goal is to create an interconnected network of shared-use trails and pathways that will support non-motorized travel and recreation opportunities for Delawareans and visitors. The focus is on bicycling and walking and providing safe and convenient ways to reach local work, shops, schools, recreational sites and transit.

Complete Streets in Delaware
Complete streets are planned, designed, built, and maintained to safely accommodate travelers of all ages and abilities. While the majority (89%) of Delaware’s roadways are owned and maintained by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), local government officials and “citizen planners” may wish to visualize how to balance the needs of all roadway users and transform existing roadways to complete streets. NOTE: Unfortunately, the vast majority of "Complete Streets" improvements have come in the form of "Stroads" or fitting bike lanes and/or sidewalks along arterial roads ad highways. Adjacent to 50-70 mph traffic, these appear all but abandoned given the inherent danger of distracted and aggressive driving. These are also ignored during roadway improvement projects and upgrades.

Delaware Greenways
According to their website: "We envision a State where trails, pathways and scenic corridors connect everyone to where they want to go, empowering them to live healthier lives as they discover and enjoy the outdoors. Delaware Greenways advocates for the development of trails and byways. These pathways link and build communities while winding through some of the most beautiful scenery in Delaware. Through our work on trails and pathways, we inspire people to engage in an active lifestyle". NOTE: Delaware Greenways lack of advocacy and oversight beyond privileged regions is lacking, at best.

Delaware Safe Routes to School Program
Safe Routes to School programs makes it safe, convenient and fun for children to walk or bicycle to school. Elementary and middle schools can receive funding through Delaware Safe Routes To School Program.

Walkable Community Workshops
Walkable neighborhoods and communities are vibrant and livable places that give their residents safe and active transportation choices. Increased walkability helps to improve safety, physical fitness and social interaction, and enhances overall quality of life.

Creating a Livable Delaware Conference
“Creating a Livable Delaware: Pathways for Enhancing Prosperity and Quality of Life". Aims to direct growth to areas that are best prepared, preserve farmland and open space, promote redevelopment, facilitate affordable housing and limit sprawl.

Walkable Bikeable Delaware Summit
The Summit will feature America’s leading engineering experts on cycling who will be in Delaware for only one day! From these pro-cycling, problem-solving engineers we will learn about practical and cost-effective solutions that can make cycling safe, convenient, comfortable and fun for people of all ages and abilities in our communities.

Sadly, combined with the cheapest gas in history, none of the above have reduced auto-dependency, emissions, obesity, disconnected social and family life, and a host of other socio-economic problems in Delaware. And, without a holistic approach from Advocates along with bold govt leadership, that will never change. The vast majority of the State's built environment consists of unincorporated and disconnected suburbs full of junk architecture, where some opportunities for improvement do exist but are few and far between. When they do come up, advocates and officials need to ACT. But they don't.

Delaware is the 4th most corrupt state in the nation, behind only Wyoming, Michigan, and S. Dakota. It consistently ranks as one of the top 5 most dangerous States to be a pedestrian, and active modes like bicycling and walking are flat or in decline. Only in Delaware is the State's so-called bike-ped "advocacy" org beholden to those responsible, and thus hastening and not helping the problem. "We" are a State where elected government is 100% committed to developer and business interests to the exclusion of all else, and whose only function is to funnel profits upward to the corporate elite and those who do their bidding. Unfortunately, none of this is going to change until resource scarcity and/or climate apocalypse takes root, and forces their hand.

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