Friday, April 7, 2023

One Dozen Safety Suggestions For Wilmapco and NCC

WILMAPCO is appealing for feedback to reverse the "1st" that Delaware asked for over many decades time with poor land-use and infrastructure planning. Kudos to them for making this big step. But if our State is really serious about reducing injuries and fatals, it is going to take more than infra improvements on gov-owned roads and other public rights of way (ROW). In no particular order, here is our top 12 recommendations that SSFA (Safe Streets for All) must consider and implement to be effective:

  1. Reform the vehicle code for pedestrians. DE's code now ranks among the most inadequate and dangerous in the country. Bike Delaware fought and defeated past attempts at bringing said code in line (pdf) with other truly progressive States.
  2. Typical goat path from SR4 in S. Newark
    A holistic approach to infra that includes non-state lands and properties, e.g. abaondoned roads, "goat paths" and/or other potential buy or easement possibilities. These make critical connections e.g. Cavaliers to Christiana Mall, yet are actually discouraged! Shared-use pathways are paved parallel to shopping centers or strip commerce, but the only "connections" are goat paths traversing high curbs or over high fences. Ditto with neighborhoods and other vital destinations. This is grossly unacceptable and any safety campaign must address this issue. That said, the NCC "Safe Streets for All" interactive mapping tool is a great start; please participate.
  3. "20 is Plenty" (or similar) for neighborhoods and side streets, including replacement of all 25
    mph speed limit signs (Sen John Walsh performed a cost analysis), accompanied by an awareness campaign. This has had demonstrable results elsewhere in western society (i.e. Europe).
  4. Restrict use of radial turns and slip lanes to high speed roads only; these should never be used on streets at human scale, which DelDOT continues to do. Roads should have limited access via frontal streets only; Streets require crossroads to be safe. There is a big difference.
  5. Lower speed limits on arterial roads that have frequent red lights, crosswalks, bike lanes, shopping centers, schools etc. SR4 (E. Chestnut Hill Rd) thru Ogletown-S.Newark is posted at 50 mph, which is recklessly dangerous. Average speeds approach 60 mph, even through intersections where the East Coast Greenway parallels a deaf-blind and elementary school according to one speed study. Eliminate the 85th Percentile as exclusive guidance when setting speed limits.
  6. Carth Vader
  7. Robust laws aimed at curbing drag racing and aftermarket and modified exhaust systems. Such vehicle terrorism discourages anyone from venturing near DE's arterial roads and streets unless forced. And we all have connections that can only be made via arterial roads. Sen Walsh/Rep Williams already passed HB328 for the former, and HB35 is in process for the latter. PD and/or NCC follow-up to citizen complaints is key to enforcement. Kudos to the legislators involved.
  8. Redundant DMV driver training. Even a simple periodic quiz would help, perhaps with renewals. License and registration as a "right" has to end, replaced with the privilege to drive AND re-earning it from time to time.
  9. A gas tax to fund improvements across all vulnerable user types, given the unspeakable damage caused by people driving cars and burning fossil fuels vs non-motorists.
  10. Bike parking with ALL new commercial establishments (NCC), including refurbs -- not just ground-up construction. Find a way to incentivize existing services and establishments. Reform the land-use code in this manner.
  11. Stop using cement barriers and hanging cables instead of bollard(s) where bike/ped but not cars are permitted. This is lacking of common sense and results in tripping or crash hazards.
  12. Design, test and implement a Delaware MUTCD-specific Shared Zone signage, for use in mixed zones where speeding is notable. Examples include Creek Road north of Newark.
  13. Car-free and car-lite housing incentives at Delaware's schools, colleges and universities. This includes reducing student car parking and replacing it with car-sharing services instead.
Is there a #13 and beyond? Where is Bike Delaware and Delaware Greenways on any of these issues? Let us know in the comments section below if you have anything to add. Beyond that, this post marks the end of what we can do to help Delaware move forward in multi-modal safety and quality of life issues. Now on to populating the SSFA map.

Where is Bike Delaware on these top 5 action items?

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

DelDOT: NO to Shared Zone signage on Creek Road

Creek Road on a recent winter's day
Sadly, DelDOT has denied Advocate's pleas for Shared Zone signage on Creek Road. Creek Road is a historic, narrow, 2-lane, unimproved rural route that extends from Newark through the White Clay Creek Valley. It is especially rich with pedestrian and bicycling activity just north of Newark, given University of Delaware's vast student population. It was abandoned for auto use starting about 0.8 miles south of Wedgewood Road, as much of the asphalt collapsed into the White Clay Creek, but enough width remains for dedicated trail use.

Creek Road is not actually a road; though rural, it qualifies as a Street and shared-use path (Pomeroy Trail) system. Upon our initial ask, Delaware State Parks eagerly embraced the idea and installed Shared Zone signs on DSP-managed roads open to automobiles. However, despite Creek Road having the highest mode-share by far, DelDOT wouldn't allow it. In a response from a DelDOT spokesperson:

DelDOT has implemented the low stress bikeway practices and designs. The Newark Bikeways signs was collaboration between Bike Newark, Wilmapco, Delaware Greenways, City of Newark and DelDOT. Traffic’s view is that this portion of Creek Rd is dedicated to highlight the low stress Newark Bikeway as far as signage is concerned. We don’t recommend any additional signage at this time. We can engage the City of Newark to see if they would like to include any in their limits along Creek Rd.

Traffic Studies also worked with Captain McDerby and Park Superintendent Lee with the posting of additional 25 mph speed limit signs. They stated it is a huge help with providing pedestrian, bike safety on this road for visitors entering White Clay Creek State Park.  

Sure, speed limit signs where before there were none helps. But DelDOT is citing the small, brown, relatively inconspicuous "Low Stress Bikeway" sign as adequate. We disagree, especially since bikes are the minority of  non-motorized users, and cars -- many speeding -- are expected to mix with majority walkers, hikers, runners etc.

Delaware is ranked the most dangerous State to bike in, and consistently ranks top 3 in pedestrian fatalities. As of March 1, 4 bicyclists have already been killed in Delaware. At this rate it'll be 24 for the year -- annihilating past (annual per-capita) totals of any State. To make matters worse, Delaware has no Statewide advocacy organization fighting in the interests of bike/ped safety.

If DelDOT is so mired in regulations that they cannot make this simple improvement, then they must develop, test and approve a similar custom sign for Delaware's MUTCD (traffic devices manual pdf). Advocates have offered to help, similar to the W11-1-DE project, but DelDOT has declined to answer.

When common sense is defied in such a manner, we cannot help but question the State's sincerity in terms of non-motorized encouragement and safety, climate mitigation and the greater good. Let's hope things change, and that DelDOT engineers and planners are given more autonomy to create safe streets environments.

Shared Zone implemented throughout White Clay Creek State Park -- except on Creek Road where it's needed most.