Bike to Work Day 2019

 

photo of most of the attendees of the 2019 Bike to Work Day in Newark

Bike to Work Day event sponsors: Bloom Energy, City of Newark Dept. of Parks & Recreation, Trek Bicycle Newark, STAR Health, and WILMAPCONewark celebrated National Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 17. This beautiful sunny day brought more than 80 riders to Mentors’ Circle on the University of Delaware campus for the early morning event.

photo of Christine Schultz and Matt Kinservik
Christine Schultz and Matt Kinservik arrive at Mentors’ Circle.

Thought ridership was perhaps not what it should have been on such a nice day, the event enjoyed great support in terms of sponsorships, led by Bloom Energy, which allowed us to this year to include a “grand prize” of a new Trek FX-1 bicycle.

Speakers and attendees alike rode in, each in one of six area “bike trains.” Attendees enjoyed light breakfast fare and coffee and garnered free “Bike Month Delaware 2019” T-shirts, courtesy of DelDOT in cooperation with the Delaware Bicycle Council.

photo of Lou Rossi
Lou Rossi talks about why he commutes to work.

Having ridden in early because of his busy schedule, last year’s keynote speaker New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer kicked off the list of speakers at this year’s event.

University of Delaware Vice Provost Matt Kinservik followed up with an official welcome on behalf of the host institution, giving some personal testimony to the positive changes that are occurring in Newark while confessing that he may not have been worthy of his image being used on the event publicity this year.

Kinservik introduced UD mathematics professor and stalwart bike commuter Lou Rossi, who spoke about why he commutes to work, logging in some 13 miles roundtrip every weekday.

photo of Mayor Jerry Clifton
Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton addresses the morning’s attendees.

Newark-area State Representative Paul Baumbach then spoke to the gathered attendees. He was followed by new Newark City Manager Tom Coleman, who spoke about the current construction challenges facing the city but the many bicycle-infrastructure improvements on the horizon. New Mayor Jerry Clifton, who showed up early and helped set up, talked about his family’s experience bicycling.

On behalf of the City of Newark and BikeNewark, BikeNewark Chair and event emcee, Bob McBride, helped event coordinator Mike Fortner present this year’s Bicycle Friendly Community Leader Award to Susan Grasso. She was chosen because she had spent a good portion of the past three years working behind the scenes, both as a concerned citizen and as a member of BikeNewark, to advocate for bicycling as a normal and viable mode of transportation.

photo of Bob McBride, Caitlin Grasso, and Mike Fortner
Flanked by BikeNewark Chair Bob McBride and event coordinator Mike Fortner, Caitlin Grasso accepts the Bicycle Friendly Community Leader Award for her mother, Susan Grasso.

McBride ran down a list of projects and efforts which Grasso either initiated and/or she was directly involved in and concluded, “[Susan] always has been helping encourage people to bicycle more and advocate for better conditions for bicycling. Most recently, she has been serving on a city Sustainability Committee, which completely fits her desire to see more and more bicyclists—i.e., cleaner transportation—on the road here in Newark.”

Though Grasso could not be present to accept the award, her daughter, Caitlin, accepted on her behalf and read words of gratitude that her mom had composed and sent her via cellphone.

Fortner, one of BikeNewark’s liaisons from the City of Newark, joined McBride to make the morning fun by giving away several gift certificates to local businesses. Then, to cap off the event, the Trek bicycle winner’s name—Rayanne Luke—was drawn by Trek Bicycle Newark manager Dave Schindler, and the bicycle was presented to her.

A large group photo was organized to close the event, and afterward lead sponsor Bloom Energy shot its own group photo before everyone headed off to work for the day.

photo of Bloom Energy group
Lead event sponsor Bloom Energy sent a strong contingent of riders.

2020’s Bike to Work Day event in Newark will take place on Friday, May 15. BikeNewark looks forward to seeing you there.

Photographs by WILMAPCO’s Heather Dunigan.

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A No-Brainer?

by Mark Deshon

photo of bike under city signageSometimes a “no-brainer” is just that.

BikeNewark is indeed thankful that on Monday night, April 29th, the City Council overwhelmingly recognized the wisdom of not removing the bike lane on Delaware Avenue (instead of placing temporary parking along that heavily used central Newark artery), because it is a safety issue.

However, after that night’s lengthy special City Council meeting on the City’s parking plan during the Main Street rehab project, I got to wondering why removing the bike lane ever made it to the drawing board in the first place. Certainly, this signals to me that, while the City and its businesses like its designation as a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” the City staff doesn’t naturally consider bicycles as a mode of travel that deserves adequate accommodation on the roads, and Newark’s businesses don’t view people arriving by bike as equally important downtown customers.

This is why an organization like BikeNewark exists—because there’s a real sense among the cycling community that we have to continually remind those in positions of authority, whose decisions have far-reaching consequences, that people do get around on bikes and that this is good for everyone, those biking and those benefiting from fewer cars on the road and less air pollution.

Believe me, I get it. I understand the importance of economic vitality in this city, particularly Newark’s downtown businesses, which will each struggle to a greater or lesser extent over the next year during the upheaval on Main Street.

But we need look no further than vibrant cities like Ft. Collins, Colo.—where my son lives—for evidence that where the bicycling community is truly valued, economic development is robust and businesses benefit greatly. In fact, everyone benefits—those who prefer getting around on two wheels, four, or none.

Having now lived in Ft. Collins for two years, my son now hates the “long,” 15-minute drive to his job in Loveland, wishing instead that his job were in the city in which he lives, so he could bike to where he works, shops, and plays. He’s obviously been spoiled by platinum-level bike infrastructure there.

As a longtime Newark resident, I’ve experienced that how my son would prefer to travel to his job, downtown businesses, and recreation areas is actually quite doable here in Newark—a much smaller university city.

What if we were to take the approach of making bicycling even easier and more preferable and encourage city residents to ride their bicycles to get around during the Main Street construction (thus mitigating our already-awful traffic issues)?

I know that, contrary to the League of American Bicyclists’ designation for Newark, there are many who don’t consider this city very bicycle-friendly. It takes all of us working together, but especially a serious commitment on the part of City Council and City staff, to make a “Bicycle Friendly Community” a reality, not just a tagline on a road sign.

 

Accomplishments in 2018

2018 proved a challenging year for BikeNewark, as a number of issues began to compete for our attention. Though we know that there is so much more work ahead, there were a lot of things we accomplished last year with our partners’ support.

Let’s take a look at what we did.

Bicycle-advocacy work involved

  • consulting with and providing input to Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson on the Delaware Avenue two-way protected bike-lane project.
  • further refining Newark low-stress bicycle network concept and map in advance of initial production and application of signage on a “Central Loop.”
  • several members attending a series of UD-led Newark Futures workshops.
  • presence on behalf of the bicycling community at various City Council and city Traffic Committee meetings.

In terms of helping the City of Newark promote itself nationally, BikeNewark

  • Bronze seal art from the LAB for Bicycle Friendly Communitysubmitted LAB Bicycle Friendly Community application on behalf of the City of Newark. Newark received its third consecutive bronze-level designation, this time for 2018-2022.
  • submitted Places for Bikes application on behalf of the City of Newark. According to the data gathered by People For Bikes, Newark ranked 39th overall nationwide and 7th among cities with a population of 100,000 or less in terms of bikeability.

BikeNewark-organized or -supported events held during 2018 included

  • photo of 2018 Bike to Work Day participants (photo by Kathy Atkinson, courtesy of UD)the annual Bike to Work Day on University of Delaware campus on May 21 (successfully rescheduled due to poor weather). Keynote speaker was New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. More than 70 participants came to the event, which was supported by 6 corporate sponsors. During the event, the annual Bicycle Friendly Community Leader Award was presented, and a Trek hybrid bicycle was given out as a random prize.
  • nine First Friday Rides (January and March events were cancelled due to poor weather). These social slow rides through Newark averaged about 25 participants.
  • two Newark Historical Buildings Bicycle Tours in the fall, in cooperation with Newark Bike Project. Each event drew between 10-20 participants.
  • photo of bike lights night volunteers and customera Bike Lights Night event on October 25 at the corner of North College Avenue and Main Street, during which 25 sets of lights, courtesy of UD, were installed free of charge.
  • four Bike Centrals in cooperation with the University of Delaware, Newark Bike Project, and DelDOT:
    • Spring event, during which 10 sets of bike lights were installed free of charge.
    • August 25, in coordination with UD’s 1743 Welcome Days, during which 6 sets of lights were installed free of charge.
    • September 12, during which 20 sets of lights were installed and 6 helmets were given out free of charge.
    • October 25, during which about 20 sets of lights were installed free of charge.
  • two BikeNewark Community Nights—June 21 at Handloff Park and October 26 at Wooden Wheels, attended by 31 and 50 participants, respectively.
  • the annual Mayor’s Fun Ride on June 2, which was a big success in terms of funding raised for bicycle-related projects.

4 bike safety tips in Mandarin ChineseOur public service involvement included

  • distributing bike-safety flyers in four languages—English, Spanish, Chinese, and French—to the English Language Institute. These were based on the “4 Safety Tips for Bicyclists” cards that were printed in January 2018 for use by partner organizations.
  • executing and posting results of a City Council candidates survey in advance of the April municipal election.
  • volunteering at the Walkable/Bikeable Delaware Summit in May, which was organized by Bike Delaware, one of BikeNewark’s partners.
  • hosting an information table during Newark Community Day (September 16).

Mayoral and City Council candidates weigh in

As a public service, BikeNewark issued a bicycle-related survey to the candidates for the upcoming Newark Mayor and City Council election.

Upcoming Vote for City Council graphicAll candidates were given the opportunity to weigh in on seven specific items related to their policy positions, knowledge, and experience. The survey items and links to candidates’ responses (where applicable) follow.

The election for Mayor and Council Districts 1, 2, and 4 will be on Tuesday, April 9.

Survey Items

  1. In countless published lists of the best places to live, a common characteristic is a vibrant walking and biking culture. Why do you think that is?
  2. Do you consider Newark a walkable, bikeable community? Why or why not? If yes, how do you plan to sustain this? If not, what can be done to make our city more walkable and bikeable?
  3. What do you see as the opportunities for bicycling to make a positive impact in Newark? What do you see as the problems associated with bicycling in Newark?
  4. What are your ideas (if any) for how to improve the bicycling experience in Newark for occasional cyclists, bicycle commuters, recreational cyclists, and avid (very experienced) cyclists? (Please be as specific as you can for each group mentioned.)
  5. If elected, what criteria will you apply in order to decide whether to support a major road project (like the Main St. rehabilitation or the Cleveland Ave. improvements)? What about for small road projects (e.g., addition of bike lanes, low-stress bike-route signage, or crosswalks)?
  6. Are you familiar with the 2014 Newark Bicycle Plan? If so, what do you think are its most important recommendations?
  7. Briefly describe your experience as a bicyclist (if any) over your lifetime and specifically in Newark.

Candidates’ Responses

Mayor:
Catherine Ciferni (response received five days after deadline)
Jerry Clifton
Brandon Joseph Farzad
Kasai Guthrie

District 1:
James Joseph Horning Jr.
Mark Morehead

District 2:
Sharon Hughes (no response)
Maria A. Ruckle (no response)

District 4:
Christopher J. Hamilton (unopposed, no response)

Introducing our new board members

BikeNewark’s December election for all four board positions resulted in new leadership for the two-year-old nonprofit advocacy organization.

photo of Bob McBride
Bob McBride, Chair

Retiring from the Chair position was Mark Deshon. Bob McBride has assumed the duties as BikeNewark’s Chair, having served as Treasurer for the past two years and doubled as Secretary for the past 12 months. McBride grew up in Newark and had recently retired here after a long career at a private school in Pennsylvania. He is a member of the White Clay Bicycle Club.

photo of Helga Huntley
Helga Huntley, Co-Chair

Helga Huntley is now serving as Co-Chair. She has been very involved in the Safe Routes to School project at John R. Downes Elementary School and is both a key advocate and an exemplar for bicycling as transportation. She replaces Susan Grasso, who (alas) has relocated to Dearborn, Mich. BikeNewark thanks Grasso for the great energy and enthusiasm she poured into our advocacy efforts.

photo of Karl Hassler
Karl Hassler, Treasurer

Karl Hassler has taken over for Bob McBride as Treasurer. He has worked on BikeNewark’s Engineering Committee since its inception and was a key player on the ad hoc Organizational Committee back in 2016. He’d remind you that if you can’t support BikeNewark with your time, you can still donate to help enhance our efforts. Hassler is also a member of the White Clay Bicycle Club.

photo of Dave Saunders
Dave Saunders, Secretary

BikeNewark had been operating without an official Secretary for the past year, so we’re very pleased that Dave Saunders was willing to be nominated and, having been elected, is now taking on the task. An avid bicycle commuter, though not technically a resident of the city (desirable but not a requirement for any of the board positions), he’ll be the first to tell you that his property line does abut the city boundary.

McBride, Huntley, Hassler, and Saunders will each be serving a two-year term (2019-2020), consistent with BikeNewark’s bylaws.

During the December partnership meeting, Deshon, who had declined nomination for another term as Chair, praised the faithful BikeNewark members who, along with its partner liaisons, continue to make it possible for this organization to accelerate the pace of progress and improve conditions for bicycling in Newark.

Note: Our partnership meetings are open to the public and typically are held on the third Thursday of the month at 4:30 p.m. in the WILMAPCO conference room on the eighth floor of the Tower at STAR, on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus. Want to help? Get involved!