In transition

by Mark Deshon

photo of Mark Deshon speaking at 2014 Bike to Work DayIt’s National Bike Month, and these are certainly heady times for Newark.

While we await word from the League of American Bicyclists with regard to Newark’s redesignation as a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” the national organization People For Bikes just released its rankings for cities based on five criteria—ridership, safety, network, acceleration, and reach—and Newark is ranked 7th among cities with populations under 100,000—nationally.

Whereas this is exciting in a certain sense, the overall rating was only 2.5 out of a potential 5.0. Of the five criteria used, Newark’s highest ranking was for acceleration—“how quickly a community is improving its biking infrastructure and getting people riding.” What People For Bikes picked up on is that, while Newark is certainly not yet a bicycling haven, there is a lot currently being planned that will improve, dare I say transform, Newark in terms of mobility for bicyclists.

If I remember my Latin correctly, the root of the word “transition” is the verb transire, which means “to go through or beyond.” With major DelDOT paving-and-rehab projects scheduled over the next several years—Main Street, Delaware Avenue, Cleveland Avenue—Newark will indeed be in a period of transition. And, just like the current condition of Main Street, the road ahead will be bumpy.

Before or by, say, 2022:

  • Main Street will have a new look and a surface that should weather better than in the past, including greenbacked sharrows to draw the attention of and better attention to bicyclists.
  • A repaved, redesigned Delaware Avenue will feature a two-way, protected bike lane on its north side from Orchard Road to the Pomeroy Trail and bike lanes on either side of the road from there to Library Avenue.
  • The length of the repaved Cleveland Avenue will feature bike lanes on both sides of the road, owing largely to the removal of on-street parking (in 2017) and reconfiguration of the segment between Chapel Street and Capitol Trail (Kirkwood Highway).
  • The new train station will be completed, which will include sheltered parking for 60 bikes.
  • The University of Delaware’s STAR Campus will have seen further development and build-out, with bicycle infrastructure.
  • The University will have added a few new buildings adjacent to or near South College Avenue and the South College Avenue corridor will probably be scheduled for paving and include new bike amenities.
  • Progress will be well underway for the Charlie Emerson (bike/ped) Bridge over White Clay Creek near Paper Mill Road.

Hopefully, by then, a citywide bicycle network will also have been identified and marked with wayfinding/destination signage.

Progress doesn’t happen often without pain, though. And, despite what we will have “to go through” to see these improvements in transportation infrastructure, BikeNewark continues to advocate for Newark “to go beyond” where it has been in terms of bicycling.

What has made other cities—university cities like Ft. Collins, Colo. and Davis, Calif.—so successful, though, is that their citizenry, municipal government, and business community have all embraced a culture of bicycling. The benefits of a community that has embraced bicycling are clear—better overall health and wellbeing, a cleaner environment, a more vibrant economy—in short, a place where people want to live, work, and play.

Mitigating traffic volume and improving parking seem to be universal concerns here in Newark, particularly within the downtown business district. Promoting bicycling as an important mode of transportation and an alternative to the car is one important puzzle piece in the overall solution to these problems.

I imagine a Newark in which a much larger segment of the population uses the bicycle as basic transportation to get from place to place within the city. We who do use a bike for reasons other than recreation understand the convenience of traveling on two wheels under our own power.

Creating better overall conditions for bicycling—developing a low-stress bicycle network, reducing conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians/cars, educating the public about good cycling behavior, and encouraging more people to get out on their bicycles—is what BikeNewark seeks to do. In other words, moving bicycling forward in Newark, Delaware.

But we need your help.

BikeNewark members Caitlynn Coster and Mark Deshon talk to participants at 2017 Walkable Bikeable Delaware SummitI am blessed to have worked over the past eight years with people who genuinely care about Newark and improving conditions for bicycling throughout the city. In 2017 we took the bold step of reorganizing the former Newark Bicycle Committee as BikeNewark, a Delaware nonprofit corporation. But now BikeNewark is also in a period of transition. Like a flower that has been planted and has quickly pushed up through the surface and blossomed, BikeNewark now needs to be maintained, well fed and watered, so to speak.

As BikeNewark grows, we are looking for individuals—residents and non-residents alike—and business partners who are passionate about advocating for a bicycling culture and bicycling improvements within Newark and are willing to work cooperatively with others who are likewise motivated. If this is you, please get in touch with me and do get involved.

As I tell folks from our partner organizations, we are all working for the same goal—to make Newark the best community it can be for all who live, work, and/or go to school here, and for whom it is a desired destination.


Editor’s Note:
Mark Deshon is the current Chair of BikeNewark and has resided in Newark since 1987.

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Candidates for City Council Weigh In

As a public service, BikeNewark teamed with Bike Delaware, one of its valued partners, to issue a bicycle-related survey to the candidates for the upcoming Newark City Council election.

Upcoming Vote for City Council graphicAll candidates were given the opportunity to weigh in on five specific position statements and provide any specific comments or elaboration on their positions. The survey items and candidates’ responses follow.

The election for Districts 3, 5, and 6 will be on Tuesday, April 10.

Survey Items

  1. Given the increase in traffic and demand for parking, I believe that the City of Newark should encourage bicycling and walking as viable means of transportation.
  2. I believe that improved infrastructure, better education, and reasonable enforcement will help make our streets, sidewalks, and other shared spaces safer and more comfortable for those who bicycle or walk.
  3. I support the recommendations in the 2014 Newark Bicycle Plan.
  4. I support greater effort by the City to make Newark more bikeable by increasing “low-stress” (i.e., safe and comfortable for all ages and abilities) bicycle connectivity among and within the main areas of Newark, the University of Delaware, and outlying neighborhoods.
  5. I support making South College Avenue—the key connection from UD’s STAR Campus and future train station to Downtown Newark—safe and comfortable for all modes of transportation.

Candidates’ Responses

Richard Nietubicz (District 3)

Answer 1: Strongly Agree
Answer 2: Strongly Agree
Answer 3: Strongly Agree
Answer 4: Strongly Agree
Answer 5: Strongly Agree

Comment:

Cycling is an important mode of transportation for my wife and I around Newark. In fact, I was a full-time cycle commuter during my time working for the City, and we continue to bike or walk to destinations around town whenever we can. Newark’s compact and mixed-use development patterns are very well suited to walking and biking, and the City has made great strides toward building complete streets that accommodate all modes of transportation. We can, of course, always make more improvements, especially where we can leverage traditional transportation improvement projects to provide significant additional utility at minimal cost. I’m looking forward to implementing more cost-effective improvements so that Newark’s transportation network is inclusive and efficient for all users.

Jennifer Wallace (District 3)

Answer 1: Strongly Agree
Answer 2: Strongly Agree
Answer 3: Strongly Agree
Answer 4: Strongly Agree
Answer 5: Strongly Agree

Comment: [none given]

Neel Barua (District 5)

Answer 1: Agree
Answer 2: Agree
Answer 3: Neither Agree or Disagree
Answer 4: Agree
Answer 5: Strongly Agree

Comment:

In regards to question #3, I have only briefly skimmed over the plan. I did not want to answer without reading through the details first.

Jason Lawhorn (District 5)

Answer 1: Strongly Agree
Answer 2: Strongly Agree
Answer 3: Strongly Agree
Answer 4: Strongly Agree
Answer 5: Strongly Agree

Comment:

I had not seen the 2014 Newark Bicycle prior to today. I have read through a good portion of it and plan to complete it. As a biker myself, I am familiar with some of the improvements that have been made since this document was published. I was knocking doors in Fairfield Crest this past weekend and the Pomeroy connector trail was brought up more than any other issue with the shopping center being the only other issue close in count.

Biking has always been a part of my life and is an easy and fun way to work exercise into our children’s lives as well as adults. My feeling has always been that the lack of safe passage was the biggest deterrent and the data in the 2014 Newark Bicycle Plan seems to prove that. Newark and surrounding areas does have many safe and enjoyable routes and the plans to connect those is exciting to me. Some listed in the plan, I am familiar with and others I am eager to follow up on.

I also want to talk to members of Bike Delaware about the overall progress on completing the recommendations in this report. I am particularly interested in the inclusion of biking friendly development in the cities planning process. As you may know the University of Delaware plans to add thousands of students over the next 5-10 years. This presents the city with development challenges and biking, in my opinion, can be part of the solution. None of our residents want to see increased automobile traffic and smart development including designs that promote walking and biking will be crucial to successfully accommodating the cities growth.

As I touched on earlier biking is also an easy and quick way to have a fun healthy family experience with no planning other than grabbing the bikes out of the shed or garage and shoving off for a ride. Creating enjoyable and safe routes promotes this behavior and is a smart way to maintain and improve the unique advantages that Newark provides to bikers.

I am interested in talking to someone about some of the progress that has been made and any barriers that are preventing progress since the plan was published. Mark Deshon is in my district and I talked to him recently. I will follow up with him.

Lena Thayer (District 5)

Answer 1: Strongly Agree
Answer 2: Strongly Agree
Answer 3: Agree
Answer 4: Strongly Agree
Answer 5: Strongly Agree

Comment:

Overall, I believe that making Downtown Newark and the surrounding area safer for both pedestrians and bicyclists will not only decrease some of the traffic and parking issues we experience, but also help Newark to be more green efficient. Being a community that embraces other forms of transportation only increases our culture and viability of being a safe and welcoming community.  I did mark agree for the 2014 plan as we are now in 2018; so I would like to dig deeper into what is left to be done in order to accomplish the goals set out in that plan.

Stuart Markham Jr. (District 6 – unopposed)

Answer 1: Strongly Agree
Answer 2: Strongly Agree
Answer 3: Agree
Answer 4: Strongly Agree
Answer 5: Agree

Comment: [none given]

Accomplishments in 2017

BikeNewark has been incredibly active this past year. It all began with redefining ourselves and becoming an official Delaware nonprofit corporation. Take a look at some of what we’ve done in 2017:

  • photo of BikeNewark chair Mark Deshon with grant check from White Clay Bicycle ClubThanks in large part to the efforts of our ad hoc organizational committee and a generous grant from the White Clay Bicycle Club, the partnership formerly known as the Newark Bicycle Committee became BikeNewark—a Delaware nonprofit corporation dedicated to local bicycle advocacy. BikeNewark.org was launched, as were our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Participated on engineering-related committee with regard to the Delaware Avenue two-way protected bikeway project (a.k.a. “cycletrack”), scheduled for completion by summer 2019.
  • Advocated for green-backed sharrows to be added on both lanes of Main Street between the Pomeroy Trail and the Deer Park as part of the Main Street pave and rehab project, scheduled for completion sometime in 2019.
  • Supported recommendations of the Cleveland Avenue improvements Task Force before City Council, which it unanimously voted to approve on Aug. 14; scheduled for completion by 2021. A parking restriction and pedestrian scramble have already been implemented.
  • photo of BikeNewark members installing bike lights on a student's bike at nightIn conjunction with DelDOT, WILMAPCO, Newark Bike Project, and UD, we held several bike safety–related events primarily aimed at students (“Bike Central” and “Bike Lights on Demand”), during which bike lights were installed, bikes registered, and safety information distributed.
  • ON ROADS? obey signs and signalsSuccessfully executed a bicycle “civility” campaign with message posters designed by UD design students and co-organized UD Bike Days with the UD Student Government Association in cooperation with the City of Newark.
  • Helped organize the third annual Mayor’s Fun Ride and Newark’s annual Bike to Work Day event, both held in May each year.
  • Helped organize Bike to School Week at John R. Downes Elementary School, including a pop-up buffered bike lane demonstration, bike trains on the initial day, and a user-experience survey. Also involved in discussions related to the school’s Safe Routes to School grant.
  • Worked with DelDOT and the City of Newark to initiate a trial contraflow lane and related infrastructure on Main Street between North College Avenue and South College Avenue. Produced an educational video (see below) and related educational flyer showing how to properly use this new amenity. Performed post-installation data gathering.
  • With help from a new citizens’ group and the City of Newark, co-organized the implementation of a two-week pop-up mini-circle demonstration at the intersection of Orchard Road and Winslow Road to help show the positive effects of slowing while not stopping traffic at this and similar intersections.
  • diagram on satellite photo showing proposed trail connectorSupported two of the City’s Department of Parks & Recreation projects at City Council—2018 completion of the “Pomeroy Connector” trail between Creek Road and Fairfield Crest and the longer-range bike-ped Charlie Emerson Bridge to be built over White Clay Creek.
  • Organized monthly First Friday Rides in downtown Newark to combine the encouragement of bicycling downtown (especially on Main Street) with a social agenda. Co-organized a Newark Historical Buildings Bike Tour with the Newark Bike Project.
  • card art: 4 safety tips for bicyclists in NewarkPartnered with UD Police Department to design safety cards for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • On behalf of the City of Newark, began working on Bicycle Friendly Community application to the League of American Bicyclists. The goal is for Newark to become the first city in the state to achieve “Silver” status.

We look ahead to 2018 and working toward achieving our stated goals as well as continuing with many of the above-noted activities. Want to help support BikeNewark? Get involved or support our efforts monetarily.

BikeNewark hosts its initial Community Night

graphic for 2017 BikeNewark Community NightOn Wednesday, Dec. 20, from 7–9 p.m., BikeNewark will be hosting its initial Community Night. This will be an open house–type gathering held at the Newark Bike Project, 136 South Main Street, in Newark.

Come out and learn more about BikeNewark—the work we’ve been doing and the work ahead of us—and how you can become involved in “moving bicycling forward in Newark, Delaware.” Come and go as you please, meet and talk with members and partner liaisons, grab a bite to eat, sign up to volunteer, give us your suggestions, and maybe support our advocacy efforts monetarily.

Can’t make it in person but would like to show your support for BikeNewark? If you’re interested in helping by making a tax-deductible donation to help improve bicycling in Newark, Del., you can either use Pay Pal (click button below) or mail a check (payable to “BikeNewark”) to:

BikeNewark
75 West Mill Station Drive
Newark, DE 19711

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

Newark’s New Contraflow Bike Lane

photo of contraflow laneThe City of Newark has a new feature on East Main Street for bicyclists—a pocket contraflow bike lane. Unique in Delaware, this trial project was a result of a partnership among BikeNewark, the City of Newark, the University of Delaware (UD), and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT).

DelDOT completed the work of striping and signing this contraflow lane in July, and, now that UD students are back on campus, the lane will get its first big test. BikeNewark created an educational video and a one-page flyer to help show how this contraflow bike lane can be used safely and legally.

BikeNewark will be evaluating the success of this trial project, which will run through the 2017-18 academic year.

Download the flyer (PDF).