Exercise in Newark while social distancing

Check out Newark’s low-stress Central Loop Bikeway.

photo of bicyclists on Central Loop (Pomeroy Trail)Feeling restless at home? Want to get some outdoor exercise at appropriate social distances? Consider dusting off that bike in your garage and heading out along Newark’s recently signed Central Loop Bikeway*.

Wayfinding signage was introduced along this bikeway last fall as phase 1 of a multi-year project to develop a connected network of paved roads and trails in Newark, which is designed to encourage use of low-traffic, low-stress streets and off-road multiple-use pathways (like the popular James F. Hall Trail) by bicyclists of all ages.

photo of bicyclist reading wayfinding signage on Hall TrailBikeNewark has been and is working with the City of Newark’s Department of Public Works & Water Resources staff as well as its Department of Parks & Recreation to plan a network of eight bikeways. These will enable low-stress connections to in-city destinations and trails outside of Newark (such as those in White Clay Creek State Park). BikeNewark plans for its phase 2 signs to be implemented this year, comprising three new bikeways. See Bikeways plan (PDF).

photo of wayfinding signage on Orchard Rd. northbound at Winslow Rd.Newark Bikeways will also serve as the way through Newark for the East Coast Greenway (“ECG” on the signs), a designated bicycle corridor from Maine to Florida.

Local or visiting cyclists will be able to use the Newark Bikeways system as a way to travel around Newark for shopping, work, or recreation. Bicycle-specific signs designed by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) are placed to guide them along the mix of paved off-road trails and city streets. DelDOT generously contributed the cost of the Central Loop Bikeway signs.

Phase 2 signage is being made possible through proceeds from last September’s Community Fun Ride as well as generous contributions from former Newark Mayor (and BikeNewark member) Polly Sierer and the White Clay Bicycle Club.

BikeNewark is helping raise funds to cover costs of signage for the additional four planned Bikeways routes (phase 3). If you’re interested in helping fund this project, see BikeNewark.org/donate.

The nonprofit BikeNewark is a partnership of interested cyclists and organizations working to improve bicycling in Newark, Delaware, and a founding member of The Newark Partnership.


graphic of Central Loop Bikeway
Central Loop Bikeway

*Note: The Central Loop includes a portion of Delaware Avenue, which we understand can’t be considered “low stress” at this time and can only legally be ridden by bicycle eastbound. When DelDOT’s next major work project in Newark is complete, Delaware Avenue will feature a two-way protected bikeway, which will make the Central Loop completely low stress in both directions.

Imagine

photo of Ismat Shahby Ismat Shah

Not that we don’t know that there are almost as many vehicles in the USA as there are people, that automobiles utilize only 15–20% of the energy we pump into them, that each gallon of gasoline produces 8.8 kg of CO2, etc., it is just that these statistics and awareness do not lead to any concrete action plan, either individually or as a society, that could neutralize the transportation-related environmental policy discussions.

We blame the leadership, operational issues (bike paths, parking, thefts, and bus routes), lifestyle, etc. No doubt there is some truth to all of these, but the main culprit still is personal lethargy. It is so much easier to get up in the morning, get in your car, and go where you want to go. What a life! What a freedom! What a luxury! But what is next? To what does this lethargy leads us?

We have heard enough about global warming, the inevitable extinction of fossil fuel, etc., so no need to repeat all that. I just want to bring to your attention a few simple facts that, I hope, will help people think of an alternative-transportation strategy.

graphic showing two-mile radius from Kirkwood Hwy near Newark with overlay of bikes and busThe efficiency of bike riding is 3,200 passenger-miles per million BTU. This efficiency drops to a pathetic 280 passenger-miles per million BTU for an automobile1. Coupling the fact that about 65% of New Castle County is urban with the fact that DART First State (DART) buses serve about 70% of this urban area2 means that about 45% of all of New Castle County is served directly by DART. If you extend the served area merely by a two-mile diameter from a DART bus stop, the percentage goes up to almost 75%. That two miles is what bothers most of the people, and that is the gist of my blog—What if we combine bike riding with bus riding?

I live about a mile from the nearest bus stop for a direct bus to the University of Delaware. I live six miles from the University. I ride my bike to the University every day. However, there are a few days I am unable to do that. On those days, I ride my bike to the DART bus stop, put the bike on the bus, and ride the bus. All DART buses are equipped with bike racks, and they will give your bike a free ride. This is just the first step.

I am hoping that this bike-and-bus habit will eventually lead to an all-biking habit, and then, one day, I envision a Cantonese-like bike density on Kirkwood Highway that even the county will not be able to ignore, such that it will be forced to construct a dedicated bike path. Or even better, perhaps with the reduced number of automobiles, it will be able to dedicate one of the traffic lanes to a shared bike-auto lane, a la Main Street, Newark.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”


Editor’s Note:
Ismat Shah is a professor of materials science and physics who specializes in energy and environmental policy at the University of Delaware.

1Transportation Energy Data Book Ed. 24, 2004
2calculated based on the maps at DART First State website