Accomplishments in 2019

Delaware Greenways logo2019 was another busy year for BikeNewark. There were many opportunities for interacting with the public and working with our partner organizations. In fact, by the close of the calendar year we had formalized a partner relationship with Delaware Greenways—our seventh and newest partner. This first article of the new decade summarizes the various ways we contributed toward Moving Bicycling Forward in Newark, Delaware, last year. We hope you’ll consider supporting BikeNewark this year as we continue working for the good of the community.

OK, here’s the summary.

With respect to its core mission of bicycle-advocacy work, BikeNewark:

photo of “Central Loop” sign

  • Continued to consult with and provide input to Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson on the Delaware Avenue two-way protected bike-lane project, as engineering plans were finalized.
  • Completed wayfinding signage design work and oversaw production and application of signage, in coordination with the City of Newark and DelDOT, on “phase 1”—the Central Loop Bikeway—of the developing of the low-stress bicycle network—“Newark Bikeways.”
  • Began and completed wayfinding signage design work on “phase 2” of the Newark Bikeways project, which includes a North Bikeway, Northwest Bikeway, West Bikeway, and East Bikeway.
  • Formally added Delaware Greenways among its official partner organizations.
  • Advocated on behalf of the bicycling community at various City Council meetings, including supporting 1) the Emerson Bridge (over White Clay Creek) project and 2) the preservation of the bike lane on Delaware Avenue during DelDOT’s Main Street construction project.
  • Submitted two New Castle County Bicycle Plan “priority project” proposals for funding consideration—Newark Bikeways development and protected bike lanes along Wyoming Road.

photo of Christine Schultz and Matt Kinservik and others arrivingBikeNewark-organized or -supported events held during 2019 included

  • The annual Bike to Work Day event (co-organized with the City of Newark) on the University of Delaware campus on May 17. More than 80 participants came to the event, which was sponsored by Bloom Energy and four in-kind contributing organizations. The event featured coordinated rides to the venue, free breakfast, speakers from the University of Delaware community and city and state government, the annual Bicycle Friendly Community Leader Award presentation, and random prizes (including a Trek hybrid bike).
  • Community Fun Ride logoA weeklong series of events called “Community Bike Days” from Sept. 3–7, culminating in a Saturday morning Community Fun Ride comprising a 2.25-mile “Family Fun Ride” and a 8.25-mile “Newark Loop Ride.” This signature ride event included 97 participants and raised more than $4,000 from sponsorships, which will be used to improve bicycling in Newark. The weeklong series included 17 in-kind contributing organizations.
  • Two Community Nights—June 22 at Handloff Park and October 26 at Wooden Wheels—to familiarize the public with BikeNewark and highlight its ongoing projects. Each included free food and drink.
  • Two Bike Central events in cooperation with the University of Delaware, Newark Bike Project, and DelDOT, one in the spring and one in the fall. The fall event was particularly successful, during which more than 20 sets of lights were installed and 5 helmets were given out free of charge.
  • Nine First Friday Ride events (March through November). These social slow rides through Newark averaged about 15 participants.

4 bike safety tips in Mandarin ChineseOur public service work involved:

  • Executing and posting results of a City Council and Mayoral candidates survey in advance of the April municipal election.
  • Redistribution of bike-safety flyers in four non-English languages—Spanish, French, Chinese, and Arabic—to the English Language Institute. These were based on the “4 Safety Tips for Bicyclists” cards that had been printed in English in 2018 for use by partner organizations.
  • Volunteering at and helping sponsor 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 15).
  • Developing a budding relationship with The Newark Partnership.
  • Participating on the city’s new Transportation Improvement District (TID) committee.

Urgent support needed for bridge project

City Council meeting this Monday, July 8, at 7 p.m.

engineering artist's rendering of Emerson BridgeThe White Clay Creek/Emerson Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge Cost Estimate and Funding is on the agenda for the Monday, July 8, Newark City Council meeting. The Emerson Bridge will be located over the White Clay Creek immediately west of the existing Paper Mill Road vehicular bridge (see figure above).

The meeting will be held at the City of Newark Municipal Building, 220 South Main Street and the will begin at 7:00 p.m. Along with Council voting on allocating additional funding for the project, there will also be discussion on potential cost saving measures that was a part of value engineering completed for the project. One of the potential cost saving initiatives includes a reduction in the width of the proposed 194 ft.-long structure from 12 ft. to 10 ft. for a $60,000 savings. Attached is informational material on the project that was included in a public workshop that was held in April.

This will likely be the last time you will be able to comment on the bridge project with City Council.

Newark Bikeways map detail showing Bridge project and proposed conduit trailNote: The current plans contain no physical connector to the Pomeroy Trail, which is part of our proposed Newark Bikeways low-stress network; however, we’re told it is included in the city’s 2021 Capital Improvement Project budget. We’d also like your support for voicing the need for associated funding for this paved off-road conduit from the Pomeroy Trail to the bridge approach pathway (see figure), so that low-stress connections can be made to the Newark Reservoir and trails beyond.

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).

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.

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