The New Castle County government has begun a study project to assess the feasibility of a bike/ped pathway system that would connect the City of Newark to the Town of Newport. The intended result of this study is a master plan to implement such a pathway system.
On its eastern terminus, this system would eventually connect to the Jack Markell Trail, which connects the Wilmington’s Riverfront to the City of New Castle. If and when complete, this would enable low-stress connectivity among Delaware’s three largest cities above the C&D Canal.
BikeNewark is interested in seeing that such a planned pathway connection would link directly to (i.e., terminate at) the City’s Newark Bikeways low-stress network.
BikeNewark encourages the public, particularly those who live, work, or regularly visit Newark to participate in the County’s effort to receive public comment during this phase of the project.
The current project timeline is as follows:
May 2023 Review agency coordination begins
July 2023 Public open house #2 Draft feasibility report and cost estimates
August 2023 Final feasibility report and cost estimates
Coming on the heels of the Emerson Bridge project completion in 2022, the City is moving forward with plans to construct two off-road paved trails, one through Kershaw Park and the other through Olan Thomas Park, which will connect the bridge with the Pomeroy Trail. The project began in January 2023 with a meeting of engineering representatives from Pennoni Associates, City staff, and members of BikeNewark to discuss design project issues and parameters, around which Pennoni will design.
This project had long been in BikeNewark’s plans for connecting the bridge, once built, to Curtis Mill Park and then adding wayfinding signage north and east along Old Paper Mill Road to complete the Northeast Bikeway segment of the Newark Bikeways network. This segment will provide lower-stress options for residents in neighborhoods along Old Paper Mill Road to bike in a couple directions, either downtown or to points north and west of Newark.
Along with generous funding from New Castle County, project funding has been earmarked in the City’s 2023 budget.
One could argue that 2022 was a “slower” year for BikeNewark in terms of progress, but there were a lot of positive happenings with which we’ve either advocated for or been directly involved in that have recently come to fruition. Below is a list of our activity during 2022.
Received $625 in funding from the White Clay Bicycle Club to be applied to the Newark Bikeways project.
Witnessed and helped publicize the completion of the Delaware Avenue two-way protected bikeway, the result of a project BikeNewark (in its prior manifestation as the Newark Bicycle Committee) had advocated for in 2014 with partner organizations Bike Delaware, the City of Newark, DelDOT, and the Wilmington Area Planning Council.
Created a new two-page bicycle-safety document, which is both downloadable and available as a handout; it includes a Delaware Avenue bicycle-infrastructure graphic produced by DelDOT, “4 Safety Tips for Bicyclists,” along with ticklers (with QR codes) for a Main Street sharrows video, a Main Street contraflow-lane video, and the Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act.
Highlighted National Bike Month in May with our annual Bike to Work Day event on the campus of the University of Delaware, in coordination with UD, DelDOT, Newark Bike Project, and others.
Supported John R. Downes Elementary School for its annual Bike to School Day celebration in May.
Reviewed project proposal options for bicycle improvements along the Wyoming Road corridor as part of the City of Newark’s bicycling Innovative Infrastructure Grant it received from the Delaware Bicycle Council.
Began work with the City of Newark on its renewal applicationfor “Bicycle Friendly Community” status.
Executed an order and paid for wayfinding signage for the South Bikeway and for signage that will complete the Central Loop Bikeway.
Partnered with University of Delaware Police and DelDOT to hold two successful bike-safety events on campus, during which about 40 sets of bike lights were installed, about 15 bike helmets were given and fitted, and bicycle-safety information was distributed.
Partnered with University of Delaware Police and Newark Bike Project in a UD-sponsored event where bicycle-safety information was distributed.
Participated with Newark Bike Project at a Newark Center for Creative Learning fair, where safe-cycling materials were distributed to students and parents.
Organized and held three First Friday Rides community events—slow group rides that are meant to encourage those of all ages to enjoy bicycling and practice good group-riding etiquette.
Supported and participated with Delaware State Parks in trail-etiquette events at White Clay Creek State Park.
Attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony (during which BikeNewark support was cited) for the Charles R. Emerson Pedestrian & Bicycle Bridge over the White Clay Creek, for which we had advocated.
Participated in and hosted a booth at the annual Newark Community Day event.
Increased membership by 52% (added a net of 14 new members) during the calendar year.
Members participated in (and continue on) The Newark Partnership.
A member participated (and continues) on the City of Newark’s Transportation Improvement District Committee.
A member participated (and continues) on the City of Newark’s Conservation Advisory Committee.
On Thursday, November 10, 2022, DelDOT officially opened to bicycle traffic the completed two-way protected bikeway (a.k.a. cycletrack) on Delaware Avenue. Eight days later on November 18, dignitaries came together for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
This brought to a close a nearly $8 million project that was first thought about in the 1990s, included as a recommendation in the 2014 Newark Bicycle Plan, and advocated for by BikeNewark’s predecessor entity in 2014.
The primary motivation for such a project was to provide a safe, legal way for bicyclists to move westbound through Newark’s downtown area. Previously, the only legal way for bicyclists to get from Library Avenue or Kirkwood Highway to South Main Street, West Main Street, or New London Road was to use Cleveland Avenue or East Main Street—both higher-stress options for cyclists, even with the recent improvements to those two major streets.
Amenities for bicyclists along Delaware Avenue that were included in this project:
a two-way protected bikeway from Orchard Road to the Pomeroy Trail, separated from the traffic lane by a 3-inch-high beveled concrete barrier
one-way elevated bike paths on either side of the road from the Pomeroy Trail to Library Avenue
separate bicycle-specific traffic signals in both directions
green surface paint through intersections and at conflict points (e.g., driveways)
bike boxes at the eastern and western ends of the project (Delaware Avenue / Library Avenue intersection and the Amstel Avenue / South Main Street intersection)
This completion of this project finishes the final segment of the Central Loop Bikeway, the hub of the Newark Bikeways low-stress bicycle network. Wayfinding signage for the Delaware Avenue portion of the Central Loop will be added in 2023.
Thanks to these partner organizations—Bike Delaware, DelDOT, the City of Newark, and the Wilmington Area Planning Council—for their support and involvement in the conception and construction of this infrastructure, pretty much a unique feature in Delaware.
The relatively new bike/ped bridge over the White Clay Creek has been utilized by the public now for several months, but on Wednesday, Aug. 10, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)—one of BikeNewark’s partner organizations—held a special ceremony to honor Charlie Emerson, for whom the bridge is named.
Emerson, the former director of the Newark Department of Parks & Recreation, was there with his family to celebrate the dedication of this bridge. The concept was initiated back in 2011 while Emerson was the Parks & Rec director, but the development, fundraising, engineering design, and construction of the Emerson Bridge took about ten years in total to accomplish.
Delaware Secretary of Transportation Nicole Majeski, who emceed this event, emphasized that her department now thinks in a multimodal way when it comes to transportation. She cited all the partners who provided support and/or funding for this $2 million project, including BikeNewark. Special thanks was given to New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer for getting the county to step up to help fund this project in a big way. Our local state legislators—Sen. Dave Sokola and Rep. Paul Baumbach—were responsible for securing significant funding for the bridge as well.
Both Sokola and Baumbach stressed that, whether a bicyclist or pedestrian, crossing the vehicular bridge that was built in the 1940s was not very safe.
Governor Carney couldn’t be there, but Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long was, and she spoke about the importance of creating better opportunities for people to engage in healthy lifestyles. She said that this bridge is a good example of infrastructure that advances such opportunities.
Several speakers alluded to the critical lower-stress connection that this bridge makes both for bicyclists and pedestrians between Newark’s two popular city trails—the Hall and Pomeroy, which were Charlie Emerson projects—and city, county, and state parkland north of the White Clay Creek.
Newark Mayor Stu Markham gave credit to his two immediate predecessors, Jerry Clifton and Polly Sierer, for seeing that this project moved along, even when in 2017 it looked like it was dead for lack of necessary funding.
Current Parks & Rec director Joe Spadafino thanked all the partners involved in this project and gave special mention to BikeNewark for its advocacy efforts on this project. He went on to laud the great legacy that Charlie Emerson (and JIm Hall before him) had created in terms of development of city parkland and trails.
Then Charlie Emerson stepped up to the podium and shared about his many years of experience as the city’s Parks & Rec director and what an honor it was to have this bridge named after him.
Members of Emerson’s family who were present then joined the officials involved in the project to walk to the northern end of the bridge and cut the ribbon, officially dedicating it as the Charles R. Emerson Pedestrian & Bicycle Bridge.
The City plans to create two paved trails—to the south through Olan Thomas Park and southwest through Kershaw Park—from the southern foot of the bridge, each creating the key connections to the Pomeroy Trail. BikeNewark will then work with the City to have wayfinding signs placed for its planned Northeast Bikeway—a segment of its Newark Bikeways low-stress network.