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.

 

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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)

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]