The staff at WILMAPCO will soon begin work on the Wilmington Bicycle Plan.
From a cyclists perspective Wilmington 2006 looks like Philadelphia 1994 or Madison 1980. There is very little infrastructure but enormous potential. The land use and terrain of the city along with a relatively large downtown core means that bicycling can and should be a popular mode of transportation. There is already a cadre of “invisible cyclists”; working class cyclists who use the bike as everyday transportation. Bike Racks on DART and SCOT buses as well as limited bike access to regional rail have made downtown Wilmington more bike accessible from nearly all suburban locations.
Bike Parking – Easy, relatively inexpensive and generally non-controversial bike parking should be an early priority for the implementation of the bike plan. Lots of bikes parked on the street contributes to the awareness of bicycling.
Bike Racks – Hundreds of them, including customized bike racks at select locations. The plan should adopt best practices for on-street bike racks. The Hitch-2 and Inverted U bike racks work best. A $100,000 Transportation Enhancements grant could pay for about 300+ bike racks, including installation.
Bike Parking Ordinance – Require new construction to include parking for bicycles including commercial, multiple residential units and parking garages. Bike Parking in Buildings – Policies to encourage secure indoor bike parking in downtown buildings will attract more bicycle commuters.
Engineering -Making the streets more bicycle friendly – Most obvious and in many ways the toughest to implement. Removing street parking is political suicide. Reducing lanes (Road Diet) is most beneficial but will be tough to sell. A good way to kill bike lanes is to invite the public to comment on them. The Chicago Bike Lane Installation Guide offers examples of how to stripe bike lanes on streets with different characteristics.
Take advantage of repaving projects – Installation of on-road bicycle facilities should be planned in conjunction with the repaving and maintenance cycle of city streets. Install the “Easy” Bike Lanes First – There are streets with excessive road width where bike lanes can be added by simply restriping.
Narrow inside travel lanes and add Sharrows – Where there is insufficient width for bike lanes on urban streets then sharrows are a good choice. A sharrow is a bicycle pavement marking with chevrons pointing to the correct lane position for the cyclist. If possible the inside lanes should be narrowed to provide a wide outside lane.
Bicycle Boulevards – These are low traffic routes that have traffic calming and other treatments to favor bicycle through traffic. A good candidate for a bike boulevard is a local street that is parallel to a busy road.
Mitigate Conflicts with Turning Vehicles – Some cities including Philadelphia have implemented “blue bike lanes” these are simply using paint to improve the visibility of bike lanes crossing right turn lanes and this seems to improve interaction between cyclists and motorists at these choke points.
Improve Intersections – This could include signal loop detectors sensitive enough to detect bicycles and providing bicycle/pedestrian lead times at select intersections (walk/bike signal is given before the light turns green).
Completing the off road network – WILMAPCO and DELDOT have completed trail plans, the plan should include strategies to expedite trail design and construction.
Drainage Grate and Pavement Smoothness – “Wheel Grabber” drainage grates need to be replaced, utilities such as manhole covers should be flush with the pavement.
Maintenance of All Facilities – Facilities must be kept in good shape, it is important to include bike lanes in street sweeping and snow plowing. Trails need to be periodically swept and repaved. Neglect will not only lead to disuse but have a chilling effect on the image of cycling in the city.
Establish a Bicycle Advisory Task Force – The key to implementation is a committee that has the responsibility to see the plan through.
Moving Beyond the Scope of the Plan
Encouragement – Delivering services via bicycle – With law firms, corporate headquarters and a host of banks downtown there should be support at for least one bike courier company (I have noticed that a couple of cyclists who at least looked like messengers, they may work for individual banks). While some criticize the kamikaze reputation of some couriers, bad behavior can be controlled with reasonable enforcement of traffic laws. The presence of these guys riding all over town at all times of the day raises the awareness of bicycling many times over. The same can be done for food delivery, UPS-Fedex, Police and services where parking and traffic hampers operations.
City Bike to Work Day/Bike Month – Running it as a City of Wilmington Event will enable the city to lead by example and force the city bureaucracy to think about bikes, if only for a day.
Cash out for bicycle commuters – Some downtown employers pay for parking and transit riders may be eligible for TransitCheck. Similar incentives should be given to bicycle commuters.
Hosting a bike racing event – In the late 1980’s the city hosted the Tour Du Pont/Tour De Trump. A high quality bike race could attract thousands of cycling enthusiasts while showcasing Wilmington’s neighborhoods and countryside.
Education – Safe Routes to School – A good SR2S program should includes bike education. Earn a Bike in which students earn bicycles based on hours working on bikes On the Spot Education – Bicycle Ambassadors, PSA’s, Safety Brochures, Light/Helmet Giveaways
Enforcement – Sharpen or Eliminate Local Bicycle Laws – City Bicycle Laws if any should be examined for fairness. Some older laws on some municipal books are decidedly anti-bike.
Enforce Traffic Laws – Police should enforce traffic laws so all users of the road can safely co-exist.
Evaluation – Bicycle counts and qualitative surveys should be a normal part of traffic data collection. Crash analysis in GIS should be evaluated. The Federal Highway Administration Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool offers an easy to use interface to classify bike crashes. The software also offers possible countermeasures.
Implementation of the Bicycle Plan will require persistence by bicycle advocates. The plan will require approval by city council and elected officials need to get behind the plan to see it through. Get the easy stuff on the ground and work through the system to bring the plan to completion.