Following up on a unanimous vote by the Delaware Senate just two days earlier, the Delaware House also voted unanimously on May 12 to approve Walkable Bikeable Delaware, directing the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to
“create contiguous systems or networks of walkways and bikeways within and between cities and towns in Delaware in order to provide travelers with the opportunity for safe, convenient, cost-effective and healthy transportation via walking and bicycling.”
Up until now DelDOT has attempted to “accommodate” pedestrians and bicycle users either through its Transportation Enhancements or Complete Streets programs. Unfortunately, neither of those programs are designed for strategic investments in networks. Now, however, for the first time DelDOT has legislative direction to invest directly in closing the most difficult, and often dangerous, gaps that discourage people from choosing cycling or walking for their routine travel needs.
Bike Delaware has been working on building support for direct network investments since last year, beginning with a candidate survey in September. Along with our coalition partners, we believe that such investment serves multiple public purposes:
Cost-Effective Transportation. Walking and bicycling are cost-effective transportation options and, when safe and practical and combined with quality transit, are a critical strategy to make housing more affordable and to help families build wealth.
Public Health. With two-thirds of adults and 40% of Delawareans now classified as overweight or obese, rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases are exploding. Unless these health trends are reversed, this generation may be the first in Delaware history to have a shorter life expectancy than the previous generation. Making walking and cycling safe and convenient options for our routine travel needs promotes physical activity and helps people maintain a healthy weight. A 2010 international study of 47 U.S. cities, 50 U.S. states and 14 countries found a significant inverse relationship (at all 3 geographic levels) between “active travel” (i.e. walking and bicycling) and obesity.
Tourism and Economic Development. Tourism, especially to the beaches, is an important industry in Delaware. Because tourists who visit a beach destination tend to be interested in “active” recreation, safe, intuitive and fun bicycle routes have long been understood as critical for the health of the tourism industry, both for attracting new visitors and encouraging previous visitors to return. Such routes would also bring tourists into the countryside to enjoy parts of Delaware they would not otherwise visit. In New Castle County, an innovative proposal to create Delaware’s first national park would be strengthened by completing the last small gap in a non-motorized travel connection between New Castle (the “hub” of the proposed park) and Wilmington.
Quality of Life. When we walk or bike for our routine travel needs, our social interactions with our neighbors are more frequent and our communities become stronger.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality.Every bike trip that replaces a car trip means fewer cars clogging up our roads and reduced air pollution from fossil fuel combustion.