We know what we want. And it all comes back to the “Bike and Pedestrian Improvements” program authorization for the Delaware Department of Transportation.
We know what we want because, at Bike Delaware’s Strategic Vision 2013 conference in November and in online voting through December 31, the result was overwhelming. “State Authorized Funding for Bicycling Improvements” received nearly twice as many votes as the second most desired strategic goal.
Why is funding authorization from the Delaware General Assembly for the Bike and Pedestrian Improvements program so important? Why was this the overwhelming vote winner among citizen cyclists in Delaware? There are three reasons (though you could also say that these three reasons are just three different ways of looking at the same thing).
#1: BIG PROJECTS!
Bike Delaware’s vision is for a low-stress, family friendly and seamless bikeway network that absolutely everyone can, and will, use. We’ve got a few small pieces of that network in place (the Junction and Breakwater Trail, St. Jones Trail, Hall Trail, Pomeroy Trail, Wilmington Riverwalk). But these (big and ambitious!) projects are the way we will start bringing that network to life!
All of these big projects are in Governor Markell’s First State Trails and Pathways initiative. But none of them have any money programmed for construction in DelDOT’s capital transportation plan. And until they do they’re in limbo. The only way to make sure that construction money will be programmed for all these projects? Sustained authorized funding for the Bike and Pedestrian Improvements program by the General Assembly.
#2: LITTLE PROJECTS!
It’s one of the hardest things to explain to people: little projects are as hard to advocate for as big projects. The same governmental processes usually apply to each. And little projects, by their nature, can be hard to get on the radar screen because they are, well, little. And DelDOT has capacity issues just like any other entity.
How to get around this? Well, it takes a small leap of faith (which some people can have a little trouble with). Funding for the Bike and Pedestrian Improvements program at DelDOT doesn’t automatically mean your personal favorite project will be the first to benefit. But it does mean that DelDOT will have the resources to move on the highest priority projects. And, once those projects come off of DelDOT’s “To Do” list, your little project will have a chance to move up in priority.
We can all keep our noses to the ground and only focus on our own little tiny corner of the world. Or we can look up, look around for other people to join hands with, and work together for our collective benefit.
# 3: BECAUSE DELDOT IS LIKE AN ENORMOUS FOUR FOOTBALL FIELDS-LONG SUPERTANKER!
Really. And, like a supertanker, you can’t just yank on DelDOT’s tiller and expect the agency to change direction. You have to apply steady and sustained force to the tiller.
How is this done? Through articles like this one? Through emails to staff at the Department? Through stern words, or sincere and heartfelt pleas, at public meetings?
Nope. A sustained signal for the Department to change direction to direct more attention and resources towards walking and bicycling has to come from the General Assembly through the funding authorization process.
So the critical question this year is this: is there or isn’t there political support in the General Assembly for walking and bicycling? Will our leaders there authorize funding this year for the Bike and Pedestrian Improvements program?
James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware.