By James Wilson
Executive Director | Bike Delaware
Did you know that most people in Delaware are cyclists?
Are you a cyclist?
If you cycle on weekends, then you’re a cyclist.
If you rode a bike on vacation last summer, you’re a cyclist.
If you rode a bike when you were a kid, then you were a cyclist … and can be again.
As executive director of Bike Delaware, I am an “avid” (ever notice how often that adjective gets used in connection with cycling?) cyclist. So are most of Bike Delaware’s members. We sometimes wear funny-looking clothes and ride under conditions that most would find intolerable.
But Bike Delaware’s mission is to make cycling a safe, convenient, and fun transportation option for everyone. That means we focus on removing the barriers that keep the state’s hundreds of thousands of potential everyday cyclists from cycling.
Can you imagine a future Delaware where tens – or even hundreds – of thousands of Delawareans bicycle safely every single day for fun and convenience?
We can because we’ve seen it for ourselves: places where cycling is a mainstream and family-friendly part of the transportation system. There are actually cities – in wealthy and developed countries like the United States – where people take more trips by bike than by car, where bike parking lots have a hundred times more bikes than the car parking lots have cars, and where the bike parking lots are so large they can be easily seen from space.
Will Delaware ever have bike parking lots that can be easily seen from space? We will if we get two big things right: infrastructure and land use.
What do I mean by “infrastructure”? If, in order for you to get to your job – or for your child to get to her school – on a bike you have to cycle on busy roads with high speed motor vehicle traffic (think Dupont Highway or Concord Pike or Kirkwood Highway), that is a failure of infrastructure. If you don’t feel comfortable letting your 12-year old child bike to school – if any part of her route to school feels dangerous – that is an infrastructure problem (or, if you like, an opportunity for infrastructure improvement).
If you are interested in learning more about how we can fix our cycling infrastructure problem in Delaware, read this recent article: “How To Make Cycling Work for Half a Million People in Delaware.”
The other big thing that we have to get right for cycling to be a mainstream transportation option is “land use.” “Land use” is just a quick way of saying that most daily destinations – school, job, shopping, library, post office – need to be within easy cycling distance, i.e. about 3 miles. (Any trip that is less than 3 miles can be accomplished quickly by bike. Sometimes even more quickly – particularly if roads are congested and car parking is scarce – than by car.)
Recently, Delaware was named the #3 most Bicycle Friendly State in America. Our goal is for Delaware to be #1. But that goal will always be out of our reach if all new development in Delaware is of the “subdivision-office park-shopping mall” variety. If we put all of our new houses in a subdivision over here, all of our jobs in an office park 10 miles away over there and all of our shopping in a shopping mall 10 miles way over there, then we are guaranteeing that cycling (not to mention walking) will become less and less and less relevant as a mode of transportation in Delaware.
A bicycle-friendly alternative to subdivision-office park-shopping mall development is “Complete Community” development, which mixes land uses in order to make walking and cycling practical and convenient transportation modes.
Cycling infrastructure and bicycle-friendly land use are both complicated policy issues. By supporting Bike Delaware – Delaware’s independent, non-government, member-supported, non-profit cycling advocacy organization – you are supporting the critically important policy expertise and creativity that Delaware needs to continue our remarkable progress towards becoming the most Bicycle Friendly State in America. Will you renew your Bike Delaware membership today? Or join for the first time?