The city’s Traffic Committee has decided to get behind a protected, two-way bike lane that would allow cyclists to travel safely from east to west on Delaware Avenue.
The proposed “cycle track” was included in this year’s Newark Bicycle Plan and approved unanimously by council on Feb. 24 as an overall vision and concept for where efforts will be focused over the next several years.
Two years in the making, the 2014 Newark Bicycle Plan was created by the Newark Bicycle Committee and was a collaboration between area residents, city officials, the Wilmington Area Planning Council, the Delaware Department of Transportation and local bicycle advocacy organizations.
One area the plan focuses on is Delaware Avenue, and on Tuesday, Mark Deshon, chair of the Newark Bicycle Committee, explained to members of the Traffic Committee that although Delaware Avenue currently has one bike lane, the one-way street is rampant with wrong-way riding, motorists driving in the bike lanes and cyclists riding on the sidewalks.
“In terms of safety, we don’t have a good east-to-west route through the city,” he said.
To combat the problem, Deshon explained that the ideal bike lane would be a two-way “cycle track” stretching approximately a mile between Orchard Road and Newark High School that would allow riders to also travel east-to-west on Delaware Avenue against the flow of traffic. A cycle track is a bike facility within the roadway that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic by a median or other barrier.
Delaware Avenue is a state road, meaning DelDOT would need to sign off on the cycle track, a feature which does not currently exist anywhere in Delaware. Therefore, Deshon asked the Traffic Committee for its official support to include in a signed letter to DelDOT.
“We really want to get this on DelDOT’s radar as soon as possible and not wait two or three years down the road,” he said.
Heather Dunnigan, principal planner at WILMAPCO, said there are several versions of cycle tracks implemented in cities across the country but shied away from settling on the specifics of the proposed track for Newark. She said DelDOT would be responsible for deciding what the track would look like and what type of separation and materials to use.
She explained that depending on the type of separation, the project could cost anywhere from $8,000 to $25 million but is eligible to receive up to 80 percent federal funding, leaving the city to foot the remainder of the bill and also pay to maintain the cycle track once installed.
Following the presentation, Police Chief Paul Tiernan questioned how the proposed cycle track would affect snow plowing, to which Tom Coleman, director of Public Works, responded that the trucks would plow the snow to the side and then have to go back with a smaller plow and remove the snow from the bike lane.
Still, Coleman said he thinks the cycle track is a viable solution for Delaware Avenue.
“I support it and think it’s definitely a good thing,” he said. “There’s a need for it.”
Committee members including Tiernan, Coleman, Lt. Bill Hargrove, parking administrator Marvin Howard, Deputy City Manager Andrew Haines and Tom Parkins voted unanimously to offer their support for the cycle track. Dave Gula was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.