Newark officials are considering installing new protected bike lanes on Wyoming Road to make the road more friendly to cyclists.
The upgrades are targeted toward the casual rider who is interested in cycling but isn’t comfortable riding in traffic.
“The more comfort someone has with riding a bike around town, the more they’ll do it,” Public Works Director Tim Filasky said. “With $5 a gallon gas, it is becoming more of a necessity that we provide these opportunities to our residents and guests.”
Wyoming Road connects the University of Delaware’s east campus and the densely populated student housing area near South Chapel Street with Marrows Road.
It is a corridor that will become more important with the redevelopment of College Square Shopping Center, now called The Grove at Newark. Construction is underway on apartments and new retail space at the shopping center, which will soon be home to nearly 400 people.
The road also provides connections to the Pomeroy and Hall trails, both of which are among the most-used biking and walking trails in the state.
The large width of Wyoming Road provides plenty of room for adding amenities for cyclists, but the width also has a downside – the wide, straight road encourages motorists to drive faster than the posted speed limit, which can be more dangerous for cyclists.
Officials said the road is ideal for conversion to a lower-stress solution for cyclists, due to the available paving width and the speeds at which motorists travel. Nearly all the land needed for possible improvements is within right-of-ways already owned by the city or the state, making the project less complicated than many.
Last year, Newark received a $15,000 grant from the Delaware Bicycle Council to hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study. On Monday, the consultant, Andrea Trabelsi of Rybinski Engineering, presented her report to city council.
Trabelsi proposed installing bike lanes on both sides of the road between South Chapel Street and Marrows Road. The lanes, which would range from 6 feet to 7 feet wide, would be protected from the vehicular lanes by pavement striping and bollards.
An alternative, more expensive option is to build a separate multi-use path for cyclists and pedestrians parallel to the eastbound lane of Wyoming Road.
The proposal also calls for upgrades to the intersections to better protect cyclists.
Trabelsi estimated that the basic improvements would cost approximately $1.2 million, while the more advanced proposal would cost approximately $2.5 million.
Councilwoman Corinth Ford, an avid cyclist, said the new bike lanes would be a benefit to the city. She noted that she expects an influx of bikes on city streets in response to high gas prices.
“I’m on those roads every single day,” Ford said. “I consider myself a road warrior, and I will be very grateful to have those bollards around me.”
Councilman Jason Lawhorn also expressed support, saying he favors the more advanced proposal.
“I think it’s worth the extra money,” Lawhorn said.
Council did not take a formal vote Monday night but will discuss the project again as part of the capital improvement budget this fall. City Manager Tom Coleman said the city hopes to pay for at least part of the project through grant funding.
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