After four years of conversation, the details of a proposed cycle track for Delaware Avenue got clearer this week.
A cycle track, or separated bikeway, is a one- or two-way bike lane that separates cyclists from traffic. It would be the first of its kind in Delaware.
The Delaware Department of Transportation held a public workshop at the Newark Free Library on Monday night to elicit feedback on the project.
Tom Brooks, project manager for DelDOT, said construction is slated to begin following the completion of work on Main Street, likely in 2021.
A two-way cycle track will run between Orchard Road and the Pomeroy Trail, and a one-way cycle track will continue from the Pomeroy Trail to Library Avenue.
Work will take place over two summers, and one lane will remain open at all times to keep traffic moving through the area.
“We just need to make sure traffic flows,” Brooks said. “That’s the biggest thing these projects, for construction, to maintain traffic.”
Because vehicular traffic on Delaware Avenue is one-way, the two-way cycle track will require cyclist-only signals.
Like a traffic light, the bicycle signals will have a bicycle-only green light, where bicyclists will move through an intersection conflict-free. A flashing yellow light will appear when motorists have a green light, meaning that bicyclists may move through the intersection but it warns them to be wary of motorists. A shared red phase and a shared yellow phase work the same as typical traffic signals.
“That was something that our traffic section with DelDOT had to go to [the Federal Highway Administration] and ask for permission to try this,” he said. “We’ll try it out, we’ll analyze it after it’s done and report back.”
According to a timeline, an evaluation will take place in 2022.
The conversation regarding the cycle track first began in 2014, when city council unanimously voted to approve the Newark Bicycle Plan, which included the proposed track.
The reason for the track boils down to safety.
“Cyclists are going in the opposite direction, which is illegal and it’s not safe,” Brooks explained. “They can use Main Street; Main Street is a little more congested with traffic. Here, we identified a location where you could get in the westbound cycle track to get people westbound, so it made sense.”
As Brooks explained, despite the fact Delaware Avenue has a one-way bike lane, cyclists are currently biking against traffic.
In 2015, DelDOT set up a temporary cycle track as a way to gauge if the proposed width and design would properly accommodate cyclists. The prototype was positively reviewed by the nearly 100 cyclists who participated in the test that year.
Since then, the biggest change has been switching the side of the road the track will appear on.
“The cycle track test was on the south side, and we’ve moved everything up to the north side,” he said. “I think the right turns were the biggest concern – how to deal with the two-lane bike track with traffic making a right on red. That was a big conflict in all these locations.”
Brooks explained that after the test in 2015, WLMAPCO, the city of Newark, University of Delaware, Bike Delaware and DelDOT met with a design consultant to hash out details.
“The city has been great with this project,” he added. “They’re part of the group that really wanted to see this happen, them and the University of Delaware, so the city’s been great to work with.”
The event on Monday evening was meant to answer the community’s questions and explain the project to residents.
“It sounds pretty positive from our discussions with the community,” Brooks said. “So far it’s been a pretty good turnout for a DelDOT project.”