"There is a perception that (trails) are nice amenities
from a recreational standpoint, but with $4-a-gallon gas I have seen a lot of
people out there biking and making an economic choice," Shailen Bhatt,
secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, told Delaware
Online this week.
That's great new for you, Delaware, because comments like that indicate the state is headed in the right direction when it comes to sustainable transportation
networks, and providing public infrastructure that works for all people.
Sec. Bhatt is currently overseeing a $13
million project tasked with making the state more walkable and bikeable.
A key part of that plan is the recently unveiled New
Castle Industrial Track Trail, a 2.1-mile section of paved rail-trail north
of New Castle toward Wilmington. The end goal of the rail-trail is the
Wilmington waterfront, a terrific recreational and tourist amenity in a region
now moving to fully utilize active transportation in its economic future.
Leading the push toward a more walkable and bikeable Delaware
is Gov. Jack Markell, who last year developed the First
State Trails and Pathways Plan, charging the DelDOT and the Department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Control with creating and connecting
communities with a system of maintained trails and paths. As nearby
Connecticut is finding out, having state leaders who comprehend the wide-reaching
benefits and cost-effective investments that walking and biking represent goes
a long way to building a transportation landscape that offers better
Executive Director of Delaware Greenways Mark Chura said
recently that Gov. Markell has taken Delaware's efforts to build a first-class
bicycle and pedestrian network "to a whole new level."
"Interconnecting our towns with their outlying suburbs and
close-to-home recreational areas benefits us all and is a great investment in
Delaware's future," Chura said. "We have some amazing places here in Delaware
that, to most of us, are only accessible by car or not at all. The Governor's
initiative will change all that, while at the same time providing new options
get out of doors and improve our health."
Photo of the New Castle Industrial Track Trail courtesy of
We moved to Delaware in 1980 and all I can say is this is not a bike friendly place. Kirkwood Highway is the main business route from downtown Wilmington to the center of Newark De and in the 12 miles there is not on sign or bike lane marker. Without paint and markers you can build all the bike paths in the world and not get the job done. It is a lot less expensive to paint bike lanes and put up signs then to build bike paths that only go from point A to point B.I have biked in a lot of city's and where there is painted lanes you get respect from motorists.
It's true that Kirkwood Highway is not bike-friendly. However, there's not enough paint and markers in all of the Home Depots to turn it into part of a cycling-friendly network. As Jon indirectly points out, despite a wonderful Delaware Greenway, there has, until now, been little overall progress throughout the state to create a sustainable transportation network. That underscores the significance of this rail-trail to our communities and how Governor Markell's First State Trails and Pathways Plan is both remarkable and visionary. It's an effort that deserves loud, full, and enthusiastic support from the cycling community.
President Bike Delaware
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2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037