Creation of ‘sharrows’ proposed to improve Main Street cycling
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
A proposal was submitted to the Wilmington Area Planning Council to improve westbound cycle facilities on Main Street, according to Michael Fortner, development supervisor for the Department of Planning and Development in Newark.
Upon acceptance of the proposal, share lane markings will connect the Pomeroy Trail to New London Road and the surrounding residential communities.
“It would cost about $15,000 to do it, which is ridiculously cheap,” Fortner said.
The implementation of these so-called “sharrows” is the only plausible alternative to the current traffic patterns since there is not enough room for a full bike lane along with the already existing parking on both sides of the two-lane street, he said. Emblems will be placed at a distance where doors from parked cars would not swing out into the riding lane.
These markings are becoming more common in urban areas, Fortner said, and the sharrows should work on Main Street because of the generally slow pace of traffic. At times when an automobile is traveling faster than a cyclist, Fortner said the drivers could just go around the cyclists.
Senior Rebecca Gripp, who is a member of the university cycling team, said she feels traffic moves slow enough on Main Street that cars and bikes should be able to share a lane. She said she thinks drivers can sometimes have a stubborn attitude against cyclists, so she does not know if paint on the road alone will act as a strong regulation of the new sharrows.
“I think it should be enforced strongly because A, you have a growing cyclist community and B, you have students who are always trying to ride bikes,” Gripp said.
The sharrow implementation is meant to increase the overall safety of cycling in Newark, as cyclists currently ride against traffic on both Main Street and East Delaware Avenue, Fortner said.
Senior Jacob Rubin, Gripp’s teammate, said he thinks it is a good idea as long as it is insisted upon that the cyclists can only ride one way. He said he has witnessed a few crashes on East Delaware Avenue in Newark, which currently has a full bike lane.
“Most people don’t know how to ride their bikes around campus,” Rubin said. “Police don’t enforce anything so there is no consequence. If people were ticketed they’d probably pay attention.”
Fortner said this new type of lane is for convenience and aimed to attract responsible cyclists. According to WILMAPCO, Main Street is one of the region’s most congested areas, and crashes in the SR 273 corridor are more than three times the New Castle County average. Additionally the American Community Survey has shown that 3.6 percent of Newark residents commute by bicycle.
The Pomeroy Trail and South Main Street are two major transportation projects that have been recently completed. Both are expected to increase bicycle trips to Main Street locally, as well as bring bicycle-related tourism to Newark, Fortner said.
Gripp and Rubin both said the presence of a cycling community in Newark seems to be growing. Rubin said the new lanes will provide increased safety, but he does not think it will directly increase cycling activity. Gripp said the implementation of the sharrows would not negatively impact traffic on Main Street.
“It should encourage more bike travel—it’s a healthy thing,” Gripp said.