Committee meets to discuss future of Milford’s bike network

MILFORD — Milford’s Bicycle Advisory Committee met for the first time since August Thursday to discuss possible ways to improve the city’s network of bikeways.

The group began with a summary of a public workshop held Sept. 12.

“We had 46 people attend the workshop. We did have eight formal comment forms that we received,” said Sonia Marichic, the vice president of Century Engineering, which is working with Milford on the network.

“Overall, the feedback we received that day was positive. Everyone was very excited that these improvements were coming,” she said.

Members of the committee and other contributors spent time discussing their vision for the police department’s relationship with those using the bike path.

James Wilson, the executive director of Bike Delaware, a nonprofit group advocating for safe and convenient cycling, said Milford’s network should be designed so that police wouldn’t have to enforce speed limits and traffic patterns for cyclists.

“For decades, the League of American Bicyclists had enforcement as one of their five Es of how to make a bicycle-friendly community. In just the last month, they removed that,” he said.

“One of the key parts of focusing on infrastructure is not letting yourself off the hook and saying, ‘Well, we haven’t really done an adequate job on the infrastructure, but we’re going to rely on the police to keep people safe,’” Mr. Wilson said. “I think that’s the wrong approach.”

He said Milford should aim to be “all in on infrastructure, making sure that it’s a safe, low-stress, seamless network that allows people to move around.”

Rob Pierce, Milford’s economic and planning director who led the meeting, agreed with Mr. Wilson.

“We can craft some sort of creative statement there: let’s make it a goal that traffic enforcement is not a solution,” Mr. Pierce said.

He also took the opportunity to discuss some changes he would like to see made to the city’s current rules for cyclists.

“We had looked at trying ease up some of the current restrictions, like you can’t ride your bike on a sidewalk or pavement within the town,” Mr. Pierce said. “What we were considering is allowing people to do that in the non-Central Business District areas and to create a walk your bike area in more pedestrian-oriented business districts.”

Sgt. Robbie Masten of the Milford Police Department agreed that it would be challenging to enforce the rules of the bike network uniformly.

“We jump in between city limits and private property in Kent and Sussex counties, so the enforcement of the rules is going to vary,” he said.

Among other potential routes, the group discussed the possibility of a path along Seabury Avenue creating a loop with Lakeview Avenue and South Walnut Street.

Brad Dennehy, the director of Milford’s Parks and Recreation department, said the road is short on crosswalks given that a lot of traffic comes onto Seabury from Walnut.

“I think trying to get some crossings across Seabury would be good,” he said. “Maybe in that School Place vicinity.”

He also noted that cyclists already commute into town on Seabury.

“It’s surprising the amount of commuters I see, people who are working, because I live in that area,” Mr. Dennehy said.

He assumed the bikers were on their way to Burris Logistics, a distribution company based off McColley Street.

“They’re using Seabury as a means of transportation,” Mr. Dennehy said. “Not just for recreation.”

Derek Sapp, an adviser to the committee, said also enjoys riding his bike on Seabury.

“One of the enticing things about Seabury right now is it’s got a wide pavement width,” he said. “The school isn’t being used right now, so no one’s parking on either side of the road at the moment.”

He characterized it as a “pretty low-stress street it you’re heading east to west or even north to south through that part of Milford.”

But he wasn’t sure this bucolic characteristic would be permanent.

“I wonder if and when the school is redeveloped, if Seabury Avenue is going to be a pretty busy place,” Mr. Sapp said. “Likewise, when Simpson’s Crossing starts opening up phases, I think Seabury is going to get a little busier.”

Mr. Dennehy also wondered if it made sense to build a path which would lead to a busy road with no pedestrian crossing.

“If you turn onto Seabury on a bike and your heading west, when you get to (U.S.) 113 what do you do?” he asked.

But Mr. Sapp had a solution for this.

“Just this week, we had a submission into DelDOT from the Simpson’s Crossing developer,” he said. “They are really pursuing getting plans into us to redo that intersection.”

Mr. Sapp aimed to “somehow mandate pedestrian crosswalks and signal timing,” when the project comes up for review.

“That’s coming sooner than later,” he said. “My guess is that intersection would be improved before that school project is redeveloped.”

Reach staff writer Noah Zucker at nzucker@newszap.com