Milford shares plans for extended bike network

Ray Lynch, a member of Milford’s Bicycle Master Plan Committee, explains some of the bike infrastructure proposed to Phillip and Sage Steele. (Delaware State News/Noah Zucker)

MILFORD — Milford’s Planning and Economic Development department held a community workshop Saturday to discuss potential additions to the city’s bike path network.

Rob Pierce, Milford’s planning and economic director, shared with attendees several boards showing proposed bicycle routes throughout the community. “

They’re even as detailed as telling you what type of facility they are, whether it’s a shared-use path or maybe shoulder improvements or protected bike lanes,” he said.

Mr. Pierce said his department was looking to get some feedback from the public and residents on the proposed infrastructure, as the city tries to wrap up the master plan update process.

This was the Milford’s second public workshop on the bike network this year.

“We had our first public workshop back in February where we asked the public to identify destinations, desired routes and then barriers along those routes,” said Ted Foglietta, a certified planner with Century Engineering, which drew up the plans. “People wanted to get to places of recreation, places where they could shop, places of employment, schools, parks.”

But Mr. Foglietta said many residents who participated in the workshop said biking in Milford, especially on the shoulders of existing roadways, can be challenging or even dangerous. Therefore, the plan focuses on constructing bike paths completely separate from roadways where possible and widening roadway shoulders.

Mr. Pierce said the process of updating the Bicycle Master Plan started late last year.

“We started this process back in November and held four bicycle advisory committee meetings,” he said. “The committee is made up of different stakeholders within the community that have an interest in cycling.”

One of those stakeholders is Ray Lynch, a retiree who moved to Milford from Florida six years ago. He and his wife live in the Hearthstone Manor subdivision on the southeast side of town, near Bayhealth Hospital’s Sussex Campus.

“We like the partial bike trail that’s been completed around the Bayhealth Hospital,” Mr. Lynch said. “That’s wonderful because I go over and walk that three or four times a day. I don’t have to worry about dodging cars and things like that.”

He said, like many people in their age group, he and his wife are avid cyclists.

“A lot of retirees in their 60s and 70s are doing a lot of biking,” he said. “For instance, during the summer and fall we’ll bike from Hearthstone down to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, do our shopping, stop at Dolce and then head back home.”

Mr. Lynch said the bike infrastructure on the route he and his wife currently take on that trip is adequate, but he’s excited for a new path slated for his neighborhood that would cut through the Rookery North’s golf course up to two of Milford’s elementary schools.

“Right now, it’s not an unsafe direction that we take, but to have that trail behind Orchard Hills would be nice,” he said. “The trail from Elks Lodge Road down to the Mispillion Elementary School would be an awesome addition to our bike trails.”

Phillip and Sage Steele also live in the southeastern part of town near the Bayhealth campus. They have two young children, ages 3 and 9.

“We’re excited,” Ms. Steele said of the path. “We have young kids, so it will be great to have designated trails for them to have safe areas to ride their bikes and walk on.”

Mr. Steele had some reservations about more secluded parts of the planned path.

“I think that this is a great plan,” he said. “I have concerns about what happens at nighttime.”

“Will there be any limitations, like dawn til dusk? Will there be any patrolling? Just things for safety,” he said. “You wouldn’t want some kid out there by themselves when it’s dark.”

Mr. Steele also wondered if the plan was too ambitious.

“I just want to see what they would be able to do. When they talk about lighting, that’s adding money. So where’s that going to come from?” he asked. “This is all a great idea. Are they going to be able to get everything they want?”

Mr. Pierce said it will take years to make the planned additions to the bike network.

“It’s a long process,” he said. “The planning effort is the beginning, So we’ve got to get the public input and buy-in on where they want to see these improvements. Then it’s the arduous process of trying to find money to construct them.”

Some components of the plan will likely be installed by developers as part of the construction of commercial and residential projects around town.

“We also have to go after funding either through the city, the state or other grant opportunities,” Mr. Pierce said.

“As DelDOT improves roads too, if they know that the city has a master plan, they can try to tie some of those improvements into their capital projects,” he said.

Mr. Pierce said there are many benefits additional bike infrastructure can bring to a town.

“It can allow people to get from place to place easier,” he said. People “can ride their bike to the grocery store, they can ride their bike to school, they can ride their bike work.”

He added that the new infrastructure would have “a general quality of life improvement where you end up having some sort of recreational use. It makes the community healthier and gives people places to go ride and get out and exercise.”