Commentary: To be a bike-friendly community, safety of Bikeway is essential

By Chris Asay

Over the past several weeks, there have been many comments in these pages noting the narrow roadway and traffic congestion along Division Street where the new Senator Bikeway has been constructed. The constricted roadway and the high volume of traffic is precisely why the “protected bikeway” is so vitally needed in this travel corridor.

There are very few east-west roadways through Dover, due to the restrictions imposed by the railroad tracks, the St. Jones River, and Route 13. In central Dover there is only Division Street (Route 8). Of other east-west roads, Walker Road is nearly a mile to the north, and North Street is nearly a half-mile to the South. More than a century old, Division Street is narrow, yet must accommodate hundreds or thousands of vehicles every day. How can a cyclist pass through this bottleneck safely? On the Senator Bikeway.

In 2015 the Dover City Council committed to creating a bicycle-friendly community when it adopted the Dover Bicycle Plan, which called for the construction of the Senator Bikeway as Priority No. 1. This east-west bike route through the heart of Dover greatly increases the safety factor for school children and adults who wish to use their bicycles for transportation. It connects neighborhoods with schools and businesses, so that travel by bicycle is a safe option for people of all ages and abilities. City Councilman David Anderson has noted that there are people in our community for whom the bicycle is their only form of transportation.

For safety, the section of the Senator Bikeway on Division Street must be for bicycle use only. DelDOT and Century Engineering carefully designed and built this part of the bikeway using best-practices standards, with “delineators” (plastic posts) separating the auto traffic from the two-way bicycle traffic, and with the intention that no vehicles be allowed inside the bikeway.

A parked vehicle blocking the bikeway would place schoolchildren on bicycles in great danger, forcing them out into the vehicular traffic in order to get to school. That is why it is vital that the Dover Police Department be extra vigilant in enforcing the no-parking zone.

More of the Senator Bikeway will be constructed in the years to come, to the west along Route 8, and to the east along Kings Highway NE. When all parts of the bikeway are completed, it will allow a 12-year-old child to travel safely on her bicycle from her home in east Dover all the way across town to Dover High School.

This is the promise of the Dover Bicycle Plan and this is the commitment from city leaders and the state department of transportation. As Mayor Robin Christiansen says, “A bike-friendly city is a livable city.”

Chris Asay is a Dover resident and bicycling advocate