Why are there no bike racks in downtown Wilmington? - Technical.ly Delaware

Civic

Mar. 27, 2017 9:50 am

Why are there no bike racks in downtown Wilmington?

I'd love to bike into town. For now, I can't. But that might change.

Glorious, glorious bicycle storage.

(Photo by Flickr user Jaysin Trevino)

For cyclists, the city of Wilmington is set to get better thanks to a new initiative by the current administration.

Right now, Wilmington is not bike-friendly. Which is a little ridiculous given the makeup of Wilmington itself. The city is a relatively small one, and most residents should have the ability to either walk or cycle its span with ease. Walking in certain sections of the city can be problematic due to crime and safety. Biking? There’s nowhere to lock up your ride.

Seriously. There are a few racks down at the Riverfront, but I’ve only personally been able to identify a single bike rack in downtown Wilmington near Market. There could be more, but they aren’t readily available like they are in most other major cities around the country.

What makes this even more ludicrous is that Delaware is known nationally as a great state for cycling. This is touted by the official Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau (GWCVB), a nonprofit chartered by the state’s governor, the New Castle County executive and the mayor of Wilmington in 1978. The GWCVB touts on their own site that Delaware is “ranked No. 3 among bicycle-friendly states.” The Bureau gathered those statistics from The League of American Bicyclists, a point we learned from Gaby Indellini, Social Media Specialist at GWCVB.

Which isn’t wrong. In fact, the greater Wilmington area is home to amazing trails like the Mike Castle Trail, the Greenway and more. That same article offers that more than 1,500 Delawareans bike to work every day.

I’d like cycle to work in Wilmington, but I have nowhere to lock up my bike.

If the city wants to attract progressive, environmentally conscious tech rainmakers, its government needs desperately to improve its accessibility both by bike and on foot. This is just one part of a larger conversation about developing downtown Wilmington’s urban core.

I come bearing good news. We talked about writing this story at Technical.ly, and when we sought comment from the Mayor’s Office, they offered up something we weren’t expecting from the Department of Planning and Urban Design.

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It turns out, the City of Wilmington had a plan to foster growth for bicycling accessibility. This was back in 2008. WILMAPCO (the Wilmington Area Planning Council) had actually gone to the lengths of producing a large bicycle plan, which you can dig into here. It’s a 49-page PDF, so heads up.

The 2008 City of Wilmington Bicycle Plan includes an entire section dedicated to bike racks, and it notes that “adequate parking is essential along points on the bicycle network.” It goes on, and it gets better.

The network is ineffective if cyclists have no bike storage at their trip destination. Lack of parking is frustrating to existing cyclists and discouraging to potential new users. And even more frustrating is poorly designed parking which can result in bicycle damage or theft.

Nearly 10 years later, the new administration is “updating” the 2008 Bike Plan with WILMAPCO’s help. A city official told us that their new proposed vision is “a more livable Wilmington where people of all ages and abilities can connect with each other and neighborhoods across the City by walking and biking.”

Their concise goals are to:

  • Design and implement a coordinated and safe bike network.
  • Facilitate access to bicycling safely, affordably, and conveniently.
  • Foster a bike culture to improve the social and economic quality of life for everyone in policy and in practice.

As it relates to my current issue with inadequate bike storage in the city itself, the Department of Public Works is developing a solution. They’re set to roll out an interactive map that will show current bike rack locations and allow residents to submit ideas for new spots.

This program will start this summer with a community outreach initiative. We’ll follow up once things get spinning.

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