WILMAPCO Visits Townsend On Listening Tour To Promote Bicycling

WILMAPCO (The Wilmington Area Planning Council) along with representatives from New Castle County and DelDOT conducted a public input session on proposed bike routes for New Castle County on Wednesday, June 6 at Townsend Town Hall. This is part of a listening tour WILMAPCO is doing to get public input on biking throughout the region.

Middletown Radio talked to Heather Dunigan of WILMAPCO and Dunigan said that WILMAPCO is a group that does regional planning for both New Castle and Cecil Counties and is made up of representatives from various local entities such as DelDOT, New Castle County, and the various municipalities in the two counties. When asked if WILMAPCO has some difficulties in dealing with entities located in two separate states and she said that the two state governments do work on different schedules. She added that one of the challenges is that WILMAPCO covers counties with a lot of variation as both New Castle and Cecil Counties are more rural when you go south of the C&D Canal.

Dunigan said the purpose of the listening tour is to get input from residents to develop a blueprint for the Bicycle Friendly Delaware initiative. She said the previous New Castle County bicycle plan is from 10 years ago, so they are eager to get more up to date information. The goal is to have a bike plan in place that can accommodate both veteran riders who would like to do long loop rides that cover the entire two county area as well as inexperienced riders looking for shorter bike excursions. Dunigan said that it is important to get input from municipal governments because the towns face the biggest burden in implementing the plans. Townsend was the first of the municipalities WILMAPCO contacted that agreed to host their listening tour.

Dunigan said that mostly what she heard from Townsend area residents is that local roads are not very bike friendly due to the lack of shoulders and blind spots which make it difficult for vehicles to see cyclists. Dunigan said the local input allows them to know which roads are more suitable for bicycles, allows them to have proper signage to let cyclists know the quality of the roads, and also to highlight roads that could be slated for improvements.

Dunigan also spoke at the Townsend mayor and council meeting following their listening tour and said that most of the funding for the bike routes will come from federal grants. Town councilman Steve High asked how would a vehicle driver deal with cyclists on narrow back roads and Dunigan said education is the key. For example, she said that drivers should be aware that Delaware law allows drivers to cross a double center line in order to pass a bicycle. Councilwoman Cindy Cook asked when the new bike plans would be implemented and Dunigan said they will have to go through a lot of analysis and lists of priorities, so a lot of work has to be done and that the initiative only began in April of this year. New Castle County Councilman Bill Powers, who was in attendance, pointed out that one other thing that cyclists would have to deal with is farm traffic, so cyclists may encounter vehicular traffic and farm traffic at the same time.   

Photo credit of Heather Dunigan, WILMAPCO: Keith Thompson    

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