Delaware is the highest-ranking state east of the Mississippi River for bicycle-friendliness in a new study released by the League of American Bicyclists.
The state jumped from 10th last year to fifth in the league’s 2013 rankings, released May 1 in Washington, D.C. The state leaped 13 spots since 2011, when it ranked 18th.
Mike Tyler, advocacy chairman for Sussex Cyclists, said while he was surprised by the ranking, he is happy because it will force the state to continue to improve conditions for bicyclists.
John Kurpjuweit, president of Sussex Cyclists, is also pleased. "It just simply makes good sense to support bicycling, either as transportation or as a health and recreation activity,” he said.
“We have seen the improvements that help increase the ranking. Here in Sussex County we have new trails, some already in operation, and others in the planning phase or ready for construction. The roads are getting better bicycle markings and improvements wherever they can with new paving projects,” Kurpjuweit said.
Gov. Jack Markell, a cyclist himself, said, “This shows the progress we’ve been making to expand trails and pathways, offering more connected workplaces and homes. We’re on the road to making our quality of life in Delaware No.1 in the country. It's good for families and for businesses who want to grow here."
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O'Mara said the ranking affirms Delaware's effort to build better connections within its communities through the governor’s Trails and Pathways Initiative.
Kurpjuweit said there is still a need for improvement in Sussex, particularly on Route 1.
“In the next few years, we hope to see more and safer crossing places, as well as better bicycle and shared lane markings,” he said.
Tyler said the focus on trails and pathways is nice, but the state has not yet addressed improving conditions for commuters out on the roads.
Sussex Cyclists has been trying to get the state to put shoulders on Dairy Farm Road, which serves as a connector to Plantations Road and Route 1, Tyler said. He said the state must still address the main and back roads used by seasonal workers as well as vacationers. To move ahead of states such as Washington (No.1) or Minnesota (No.4), Tyler said, Delaware will have to have more shared bike lanes.
Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt said, “Safe and accessible biking facilities are a smart transportation investment for Delaware residents looking for alternative ways to get to employment, shopping and entertainment venues. DelDOT is gratified Delaware’s efforts to better serve the bicycling community are achieving the national recognition they deserve.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper praised state officials for making improved bicycling a priority. "Creating more walkable and bikeable communities boosts air quality by reducing the amount of time cars and trucks idle on our roadways releasing harmful emissions," he said. "Biking also helps decongest our transportation system, allowing individuals to spend more time working or relaxing with their families instead of wasting time and money sitting in traffic.”
O'Mara said, “Now that Delaware has been determined to be the most bicycle friendly state east of the Mississippi, we can say that without a doubt that we are making the state a healthier, more active, more vibrant and attractive place to live, work and visit. Stay tuned as we go for No.1.”
For the full rankings, go to www.bikeleague.org/states.