Delaware Public Media

Delaware a bicycle friendly state? Yes and no.

Jul 15, 2017

Delaware received one of the nation’s top spots in the League of American Bicyclists’s rankings of bicycle friendly states in 2015.

But that ranking can be deceiving. Laura Wilburn is Executive Director of Wilmington’s Urban Bike Project, and has personally been a biking advocate since high school.

She says just because Delaware ranks 3rd for bicycle friendliness – that doesn’t mean the First State – and especially Wilmington – has roads friendly to bicyclists.

“The reason that Delaware ranks third in the country is because Delaware has very progressive laws in the books," Wilburn said.

Those laws include a safe passing law – motorists must give bicyclists at least three feet or more in each direction when passing. There’s also a vulnerable road user law, and a complete streets policy.

And the League of American Bicyclists’ Ken MacLeod says the ranking takes other factors into consideration, like federal funding.

“The biggest thing that contributed to Delaware’s high ranking is that compared to other states, Delaware – at least recently – has made a large investment in bicycling," MacLeod said.

MacLeod says in 2015 – Delaware spent 3.6% of its federal funding on bicycle-related projects. He says that’s a lot compared with other states.

But MacLeod agrees with Wilburn – Delaware has room to improve. It’s percentage of residents biking to work is below the national average  and has a higher number of statewide traffic fatalities.

“I think it’s certainly notable that although Delaware has recently invested a lot in biking, compared to other states there’s not a lot of data on people actually biking to work or regularly biking," MacLeod said.

 

0.1% of Wilmington residents bike to work – according to census data from a 2014 survey. And for statewide residents – that number isn’t much higher, at 0.2%.

MacLeod says Oregon has the highest percentage of residents biking to work – 2.4% - with an even higher percentage in its biggest city - Portland. Over 6% of Portland residents bike to work.

Macleod says an updated ranking with more recent data should be released sometime in August.