Dover gets an honorable mention on League of American Bicyclists application; State of Delaware recognized since May as nation's fifth most bike-friendly state

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary of Transportation Shailen Bhatt dropped by Dover City Hall Thursday afternoon to mark the city's honorable mention recognition by the League of American Bicyclists.

While city has not yet met all the requirements for a formal designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community, the League's recognition is an important first step in that process.

That, plus Delaware's moving up from 31st to a ranking of fifth as the nations' most bicycle-friendly state shows the First State is becoming even more accommodating for people looking for a healthy lifestyle, Markell said.

"Let's face it," the governor said. "Dover is a great place to ride a bike and I love riding my bike here.

"Plus," Markell added with a grin, "It's really flat and there isn't that much traffic."

Attaining BFC designation could mean a lot to the city, said Jim Hutchison III, chairman of the city's Bicycle/Pedestrian Subcommittee, which was formed in January.

"You can see how important it is to the state of Delaware, since we had the governor and the secretary of transportation here at the announcement," Hutchison said.

"The leadership of the city of Dover believes that whatever we can do to make the city more bikeable and more walkable will make Dover a better place to live and work in," he added.

Founded in 1880 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the League of American Bicyclists works to provide a blueprint for states and communities to use in making cycling a realistic option for transportation and recreation, said Carolyn Szczepanski, the group's communications director.

Dover's honorable mention means the city has met some of the League's basic requirements to be named a Bicycle Friendly Community.

"You've made a couple of notable first steps," Szczepanski said. "You've got a complete streets policy, which means your transportation department takes into account all users, including bicyclists, when designing roads."

The city also has a bike parking policy, 13 miles of shared use paths, nine miles of bike lanes, Safe Routes to School programs in elementary schools and major biking events, such as the Amish Bike Tour and the Bike to the Bay tour, she said.

But the city still has work to do to achieve the BFC honor, Szczepanski said. More safety education and league-trained cycling instructors are needed, she said, and while the city has worked to welcome bicyclists, it still needs a connected network of bike paths as well as an updated bike plan.

One other requirement, training in traffic skills, should be fulfilled by a subcommittee-sponsored class held on Oct. 26.

To attain the basic, bronze recognition level, at least one percent of Dover's population should be riding bikes on a regular basis; currently that level, or load share, stands at 0.12 percent, she said.

Two other Delaware cities, Newark and Lewes, already have been designated Bicycle Friendly Communities, Szczepanski said. Both are at the bronze level. The group's highest standard, the platinum level, has been awarded to Portland, Ore.; with a load share of at least 20 percent, she said.

Dover Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. said one of the city's most recent efforts to make Dover more receptive to bike riders are the new "sharrow" markings on some city streets.

"I think it's great," Carey said. "We've been striving to make Dover more accessible for bicyclists. We're putting the markings on roadways when they're repaved, to try to make things more bicycle friendly.

"We want people to be able to ride their bikes to work or for pleasure and to make people more aware that bicyclists are on the road."