Bicycling is more than a fun way to exercise. It’s also a practical way to get from point A to point B, whether cyclists are commuting to work or peddling from one beach town to another. But for those cycling outside the confines of a park or dedicated trail, safety is a concern. “We’re not surrounded by 4,000 pounds of glass and steel,” which makes the roadside a little scary for many, says James Wilson, executive director of Bike Delaware.
Bike Delaware’s mission is to make cycling a safe, convenient alternative to driving, which is why Wilson is excited about the Wilmington-New Castle Trail, which will include a football field-long bridge for walkers and cyclists across the Christina River.
When complete in 2018, the trail will link the Wilmington Riverfront at the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge with Battery Park in New Castle. “It’s really ambitious,” says Wilson, who gives kudos to several state agencies for taking on the project.
The trail will be named for former Gov. Jack Markell, an enthusiastic cyclist, whose First State Trails and Pathways Initiative is credited for the increase in safe cycling options in Delaware. During his administration, Delaware rose up the ranks of bike friendly states from 15th to third.
In October, the first phase of the Lewes-to-Georgetown trail opened near the new Lewes Public Library. The 1-mile paved trail runs from Gills Neck Road, where it links with the existing Junction and Breakwater Trail, to Savannah Road. The next phase will continue the trail to Nassau. “We’re really excited about finally getting west of Route 1,” Wilson says. “There are a lot of new subdivisions. Right now, Route 1 might as well be the Grand Canyon. It’s awful to bike across.”
Mary Roth, executive director of Delaware Greenways, would like to see connectors link the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail in Brandywine Hundred, which is popular with cyclists who commute to work, to other trails in Wilmington. The organization, an advocate for trail development, is focused on connections to outdoor living and healthy eating. Connectors can be sidewalks, not dedicated trails.
Delaware Greenways received a grant from the William Penn Foundation to form a planning coalition for a larger Northern Delaware Trail network, which would connect new trails, communities, parks and natural areas with Greater Philadelphia’s multi-use Circuit Trail network.
Whether it’s for recreation or transportation, many Newark residents and UD students prefer two wheels to four. In response, city planners have addressed their needs. The city trails have been so well received that the League of American Bicyclists has repeatedly named Newark a Bicycle-Friendly Community.
Multipurpose trails include the James F. Hall Trail, a 1.8-mile hard-surface path that runs through three Newark city parks: Phillips, Lewes and Kells. It follows the Amtrak corridor, so you’ll likely spot a train on your trip. (A fence separates the track from the trail.)
The Hall Trail is a connector, so you can link up with the Pomeroy and Newark Rail Trail, an urban route built on an old railway line that was abandoned in the 1930s. From there, you can access the bus transit system or continue to White Clay Creek State Park and Middle Run Natural Area, a hub for hikers and mountain bikers.
For more information on the bike routes in Newark, visit cityofnewarkde.us. For information on White Clay Creek State Park, visit destateparks.com. Hikers and mountain bikers might also consider the 3.2-mile loop at New Castle County’s Iron Hill Park.