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Central Delaware
Dover on right path for bicycle-friendly city
City of Dover city planner Ann Marie Townshend walks a bicycle along the brick sidewalks of City Hall before Thursday afternoon’s suprise announcement that Dover has received an honorable mention as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

DOVER — It’s official — the city of Dover is on its way to becoming a bicycle-friendly community.

During an event held in front of Dover City Hall on Thursday, city officials revealed the League of American Bicyclists has given the city an Honorable Mention designation regarding its current state of bicycle friendliness.

The designation is the result of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee filling out and applying for the league’s recognition.

The subcommittee sought community input and held a number of workshops. City staff was able to formulate an encompassing picture of Dover’s bicycling highs and lows, where efforts could be focused for improvement and what is already being done right.

Jim Hutchison, subcommittee chair but not a councilman, said being recognized by the league is an important milestone for the city. It puts Dover on the list of other cities we all associate with high quality of life like Sante Fe, N.M., Boulder, Colo., and Madison, Wis., he said.

“This is a big honor,” said Mr. Hutchison.

Gov. Jack A. Markell said this recognition is another example of why the state of Delaware has gone from being rated 31st in bicycle friendliness by the league four years ago to its current ranking of fifth.

“[Dover] is a great place to ride a bike,” he said.

The league has five levels of bicycle friendliness — honorable mention, bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

The designation’s are based on how well a community completes a list of what the league calls essential elements — known as the Five E’s — that are consistent in making great places for bicycling. Those elements included engineering — creating safe and convenient places to ride and park; education — giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride; encouragement — creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling; enforcement — ensuring safe roads for all users; evaluation and planning — planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option.

“Applicants in the Honorable Mention category are just starting to address the needs of cyclists. There are probably few cyclists on the road and most of them will be very experienced. However, there may be a popular shared-use path cutting through the community, a popular communitywide bike event or a new bike plan,” reads the league’s website.

Ann Marie Townshend, the city’s Planning & Community Development director, has been told that most communities who apply get honorable mention before they get the bronze or silver designation.

“This happened with both Newark and Lewes,” she said. “The great thing is that we will get valuable feedback from the League of American Bicyclists to help us improve.”

Knowing the criteria the city was being graded against, Ms. Townshend wasn’t surprised by the application’s result, but remains encouraged.

“I had expected nothing more than an honorable mention. Going through the application process gave us a lot of insight into how we can improve the bicycle friendliness of Dover. We see this as a starting point and will improve from here,” she said.

Staff writer Chris Flood can be reached at 741-8230 or cflood@newszap.com.

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