As lifestyles change, so must transportation planning
It hasn’t taken long for visitors to find the new three miles of trail that link Cape Henlopen State Park’s Gordons Pond near Rehoboth with Herring Point, near Lewes.
The link completes a 15-mile loop trail that connects our coastal towns and points in between.
Just a week after the new trail officially opened, users already easily number in the thousands, a vivid demonstration of public interest and support for investments in a healthy, active lifestyle.
Prompted, perhaps, by Delaware’s 2013 ranking as the third most obese state in the nation, many parents are walking and riding with their children, and people of all ages are joining them.
In Lewes, many visitors on the popular garden tour cycled from home to home, while in Rehoboth, hundreds of people are out early nearly any morning, walking, running and riding on the one-mile Boardwalk.
City and state planners – and the county planner who still has yet to be hired – must take note of this growing interest in health and fitness, and the changes in lifestyle that come with it.
State and federal transportation budgets are almost entirely focused on paying for more, wider roads, which inevitably bring more cars. At the same time, space for more cars, when they arrive here, is increasingly limited.
Gov. Jack Markell’s investments in bike trails to connect towns highlight the importance of developing safe paths, not only for recreation but also for people who want to walk or cycle to work or shopping.
It is critical that transportation planners build this concept into future road and highway design.
As events such as Sea Witch and the upcoming July 4 fireworks demonstrate, we have already arrived at a time when, as in many villages and cities around the world, visitors must park outside our coastal towns and walk, cycle, bus or trolley to their destinations.
Future transportation planning must go beyond designing for car and truck traffic to designing for people – people who want opportunities to safely pursue healthy, active lives.