Bicycling for UD students
- What type of bike to use and where to get one
- How to avoid your bike getting stolen
- Two simple steps to keep your bike working smoothly
- Where to get help with your bike
- Where to get free lights and helmets
With its numerous bike lanes, a bikeable campus, and a mostly flat topography, Newark is one of three Delaware cities rated “Bronze” by the League of American Bicyclists. Traveling between many points across UD’s campus and in downtown Newark is faster by bicycle than by walking, bus, or even car. And there are some UD class transition times between central and south campus that can only be accomplished by bicycle.
This article covers your bicycle options as a student, and how to secure and maintain your bike for a useful and safe experience during your UD years.
What type of bike is best?
Bikes are generally categorized by their handlebar type as road (leaning forward), mountain/hybrid (semi-upright), and city (upright) bikes. All are suitable for campus commuting. Go with what you’re comfortable riding. Gears help if you’re venturing outside of central campus, but if not a single speed bike is fine. However, don’t bring an expensive ($1000+) bike to campus as a commuter; it will be a target for theft, and it will not retain its value when stored in outdoor conditions.
Mountain bike tip: swapping out knobby offroad tires that come on most mountain bikes for semi-smooth street tires will give you a smoother, quieter, easier, and more controlled ride on paved surfaces, and your tires will also last longer. Newark Bike Project and other local bike shops stock street tires and can help with this.
Where should I get a bike?
Not all bikes that look the same are created the same. Unfortunately, under-$250 big box store bikes are made of lower grade materials that don’t hold up as well in the elements, are less precise in their operation, are heavier, and are assembled using often inadequate fastening and lubrication steps. The result is that bike components often stop working smoothly after just a few months in outdoor conditions. You will see non-rideable bikes of these big box store brands abandoned around campus, which UD regularly collects and sends to the metal scrap yard. However, these low end bikes can be kept safe and reliable if you have a qualified shop inspect and adjust them, and if you’re willing to perform more frequent maintenance. If you buy a bike from a big box store, ask for one unassembled in the box, and bring it to a full service bike shop for proper assembly.
If you have $400 to $600 to spend and want a new bike, an entry-level bike from Trek Bicycle Newark, Wooden Wheels, Henry’s Bike Shop, or REI will be much higher quality than any big box store bike. These local shops also include free adjustments during the new bicycle break-in period. You can save a little by ordering a similar bike online, but plan to plan to bring it to a local shop for proper assembly if the vendor doesn’t have a local assembly partner option. You can assemble most boxed bikes, but you’ll need certain tools and knowledge. Also, you’ll then be left having to pay for any future adjustments.
If you want to spend under $250 for a quality bike, a refurbished bike-shop quality bike can be purchased from the non-profit Newark Bike Project (NBP) for $100 to $250. They maintain an updated online catalog of Completed Bikes, including descriptions, photos, sizes, and prices. By the time you graduate from UD, a quality used bike will still be worth about the same as what you paid for it! For one-semester students, NBP will buy back a working bike purchased from NBP within 6 months for half your original purchase price. NBP is open every day at Noon for bike and accessory sales and general bicycle advice.
If NBP is sold out of your bike type/size, try again in a few days, as their inventory is replenished. Or check out their sister non-profit shop, Urban Bike Project of Wilmington.
What else do I need?
You will need a lock, lights and reflectors, and you’ll need to register your bike with UD.
- Lock – Do NOT lock your bike with a CABLE lock in Newark or in any campus or city, as cables are quickly and commonly cut by bike thieves with a $20 cable cutter from a hardware store.
Do use a U-lock or other solid lock, and lock through the frame of the bike to a secure bike parking rack. If you have a modern bike with quick-release wheels, lock one of your wheels along with your frame. To lock the other wheel (particularly when parked overnight), use a loop-ended cable to lasso the second wheel to the U-lock, such as in the picture below. Some U-locks come with a loop-ended cable, or you can buy one at a bike shop. If you have a quick-release seat post, you can protect it by running the same cable through your seat rail.
Do not lock a bike to a railing (which are needed for ADA access) or a tree (which eventually kills the tree!). UD, the City, or a private property owner may cut your lock and remove your bike if you lock to anything other than a bike parking rack.
- Lights & Reflectors – A white light is required on the front at night to protect pedestrians, and a red light is advised on the back for visibility to cars. Front (white) and rear (red) reflectors are also required. Note that reflectors can be seen by cars from farther distances than lights alone. You need both reflectors and lights if you ride after dusk!
- Register your bike – UD requires that every bicycle operated, parked or stored on campus be registered with UD Parking Services, which is easy and free. Every year, UD Police and Newark Police confiscate dozens of stolen bicycles from caught thieves, but they don’t know whose they are. By registering, abandoned or recovered stolen bicycles can be reunited with you.
What else is helpful to have?
Helmets – are not required for cyclists over 18, but are recommended. A pump lets you add air whenever you need it. Portable pumps are small enough to fit in your backpack or can be mounted to your bike. You can buy bicycle pumps at all area bike shops including Newark Bike Project. A bell is a subtle way to alert pedestrians to your quietly approaching them. A bell or verbal warning is required when approaching a pedestrian from behind. Fenders help prevent road water from splashing up onto clothes. Racks and optionally a crate or basket are useful for light cargo, book bags, and groceries. These accessories can be added later by any local bike shop, including Newark Bike Project.
What should I do to maintain my bike and when?
Bikes need basic maintenance or they will cease to work smoothly and safely. At a minimum, your bike needs two things regularly: air and oil, just like a car.
- Air – Most tires need air every few weeks or whenever the tires feel less than hard. Riding on low pressure leaves your tire susceptible to a “pinch flat,” at which point you’ll need to replace the tube. It’s much easier to avoid pinch flats by adding air every few weeks! Bike shops offer free air, and UD maintains pumps at eight bike repair stations around campus (see below).
- Oil – Most chains, cables, and other moving parts need oil every few months, especially if the bike is stored outdoors. Bike shops sell small bottles of easy-to-apply oil, and can show you where to oil your bike. You can also look online.
What if I get a flat tire or other problem?
If you get a flat, minimize rolling your bike around on a totally flat tire, as that can damage the tire, tube, and the rim. With a slow leak, you can usually add air that will last long enough to ride to a repair location. If you can remove the wheel, you can bring in just the wheel to a repair location. Repair locations include…
- Newark Bike Project (NBP), Trek Bicycles, Wooden Wheels, and Henry’s Bike Shop offer drop-off full service flat tire repairs, usually completed same day.
- NBP also lets you learn to do your own repairs Monday and Thursday evenings from 6pm to 9pm, assisted by volunteer mechanics, for a reasonable shop use fee.
- Repair the flat yourself at a UD bike repair station on campus. Stations include pumps, tire levers, wrenches, and tools for basic brake and shifting adjustments. There is a QR code on the repair stand for common repair videos. Note that you may still need a tube or patch kit, so a spare tube is a good thing to keep on your bike tucked under your seat or in your backpack. The stations are at the following locations:
- UD Creamery
- South Academy Residence Hall
- Thompson Hall
- Kirkbride Hall
- Independence Hall
- Morris Library
Are there any special local rules for bicycling in Newark?
When you operate a bike, you have the road rights — and the responsibilities of — a car. For example, you can and should take up the lane if there is no bike lane; cars must pass you using another lane. Bikes have to stop at traffic lights and yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. However, bicycles in Delaware can roll through stop signs if your path is clear of other cars and pedestrians. If there is no bike lane, you can optionally ride on a public sidewalk — unless posted. For example, you cannot ride a bicycle on the sidewalks of East Main Street between Library Ave and South College Ave. On sidewalks you must still yield to pedestrians, and you must give a verbal or bell warning when approaching a pedestrian from behind. At intersections, you should signal any intended turn directions by extending your left or right hand.
If you’re walking your bike, you have all the rights of a pedestrian, including benefitting from crosswalk signals.
You can ride on most UD campus pathways, except where posted otherwise such as Trabant Plaza and the north campus pedestrian bridge. You must always yield to pedestrians on any path, sidewalk, or crosswalk.
Do not ride the wrong way on a bike lane! For example, on Delaware Avenue, you can only bike east-bound in the bike lane. If you want to go west-bound use Main Street one block away, or you may carefully bike along the Delaware Ave sidewalk west-bound if you yield to pedestrians.
You cannot ride with more than one headphone in your ears, and you need to have working brakes.
Where can I get more information or help with bicycling?
For help with bicycling selection, maintenance, full service flat tire fixes, or general repair questions, you can Facebook message, call 302-525-6833, or stop into Newark Bike Project at 136 South Main Street (next to FedEx). NBP is open every non-holiday day (see website for current hours). Learn-to-DIY hours are also available, during which volunteers assist you.
BikeNewark, Newark Bike Project, UD, and DelDOT partner to offer free bike adjustments, free lights (bicycle must be present), and free helmets at pop-up Bike Central events each semester. Follow BikeNewark and Newark Bike Project to learn when the next Bike Central events are scheduled.