Friday, September 26, 2008

Monday is the Eve of Rosh Hashanah - Don't Bring Your Bike On The Train

This is perhaps my favorite NJ TRANSIT Bike on Rail rule.

Standard-frame bicycles and Segways are permitted on other rail lines at all times, except:
  • On weekday inbound trains that end their trip in Hoboken, Newark or New York between 6-10 a.m.
  • On weekday outbound trains that originate in Hoboken, Newark or New York between 4-7 p.m.
  • On major holidays (New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day)
  • On Fridays prior to major holidays.
  • On Friday after Thanksgiving.
  • On the eves of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Since Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur begin at sundown does this mean that you can bring your bike on the train after sundown?

An 8PM inbound train from Gladstone probably has far more room than a 2PM departure from Penn Station, yet with this blanket rule bikes are treated the same on both trains.

These rules are modeled after the Metro North and Long Island RR bike on rail rules which were hammered out in the late 1980's when very few commuter rail systems allowed bicycles and the effects of bikes on trains was largely unknown. For some reason the holiday restrictions have stuck around, perhaps a detailed analysis of ridership patterns on trains on those days needs to be looked at to align the rules with the reality.

StreetFilms Interviews NJDOT Reformer Gary Toth

Streetsblog's Editor-in-chief, Aaron Naparstek recently interviewed Gary Toth the Senior Director of Transportation Initiatives with the Project for Public Spaces.

For thirty-four years, Mr. Toth worked for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), and become known for his collaboration and facilitation skills, and was one of the architects of the transformation of NJDOT to a stakeholder inclusive process helping the state become a national leader in Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS).

Mr. Toth has written, "A Citizen's Guide to Better Streets," which is designed to help the everyperson and advocacy community better understand the behind-the-scenes processes that occur when dealing with transportation departments and how to better prepare and speak their language. He shares some of his views and advice with Aaron in this very important interview.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Were cyclists' rights violated in Rahway?

If ever there was a reason for a statewide advocacy group such as WalkBike Jersey and for more education about cyclists' rights, this case is as good as any.

Some of you may have read in Sunday's Star Ledger (see end for link) about a group of competitive cyclists being kicked out of Rahway River Park (a quiet, green oasis with little traffic last I checked) by the Union County cops. Not only were they asked to stop riding but they were even asked to leave the park under threat of arrest. From what I read from this article, it sure sounds to me that the rights of these cyclists were indeed violated.

The article states that the riders "were following guidelines by riding no more than two abreast and staying below the posted 25 mph speed limit. But officials say the cyclists can unknowingly impede traffic and stray from the side of the lane to occupy an entire lane of the two-lane road."

One of the riders also said that "
police officers threatened to give them all tickets or arrest them if they didn't leave the park," and that the officer "didn't approach it as a policeman enforcing a law or guideline, he approached it in an aggressive manner." A response by Chief Dan Vaniska of the Union County police after a complaint was filed by the rider found the officers' actions to be "within the guidelines and certainly appropriate."

Now, let me take a moment to state that I am not a lawyer; just someone trying to become a leading expert on all that is cycling in New Jersey. However, it seems to me that the Union County police need a refresher course in how NJ Title 39 applies to cyclists and to use an interpretation that is not so overtly "anti-bicycling".

According to Title 39, cyclists must stay as close to the right of the road as is practicable and are "to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file." From this it seems that the Rahway riders may have been in violation of the law. However reading further into Title 39 one finds that cyclists may "occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic" (39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11).

So what takes priority? The requirement to stay right and not ride more than 2 abreast or the right to occupy the lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic? As a cyclist I will naturally side with the later but with good reason. It seems clear that these guys ride near or at the 25mph speed limit. The riders themselves even said that they make an effort to not exceed the speed limit. So if they are traveling at the maximum speed allowable it would seem to me that they are eligible the occupy the lane and not just one or two wide but in a manner that is again "practicable" for the safe operation of each individual's bicycle.

Again how could the riders "unknowingly impede traffic" when they are already traveling at the posted speed limit? Also
"when traveling at the same speed as other traffic" Title 39 gives them the right to "stray from the side of the lane to occupy an entire lane of the two-lane road." In this case it would seem that the police decided to take a narrow view of the law and acted in a way that was heavy handed to say the least.

However the situation gets even worse.
Sebastian D'Elia, spokesman for Union County, said "the county wanted cyclists to take part in discussions on new bike trails in the county park system." Unfortunately I don't think Mr. D'Elia understands how condescending his statement was to serious cyclists. I, like many other riders will interprete his statement this way, "Bikes don't belong on the street. If you talk with us we'll build you a playground (that will be of absolutely no use to you) off of the road where you won't get in the way of the cars." It seems obvious that the ingrained nature of the car culture is showing its ugly head here with these attitudes and responses.

Looks like we have a long way to go in Union County.

The complete article can be found at:

Free ride
is over
The Star-Ledger • Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Recreational Bike Ride Guides Available

Gleaned from South Jersey News Online

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) released three new, electronic bicycle guides.

The Burlington County Bikeways , Cape May Shoreline Ride and Cumberland Salem Revolution guides encompass over 168 miles of bicycle routes.

The Burlington County Bikeways guide features an eastern loop and western loop that encompasses over fifty miles with views of the scenic Delaware River, historic sites and cranberry bogs in New Jersey's largest county.

The Cape May Shoreline loop route begins and ends at the Cape May Lighthouse. The forty-six mile route encompasses the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, the beaches of Stone Harbor and the Victorian architecture of Cape May City.

The Cumberland Salem Revolution route begins and ends at the historic Fort Mott State Park then passes the historic Hancock House in Lower Alloways Creek and through several New Jersey's farming communities.

All NJDOT bike guides can be downloaded here.

While recreational ride guides are valuable publications they are no substitute for actually signing the roads. New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware all have signed regional bike routes. Signing these roads would have a marked impact on the bicycle tourism industry in NJ.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Jersey Ranked as 41st Worst State For Bicycling

I congratulate the State for being ranked number 9 among the Bicycle Friendly States, although that is impressive it is also a reflection of a nation that has not invested in bicycling, another words we are the best of a bad lot.

So as King of NJ here is what I will implement to leave the top 5 states in the dust. And while my wild dreams are focused on bicycling, similar strategies could be applied to pedestrian and transit issues. The approach should be that this is part of an infrastructure Marshall Plan that transportation reformers keep talking about, we should not be fighting for the crumbs on the floor.

A - Increase local aid dedicated bikeway funding tenfold. It is only $4 Million annually and it is only for off road projects, Portland Oregon estimates that to build out their bicycle network they will need $150 Million, how much will an urbanized state that has a tiny fraction of that city's infrastructure have to spend? Award bikeway funding only to governments that have adopted bicycle plans. The Governor wants $3 billion to widen the Turnpike and the Parkway. $40 million a year is chump change.

B - Identify and eliminate the existing barriers and hazards.
1- Expand the rapid design team's mission to include fixing bicycling hazards on state roads.
2 - Implement a comprehensive inlet grate replacement program, this should be easy since thieves are stealing these things in earnest.
3 - Require every road engineer in the state complete a bicycle and pedestrian design course. The recent road work that I have seen going on in Camden is appalling: multi lane ramps and turn lanes in front of the Campbells Soup site, a crosswalk in the middle of a right turn lane between Cooper Hospital and Walter Rand TC, push button signals in front of Rutgers at the RiverLINE station, right turn on red is everywhere.

C - Expand the Bicycle and Pedestrian Department
1 - Each of the four district offices should have a full time bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

D - Improve the County's and Municipalities

1 - A complete streets requirement that is tied to local aid money
2 - A requirement that all county and municipal comprehensive plans adopt a bike/ped section or chapter. The state could offer guidelines and planning assistance and review to assure that the county/municipal plans are sound.

E - Improve School Districts
1 - A statewide school siting policy is desperately needed.
2 - Federal Safe Routes to School Funding should be matched by the state.
3 - Implement a statewide bicycle education program

F - Make Transit 100% Bike Accessible
1 - Every new rail car has interior bike racks.
2 - Retrofit buses so that the state is 100% bike accessible by 2010. Every bus has an exterior bike rack (including long distance coaches and contracted carriers).
3 - Eliminate the silly holiday restrictions (short term) and only restrict bicycles on the most crowded trains (long term).
4 - Work on bike parking siting (under cover and close to the platform) and design (no more ribbon racks!).
5 - Increase safe routes to transit funding or at least give transit access weight in expanded bikeway funding

G - Create a State network of signed bike routes

H - Create stronger laws and codes to link land use and transportation planning.

For all it's flaws the Bicycle Friendly States program is a great way to start a conversation on what we need to do.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

New Jersey Near Top of Bicycle Friendly States List

As a companion to the Bicycle Friendly Community Program the League of American Bicyclists announced their rankings on Bicycle Friendly States which focuses on policies, laws, funding and implementation on the state level.

Surprisingly New Jersey came in 9th place, the highest ranking on the East Coast. The state was given praise for it's dedicated bike funding (albeit a paltry $4 million), a statewide mountain bike plan, a hands free cell phone law and an exemplary Safe Routes to Schools program.

On the deficiency side the lack of three foot passing law and a complete streets policy show room for more improvement. And let's face it, infrastructure on the ground is sorely lacking, we'll need our 21 counties and 580 municipalities to step up to the plate.