Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Brunswick Bikeway Fatally Flawed

The Rutgers University daily, The Daily Targum reported last week about the WAY too long awaited New Brunswick Bikeway. To save space you can read about the details here (Proposed path aims to increase bike safety). The story does a good job summarizing the proposed project.

Unfortunately this proposal is so far from ideal it is a step backwards. Below is my unedited response that appeared in today's Targum.

The proposed New Brunswick Bikeway, as reported is fatally flawed!

The routing of this project down Neilson Street instead of using the entire length of George Street forces cyclists on an unnatural, circuitous route that literally pushes cyclists away from and avoids most of the important downtown destinations. Any safety benefits for cyclists using the proposed route along Neilson Street are also questionable at best.

Unfortunately this logic was lost on the City when it eliminated the use of George Street before the study even started because it did want to loose a handful of on-street parking spaces (I was told this at the public comment sessions for this project several years ago). Considering New Brunswick just built the Morris Street parking deck with 824 spaces and the Rutgers’ Public safety building deck has room for several hundred additional cars, parking on this section of George Street is plentiful. The loss of 20 or so parking spaces in this area should have never been an issue and still could have been minimized with an innovative design.

George Street is the natural, most direct way between the College Avenue and the Cook / Douglas campuses. As such, nearly all those who currently bike between the two campuses already use this most obvious route. As these cyclists ride down George Street, they also have easy and convenient access to downtown New Brunswick with its shops, theaters, restaurants, hotel and government and University buildings. It is not unusual for cyclists to stop at destinations along the downtown section of George Street as they ride between campuses. Unfortunately nearly all of these destinations are avoided by using Neilson Street.

Like many other poorly planned bicycle projects in New Jersey, this one too will get little use. The proposal runs counter to an extremely strong natural demand that cyclists have for using George Street. If built as currently proposed, Neilson Street will continue to be avoided and cyclists will carry on using George Street. Precious government funds will again be wasted and this project’s undoubted failure will only give fuel to critics who (falsely) believe that the government should not be funding bicycle transportation projects. It is a shame that a much needed project that has been in the making for nearly 20 years will be ruined because the needs of hundreds, if not thousands of bicyclists will be marginalized all to save a mere handful of parking spaces.
On top of these concerns I field checked Neilson Street today and as I remembered, much of it is a one-way street. This would make retrograde bicycle travel something new in New Jersey (which Title 39 does not dirrectly address). The new, and very confusing intersection at New and Neilson streets, with its complicated, brand new traffic signal would have to be totally re-engineered to allow for the cyclists to travel west. All of this including, getting cyclists to and from Neilson along Albany Street (NJ Rt 27) will be very expensive and just ends up putting cyclists where they don't want to be.

3 comments:

Bobby (the destroyer) C. said...

I agree completely. I take the trip to college ave from cook down George st virtually everyday. Not only is there space on George st for the path (except perhaps the cobblestone) but I've found that drivers already are wary of bicyclists there. Sending bicycle and pedestrian traffic off the main road not only decreases the use due to extra time to take the trip, but decreases the efficiency of the path, especially at intersections!

Critical mass tomorrow Feb 27th at 5:00 college ave student center!

audrey said...

i'd have to see the final plans before i know for sure, but i agree in principal that george st is better than neilson. BUT: coming from highland park, i regularly take neilson down to commercial, because once i'm on it (left turn from 27 at the light), it's easier to stay there. coming back, of course, i take george all the way. just wanted to point out that neilson's not so un-obvious for folks traveling from HP.

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