Thursday, January 22, 2009

NY/NJTC - "Mt. Bikers not so bad"

It only took more than a decade but the folks over at the New York / New Jersey Trail Conference (NY/NJTC) finally realized that mountain bikers are not the enemy.

In the latest issue of the Trail Walker (see on page 2: Hikers and Bikers in Common Cause?), Jane Daniels, a member of the NY/NJTC Board of Directors spent a Saturday back in October with our friends over at JORBA doing trail work at Ringwood State Park. Her conclusion, "I confirmed that mountain bikers are similar to hikers – we love being in the outdoors and exercising in a way that is fun."

I must admit that I'm am absolutely ecstatic to hear this from the Trail Conference. I'm a member of the NY/NJTC for several years now (could have been longer). They do fantastic work and have created a world class hiking trail network right in our own backyard. They are also rather instrumental in lining up and helping to purchase open-space in both New York and New Jersey. All really great things.

However, and even though Jane Daniels says the Trail Conference is now interested in reaching out to mountain bikers, for years it seemed that they were on a witch hunt to banish all mountain bikers from all of New Jersey's woods. I remember those days back in the 1990's. It got me so upset that I vowed for years never to join the NY/NJTC even though I greatly enjoyed hiking the trails they created and maintain. I even wrote them on several occasions back then telling them that us bikers were not the enemy and that many of us were environmental advocates, hikers, paddlers, XC skiers that just also happened to enjoy weaving our way through the woods on our bicycles and that their anti-mountain biking stance was highly counterproductive.

You see for me, mountain biking literally changed my life and all for the better. It was literally the vehicle that got me into the woods to begin a lifelong love affair with nature including hiking that even lead me to go to college and major in ecology with the hope of defending New Jersey's natural wonders.

I'm quite sure mountain biking has done that same for others since there were over 50 people at that attended that trail work day back in October. Lets just hope that nearly 2 decades of bad blood between hikers and bikers can be quickly put aside since we are and always have been much more alike then different.

Heck most people I know that mountain bike also love hiking equally as much!

Monday, January 12, 2009

What does it take to be charged after hitting a pedestrian?

The Record out of Bergen County reported recently of a case in Wanaque where a crossing guard, while in a crosswalk, was hit by a driver. Even though the crossing guard is employed under the police department, the local police felt that the crash was unavoidable and just an "accident." Never mind that, according to reports, the crossing guard was holding his "STOP" paddle and was wearing an approved traffic safety vest.

According to the story, the driver was distracted by the appearance of children on the opposite corner from where the crossing guard was hit. I wonder if she had rear-ended a car and gave the same excuse if she would have been given a summons? Pure speculation of course but when you consider that at least she probably also disobeyed a traffic safety officer's signal (the "STOP" paddle), I'm left shaking my head as to why 2 summonses weren't issued. I've read of cops throwing the book at drivers for doing much less.

Sorry but a driver shouldn't have to go so far as kill a pedestrian first before a summons is issued. And in this second case "failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk," 2 points and a fine around $100 hardly seems to fitting considering a person (without 3000lbs of armored steel protecting their bodies) is dead.

It sure sounds like New Jersey could really use a Vulnerable Users Law because when a driver fails to yield to another automobile, often its just sheet metal that is bent. When a driver doesn't yield to a pedestrian or a cyclists the consequences are far worse and often deadly.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

NJDOT's List of Stimulus Projects

View PDF

There are 151 projects on this list. Where are the bicycle projects? There are none. Pedestrian projects? About a half dozen. Most of the projects are legitimate rehabilitation and transit projects but some road widening projects are in there, including some mega intersection widening that makes bicycling and walking very difficult. Some projects such as the Ocean City-Somers Point Bridge do include bike and ped improvements but clearly highways are still king.

Sign the petition to show Congress your support for fixing and maintaining the network we have with the stimulus rather than throwing our money into new highway capacity and 1950’s-style highway projects.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Another Day, Another Brush With Death.

Today as I rode into New Brunswick along Livingston Avenue, I literally had a near brush with potential death. I was positioned to the right side of the right lane but out of the door zone of four lane (six with parking) Livingston Ave where it is posted at 25mph. A box truck comes up behind me slowly as I was riding about 13mph (old school Ross 3-speed). He slowly begins to pass (okay so far) but then, when the box of the truck comes by, it is only a foot from my left shoulder and then he starts squeezing me into the parked cars. This all happened slowly so I bang on the truck and braked to prevent getting squeezed further. He stops and a small confrontation ensues.

Second thing out of his mouth; yes you guessed it, "Get off the street and onto the sidewalk where you belong." Its actually illegal to ride on the sidewalk in New Brunswick but that would be lost on him so I just told him that the street is "EXACTLY where I belong."

Moments earlier on Livingston Ave a lady made a left turn in front of me, cutting me off. It wasn't dangerously close but I was forced to nearly stop.

So why am I bring this up? Well besides the fact that I continually deal with near death experiences on a daily basis for simply wanting to use the most direct route to work and school, the real reason is that most of these incidents could easily be avoided with just a little bit of paint.

Livingston Ave like so many roads in New Jersey is unnecessarily striped for four travel lanes. The volume of traffic on Livingston Ave (outside of a half an hour period during some evening rush hours) doesn't require four lanes and so it should go on a diet!

A road diet that is; reducing the road from 4 travel lanes to 2 travel lanes, a center left turn lane. The extra space is then available to use for a properly positioned (out of the door zone) bike lane. Plus crazed speeders, and Livingston Ave has them, get stuck behind the slower cars of the law abiders.

Above images from

There are many other beneficial reasons why road diets are a good idea including pedestrian and even driver safety. A good overview can be found in the Road Diet Handbook (a Power Point) by Jennifer A. Rosales from the firm Parsons Brinkerhoff.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jersey Shore Bridges: Part 2

It's as if people who read and write The Press of Atlantic City were reading our blog.

First there is this story about the Rt 72 Bridge to LBI needing to be replaced and that money from Obama's stimulus package should be used to do it. While several years away, I am fairly confident that NJDOT will make sure that any new bridge to LBI will be at least as bike/ped friendly as the Rt 52 to Ocean City talked about in the previous post. Still we'll stay vigilant on any future Rt 72 project just to make sure.

Second is the below letter that appeared in the paper on January 4th. Be aware that when Mr. Rake says "keep the bridge in the open position," it is a draw bridge and keeping it "open" means keeping it closed to any vehicular traffic. Also he proposes a decent compromise. His letter reads:

Cyclists need Beesleys bridge

Concerning the Dec. 30 article, "Cape to buy Beesleys Point Bridge today":

I was filled with great consternation at the decision to keep the bridge in the open position for the next three years. This bridge is a main artery for bicyclists traveling from Cape May County to Atlantic County. It has also, since it's closure, become a haven for joggers, walkers and fishermen (despite the arbitrary "banned" signs).

Without use of the bridge, a cyclist will have to choose between one of two bad alternatives - either a 10-mile detour through Ocean City (including a highly risky trip over the 34th Street bridge), or a 25-mile loop through Mays Landing. Neither is practical nor safe.

If our country is ever to become less dependent on cars, we need to take into consideration all modes of transportation before making decisions. Obviously, it was not done in this case.

Can't money be found for a drawbridge operator during daylight hours, or at least on weekends?


For those who are not exactly familiar what and where the Beesleys Point Bridge enlarge the above image by clicking on it. The bridge in question is the Rt 9 Bridge just to the west of the Garden State Parkway. Take a look here to get a better idea of how much of an obstacle the current network of roads around the Great Egg Harbor poses for cyclists. Be aware that the Rt 52 bridge is still totally of limits to bikes and peds until construction is completed. Bikes are also not allowed on the Garden State Parkway, if you didn't know.

Hmmm... I wonder when that Parkway bridge is due for a replacement? That might be the place to put in a bike/ped path since it doesn't look like the Rt 9, Beesleys Point Bridge will be replaced or even opened anytime soon.

Monday, January 05, 2009

How Does One Safely Bike to Brigantine?

You don't!

Last week I spent time with a friend who was up for the holidays visiting his family in Ocean City, NJ. We were driving to Brigantine to go for a walk along the natural area on the north tip of the island. I've never been to Brigantine before but I already knew that there was only one way on to the island and that was through Atlantic City. When I've looked at online imagery before however I though it was easier then the actual conditions.

The image above is of the approach to the bridge from the Marina District of AC. You can see that there was never any consideration with the design of this roadway to accommodate anything other that motor vehicles (the causeway to Brigantine begins at the upper right). No shoulder, nor even an easier approach to the bridge from an access road. The speed limit is 45mph over the bridge which is ignored by at 10 mph on average.

From this aerial of the Marina District of AC you get a better idea how bad the approach is and the lack of alternatives to at least approach the beginning of the bridge by side streets. At least on the Brigantine side things are easier with a shoulder beginning once the bridge ends but this is far from a pleasant place to loiter.

Take a closer look for yourself to see what I mean.

Now I know that NJDOT is now highly sensitive to the needs of cyclists, particularly with their new bridge designs to the shore resorts. This is clearly evident with the new Route 52 Causeway being built to connect Ocean City to Somers Point on the mainland. That project was intended by design to be a bicycling and walking destination (like the Brooklyn or Golden Gate but smaller of course) and will not just merely accommodate bikes and peds with the most minimal of facilities.


Still the Brigantine Causeway is very dangerous if not impossible to cycle across and since it is relatively new it will remain a hazard to non-motorized users for many decades to come.

Yet, the Rt 72 bridge to LBI is probably even more dangerous and formidable to cyclists due to its length without any shoulder. Rt 37 from Toms River to Seaside is also very bad but at least there one has the option to approach from Point Pleasant 16 miles to the north (oh yeah! so close). Still at least these bridges are on schedule to be replaced some time soon.

While access to crossing of the Hudson or the Delaware are annoying, at least with these water crossings there is usually an option to use another bridge or transit like PATH or PATCO or even a ferry. With these bay crossings however, riders (and pedestrians) have absolutely no other option but to run the gauntlet and risk their lives or to just shut up and get in a car.

Morristown Puts It in the Big Ring to Win Bicycling Hall of Fame.

Morristown New Jersey is making a very strong and concerted effort to win the Bicycling Hall of Fame. Their very professional effort is impressive, something not entirely expected when Morristown announced that it would make bid for the Hall last year.

For more, see these great articles in the Star-Ledger's "Morristown Green" Blog:

Morristown Bike Hall of Fame plans: Starbucks, and races--real and simulated
Hall of Fame cycling exhibit rolls into Morristown library: 'It was all leg power'

It must be said that their proposal has come about from a lot of hard work by the people in town government and community volunteers alike.

Go MoTown! Keep the Hall of Fame in Jersey!