Monday, February 15, 2010

Op-Ed: NJ Legislature - Parking Trumps Pedestrian Safety

It's amazing what the New Jersey Legislature is capable of doing if you're not watching them close enough.

Unbeknownst to some of the closest followers of all things bicycle and pedestrian in New Jersey (yeah, that includes me), the Legislature quietly passed Senate Bill 1082 (A1775). This law gives municipalities the authority to reduce the distance where it is illegal to park in front of STOP signs and on either side of crosswalks, if the municipality passes an ordinance allowing them the authority to do so.

According to language straight out of the bill itself "The purpose of this bill (law) is to address parking shortages." Never is there a mention how this bill might compromise New Jersey's already shaky pedestrian safety record or that of traffic safety as a whole.

Prior to this new law, the standard distances all across New Jersey were that it was illegal to park 50 feet in front of a STOP sign and 25 feet on either side of a crosswalk. This was done for good reason. To stop for a STOP sign or for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, one needs to see the STOP sign or pedestrian. At a time in the past, distances of 50 and 25 feet were made into law because they were thought to be the minimum safe parking distances to create a sight line by which drivers would be able to see a STOP sign or pedestrian and to be able to react to them.

Now the new law does prohibit changing these standards in school zones and requires best engineering judgment. Still, reducing these sight lines anywhere will undoubtedly have a some negative effect on pedestrian and traffic safety. And it wouldn't be unfathomable to imagine that best engineering judgment could be compromised when local politicians are being pressured to create more parking spaces. Plus a loss of a standard statewide practice has the potential to create even greater confusion as to where it is legally permissible to park a car.

1 comment:

CityLights said...

"Addressing shortages"? Comrade Brezhnev would be proud! The closet Socialists running much of this country never cease to amaze me.