Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Jersey moves up to 8th in Bicycle Friendly Rankings: Also receives Bronze Level Award

Watch out #5, Oregon! Were coming for you next!

I don't know how the heck we managed to rank so high in the League of American Bicyclists, Bicycle Friendly States 2010 Rankings but we did. I'm just flabbergasted. Heck! Even California ranked a mediocre 19th.

Well, actually I do have idea why we ranked so well and here's how.

To start, NJDOT continues to work hard to make walking and bicycling safer in New Jersey. NJDOT has a full-time staff of 5 working on bike/ped issues and good track record over the past decade or so in helping local communities fund and plan bicycle and pedestrian projects. As an additional part of the Bike/Ped Program, NJDOT also has 3 consultant firms under contract to aid local communities come up with bike/ped plans and help NJDOT review highway projects for bike/ped friendliness. Even in our current budget mess and with a new administration, it seems like these NJDOT programs might be spared any trimmings from the budget axe. And not to be forgotten, late in 2009 NJDOT issued a Complete Streets Policy which is a really big deal and is something very few states can say.

Along with what NJDOT does in Trenton, it also helps to fund (with the aid of federal monies) the New Jersey Bicycle & Pedestrian Resource Center and the New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center at Rutgers University which employs the equivalent of about 5 full-time staff working on these issues. Part of what these two centers do is research and education along with hosting the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council amongst many other tasks.

To complement the work and improvements at NJDOT, there was the formation of the New Jersey Bicycle Coalition in 2009 and the first New Jersey Bicycle Summit this year that they helped to host with NJDOT. Both were critical in helping boost New Jersey's rankings. Without the Coalition and the Summit I'm convinced that New Jersey would have fallen in the rankings despite the Complete Streets Policy promulgated in December.

Overall, bicycling in New Jersey is better today than it was in 2009 or any year before anyone was keeping score. However, bike lanes are scarcer in New Jersey than zits on a supermodel's backside (but somehow we ranked 3rd for infrastructure) and New Jersey is one on only a handful of states that still don't have a single Bicycle Friendly Community even though there are at least one or two that could attain it if only they applied for it. If we have any hope to maintain or even improve our spot in these rankings these two area will need to see improvement which will require the full cooperation of both municipal and county governments. Also, we will need to move forward on a bicycle legislation agenda (something the NJBPAC has been hard at work putting together already) and work more closely with local law enforcement to better educate the police on the finer points of bicycle law along with proper and safe bicycle operation.

Here is New Jersey's 2010 BFS Rankings by Category:
Legislation - 15th: Tie with 10 other states (Ranking seems fair)
Policy & Programs - 3rd: Tie with 8 other states (Ranking seems fair, well deserved)
Infrastructure - 3rd: (Really?!?! I don't know how we ranked so high)
Education - 31st: Tie with 3 other states (Really?!?! That low, even with NJ BIKE SChOOL running in 2009?)
Evaluation - 9th: Tie with 9 other states (Ranking seems fair)
Enforcement - 25th: Tie with 12 other states (Ranking seems fair, I guess)

Below are the Top 20 (of 50) Bicycle Friendly States:
1. Washington - Silver*
2. Wisconsin - Silver*
3. Maine
4. Minnesota - Bronze*
5. Oregon - Silver*
6. New Hampshire
7. Iowa
8. New Jersey - Bronze*
9. Arizona - Bronze*
10. Delaware - Bronze*
11. Maryland
12. Florida
13. Kansas
14. Colorado
15. Massachusetts
16. Michigan
17. Wyoming
18. Virginia
19. California
20. Nevada


Anonymous said...

I agree, NJ's ranking is a bit of a surprise, but then, those initiatives mentioned are important, and they are also statewide --for example, aside from Portland amd Madison, how is the rest of Oregon and Wisconsin, respectively? Maybe it's just that 42 states are even worse!

-- Bob E.

John Boyle said...

Probably the weakest piece of the infrastructure element is a lack of trail development, at least in the Southwest section of the state. Trail construction across the river in SE PA is very vigorous right now while most South Jersey trail projects remain stuck somewhere in the pipeline.

OTOH when you look at bike lanes on Google Maps NJ as a state has probably has the widest distrubution of bike lanes and that is with several dozen miles of bike lanes missing on the map. (Google is slowly correcting this)

MontclairBobbyB said...

NJ is a great state to bicycle in, but (for good or bad) it's an even better state to DRIVE in. The infrastructure for cars is excellent; the infrastructure for bikes needs work. There are many isolated bike routes and trails... many of which simply need to be connected with each other. There's such amazing potential to create a vast network of viable bike transportation routes throughout NJ. While I am equally surprised by the ranking, I am hopeful this will further motivate. (That, and we need a few more John Boyles around the state; sorry to put you on the spot, John).


Anonymous said...

Having lived in two of the top 5 states, NJ has a long way to go. Constructing bike trails for recreation must be complemented by dedicated bikeways that go somewhere (jobs and housing) to crack the top 5. Every day I mix transit and commuting in NJ. I would prefer to bike the whole way, but there just is no way to do it... without being frazzled from the stress of avoiding death on my ride (not to mention going 15 miles out of the way to find safe roads).