Friday, May 14, 2010

A quick review of the Mercer County On-Line Bicycle Map

John at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia reported earlier today that the Mercer County Bike Map produced for the county by DVRPC is now complete.

John reports:
The bike map was created when DVRPC did an initial computer analysis of the roads using a "Bicycle Level of Service Model". It that was then opened to the public, who provided comments and offered changes. More than 100 changes were made to the maps due to the comments.
The use of both Bicycle Level of Service Model which evaluates such things as "traffic volumes, traffic speeds, pavement widths, and whether there is a usable shoulder" and the 100+ comments from local riders has produced a very effective and mostly accurate evaluation of Mercer County's roads for cycling.

A key evaluation factor in the Bicycle Level of Service Model is traffic volumes, something which many other bicycle maps never use in roadway evaluations. It's a real shame that other skip this variable because I consider it to be the most important in evaluating the bikeability of roadways. It's simple really when you think of it. A roadway could be narrow, with no shoulder and have a high speed-limit but those three detriments to bikeability are just about totally negated if cars are only passing by every few minutes or so. Traffic volumes are critical and I think using that variable to evaluate the roadways is what has lead to such a good product here.

However, that's is not to say that I feel this map is perfect. I disagreed with the rating of a dozen or so roads and all of them were considered "major" roads. It is my opinion that a select number of these roads rated as "Unfavorable" are actually "Fair". Still that's not too bad when you consider this map literally evaluates hundreds if not thousands of roads, including most local residential streets too.

Case in point is Washington Ave from Princeton Borough to Princeton Junction, a road that I have ridden many times, even during rush hour. It's quite wide and has a shoulder for much of it (although the shoulder has too much debris and sand in it). I'd give it a "Fair" rating and not the "Unfavorable" rating given. The same goes for Cherry Hill Road on the other side of Princeton Borough. However, don't confuse Cherry Hill Road with Cherry Valley Road which was very appropriately rated at "Unfavorable."

Finally, I think it would be good to indicate which roads and trails are unpaved. This detail can be of great help for those of the skinny tire set. And dirt roads almost always have very little traffic which naturally makes them favorable routes for those riding bikes equipped for such surfaces.

Still, overall this map is a very good product and a job well done. Probably the best county bike map ever produced for a New Jersey County (county governments and TMAs take note!). I'm impressed and it really takes a lot to impress me.

Now all I ask is, "When is the print version coming out?"


Anonymous said...

When I look at the map, I only see (1) almost all minor roads being marked "favorable", and (2) _all_ major roads marked either "unbikeable" or "unfavorable" -- no "fair" or "excellent" major roads anywhere in the county. Was that the intended effect?

Anonymous said...

Re Washington Road -- the West Windsor Council this week passed a resolution asking the county to designate the section from the Princeton Junction train station to Faculty Road in Princeton (just past the D&R Canal) as a bike route. The bike lane signs could go up fairly soon by government-time standards, and there's even talk of changes to the Route 1 intersection (that's much more in flux). Check the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance website/facebook page for updates as we get them.