Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NJN News interviews New Jersey's own Dr. John Pucher on his latest research.

I had the great pleasure and honor studying under Prof. John Pucher at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Dr. Pucher or as he calls himself "Car-Free John" is one of the leading researchers when it comes to analyzing the effects of proactive bicycle and pedestrian policies with that of public health, transportation expenditures, transportation mode shares etc. usually comparing the policies of one country to another.



The story begins by following Dr. Pucher's bike commute and then profiles a Summit family that gets around by bicycle. The final segment focuses the popularity of bicycling and the poor road conditions in urban New Brunswick. Overall a good snapshot of bicycling in New Jersey. Now all we need is to convince our elected officials to muster up the political will to make bicycling a real transportation option.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Focus On - Princeton

As promised, the next installment in WalkBikeJersey’s “Focus On” special is of Princeton. To be more specific we will be focusing on Princeton Borough and in particular one neighborhood in close proximity to downtown.

The reason why I choose Princeton Borough for the second installment was due to some of the innovative and rare traffic calming features (at least in New Jersey) found in the neighborhood just to the southwest of downtown. This neighborhood is bounded by Stockton Street and Bayard Lane (Route 206), and by Great and Westcott Roads and contains some of the finest homes in all of New Jersey, which undoubtedly means that it also has some of its most wealthy residents. While there are only residential land uses in this neighborhood, nearly all the streets connect through to the other main thoroughfares leading in and out of this side of town. During rush hour, traffic backs up rather badly at the intersection where Route 206 meets the terminus of Route 27 (Nassau St). As such this neighborhood is subject to drivers looking to circumvent this congested intersection, particularly those traveling through town on Route 206.


View Princeton - Traffic Calmed Neigborhood in a larger map

To mitigate drivers speeding through the neighborhood about ten years ago Princeton Borough installed a number of advanced traffic calming devices. You won’t find a single primitive speedbump here! Instead borough officials used a coordinated ensemble of different devices such as mid-block neck-downs, mini traffic circles and low, cobbled traffic islands. Through connections on one or two streets have also been closed to motor vehicle traffic but the sidewalks have remained to allow bicyclists and pedestrians continued, convenient access. Overall, the application of all these traffic devices was refreshingly sophisticated and novel which is appropriate for a community with one of the greatest brain trusts in Western Civilization.

The most common traffic calming device used in the neighborhood were traffic islands located in the center of the streets, usually just in front or behind an intersection depending on ones approach. The islands are made with low lying Belgian block that is only an inch or two higher than the asphalt at the margins but then rises a few inches more near the center. The design details of this feature causes enough discomfort to discourage drivers of passenger cars from riding over them, therefore requiring them to slow down to avoid the islands, but will not cause any damage to a car if they do. However these traffic islands are easily driven over by large trucks or emergency vehicles like fire engines, on the rare occasions these vehicles must traverse these streets to reach a local destination.

This photo demonstrates some of the construction details common
to all of the traffic calming islands in this neighborhood.
The first set of Belgian blocks is about an inch above the grade of the asphalt
and the islands are crowned at the center about three or four inches more.

Neck-downs or a narrowing of the street on both sides are also used in several key locations. From what I observed, these neck-downs move the curb in towards the centerline of the roadway less than the width of a parallel-parked automobile but they still leave enough room for two oncoming cars to pass one another inside the device. In one location a neck-down not only slows traffic but also provides room for a sidewalk while eliminating to need to take down a large specimen tree that happened to be close to the street. Very clever!

This neck-down narrows the street about two feet on either side.
It would appear that the neck-down provided enough space to place a sidewalk on the
right side of the street without calling for the removal of the large trees in the background.

Finally, the most unique traffic calming device were mini traffic circles used at two, four-way intersection. While routinely used in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in Portland, this is the only application of this device that I have observed in New Jersey. Mini traffic circles are placed in the center of a four-way intersection usually without modifying the dimensions of the curbline at the corners. They are about eight to twelve feet in diameter and are typically landscaped with ornamental vegetation, often including a tree as was done at the two intersections in Princeton. Stop signs are replaced with yield signs and drivers are expected to yield to traffic already in the mini-circle, as is typically the custom, and proceed around the circle to the right in a counterclockwise direction.

This mini-circle is located at the intersection of Lafayette Road and Cleveland Lane.
Notice the various signage, crosswalks and the mini-circle itself with landscaping including tree.
Also notice how the landscaping could block a drivers view of pedestrians in the far crosswalk.

The original idea behind this device was to force drivers to slow down and drive with caution through the intersection, particularly those who are driving straight through the intersection and who may not have had a stop sign prior to the installation of the mini-circle. On the flip side, replacing stops signs with yield signs after installation of the mini-circle also allows for freer movement of traffic, eliminating unnecessary (and energy wasting) complete stops and replacing them with slow, cautious yields. Being able to cautiously and safely roll through an intersection can be especially beneficial to cyclists who like to maintain their hard earned momentum. Also, the additional greenspace and landscaping does add extra beauty to the neighborhood and at around 10 feet in diameter, the circle does provide enough room to plant large tree species which have the potential to provide cooling shade if allowed to grow to maturity.

Unfortunately the use of mini-circles has raised concerns about their effectiveness. Some professionals have questioned whether they are large enough to have a real traffic calming effect, particularly for traffic traveling straight through the intersection. Others question whether American drivers are knowledgeable enough about the custom of yielding to traffic in the circle and signaling at the point of exiting. I personally also have concerns about the circle and the landscaping in it blocking a driver’s view of pedestrians crossing on the opposite side of the intersection (I nearly had a bad incident with a pedestrian as I was driving through a slightly larger roundabout in Germany. There it is common to place a tall mound of landscaped earth in the circle center, which in turn blocked my view of the pedestrian on the opposite side of the intersection. The near miss left me shaken.).

When I was taking pictures of the mini-circles I happened to strike-up a conversation with a man who is a local resident. He told me that he thought that the mini-circles were a bad idea since drivers don’t seem to know how to behave driving though them. According to his observations, it seemed that the drivers essentially ignore the yield signs and simply barge straight into the circle regardless of any other traffic that may be present and often doing so at speed. He said that he felt that the intersection was much safer when it was controlled by stop signs on all four corners. This gentleman’s personal observation seemed to reflect the concerns brought up by others regarding mini-circles.

Maybe some further refinements are required to make mini-circles more effective. Augment the mini-circles with the cobbled traffic islands leading up to and behind the intersections to help guide and slow motorists. If that is not enough maybe the inclusion of a speedhump on the approach to the intersection might bring vehicle speeds into compliance with what is intended for the mini-circle.

Beyond this one neighborhood, Princeton Borough and much of the immediate surrounding township is a walking and a relative cycling paradise. These didn’t just happen overnight. Like the all great walking and biking cities in Europe, Princeton has been working for many decades to provide accommodations for pedestrians and cyclists. Other facilities and innovations exist throughout the community and continue to be installed with just about every roadway improvement project. While the local governments may not have formal “Complete Streets” policies (they could now, I don’t know), it is clear that the spirit of such policy has long been in place. This and a long-standing policy of enforcing a pedestrian’s right-of-way in a crosswalk (well before it was sexy), makes Princeton one of New Jersey’s the leading bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities.

This pedestrian refuge island, located at the intersection of Mercer and Nassau Streets,
is being constructed as part of a routine roadway rehabilitation project.
The prior crossing was very long and would leave pedestrians exposed to traffic
for a great deal of time as they crossed, even more so for elderly pedestrians.
The large paved area also allowed drivers to make turns at high speed.
The refuge island provides pedestrians literal refuge from traffic,
a place to rest which is critical for those who require more time to cross and
a prevents drivers from taking the turn at high speeds since they must now negotiate
driving around the island.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

AAA Pushes to Cut Bike & Ped Funding. Speak Up Now!

The below message comes from the good people at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy via our friends at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. You should also know that the impetus behind this push to cut bike/ped planning is coming from the AAA Mid-Atlantic Offices which has an unfortunate history of opposing spending on bike/ped projects.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) wants Congress to cut long-standing programs that support trails, biking and walking in order to divert those funds to the highway system. (Read the background.)

These programs have played a major role in the development of more than 19,000 miles of rail-trail across the country, most likely including your favorite local trail. These trails and other walking and bicycling facilities allow individuals across the country to enjoy the outdoors and safely and easily travel without a car for many short trips—while saving money and gas, and getting exercise in the process.

AAA has forgotten that bicyclists and trail lovers drive, support AAA, pay gas taxes and want balanced transportation systems that provide the choice to get around in a variety of ways.

Help us help them remember! Sign the Petition

Petition sponsored by the Rails to Trails Conservancy

Register now for the NJ Complete Streets Summit!

The below message comes from Peter Bilton and the other good folks working hard at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. This event is geared toward municipal and county officials so make sure local representatives know about it and get them to attend!

You should also know that Michael Ronkin, the keynote speaker, is with little doubt one of the leading experts in the field of Complete Streets, and bicycle and pedestrian planning and accommodation. Don't miss out on an opportunity to here one of the best in the world speak on this topic... and for free, no less!


Register now for the NJ Complete Streets Summit! (Or go to http://tinyurl.com/cssummit.) This is a free event.

NJ Complete Streets Summit
Friday, October 22, 2010
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
(Registration begins at 8:30 AM)

Rutgers Student Center
126 College Ave.
New Brunswick, NJ


The New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Voorhees Transportation Center, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration, are pleased to announce the NJ Complete Streets Summit, cosponsored by the NJ Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Metropolitan Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

The Department of Transportation recently adopted a Complete Streets Policy, and would like to spread the word about this program, encouraging more counties and municipalities to adopt their own policies. The summit will educate engineers, planners, and elected officials about Complete Streets, its benefits and costs, and how to overcome barriers to implementing a Complete Streets policy. Topics will include an introduction to Complete Streets, policies and supporting processes, design and planning, cost and funding, and liability.

Michael Ronkin, an internationally-recognized consultant and speaker on innovative, practical street design, will be the keynote speaker. Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (invited) and NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson will give welcoming remarks.

Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users - pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that agencies routinely design and maintain the entire right of way to enable safe access for anyone who may use it. Having a Complete Streets policy can benefit a community in many ways, including making their grant applications for state funding more competitive. A Complete Streets program is also eligible for points toward Sustainable Jersey certification and can help a municipality meet its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Register here for this exciting Summit by October 8th! The event is free and space is limited. AICP and ITE credits are pending.

For more information, please see the attached flyer. You can also contact us at bikeped@rci.rutgers.edu or (732) 932-6812 ext. 586.

Hope to see you there,
Peter Bilton
Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Monday, September 20, 2010

Biergarten Ride a Great Success

Google "Bike There" Directions Live Up to the Hype
Old New Jersey Suburbs Prove VERY Bikeable

This past Friday I had the pleasure of leading Zoe, Ryan, Marie (all of Brick City Bike Collective) and Mike on the Biergarten ride. All had a blast on the ride and at the Biergarten itself. Zoe was particularly excited about the cake which she didn't expect.

Turnout was a little light, most likely due to the fact that the Tour of Newark was early the next day. This was probably not a bad thing since it got dark rather quickly this late in the year and I was barely comfortable keeping just the five of us together.

What was most remarkable about the trip was the quality of the route chosen by Google and of the beautiful neighborhood streets we rode through. Except for exiting Newark, which left little choice but to ride on busy streets through the old industrial section south of the city center on our way to Weequahic Park, most other streets chosen by the system were the most quite residential neighborhood streets. There were some exceptions and we had to ride on some busier secondary roads but even those were mostly wide in nature and had only moderate volumes of traffic (at least when we rode through around 7pm). I did make a small change in the route near our final destination because Google took us down Raritan Ave through Clark, which I know is no pleasure to ride on as it is four lanes, 35mph and no shoulders with high traffic volumes. A simple route modification to avoid this road was easy and made for a more perfect route.


View Larger Map
Approximate route from Newark to the Deutsche Club of Clark.
Note the route change denoted by the dot.


What was also remarkable was the beautiful nature of the neighborhoods we rode through. This ride was a bit of a venture in discovery for me and for the others that did the ride. So it was a pleasure for all to find that nearly every home was meticulously maintained through all the towns we rode through. The towns we rode through included Newark, Elizabeth (for 1000 feet), Hillside, Union, Roselle Park, Roselle (two different towns), Linden and finally Clark.

The fine quality of the ride only affirmed my belief that New Jersey's older suburban towns, which we have many, are by their very nature VERY bicycle friendly and are in many ways more superior to the towns we dream about in the Western states. All that needs to be done, for the most part, would be to formalize some routes and paint modest, in road lanes and other infrastructure. To make New Jersey the most bike friendly state in the nation really doesn't need to be a Herculean task as many believe it must.

Once there everyone had a blast at the Deutsche Club off Clark Biergarten which attracted over 800 people on a cool late summer's evening. When it was time to go home, I escorted everyone to the Rahway Train Station which Marie noted, "Was all down hill."

All who went along agreed that this ride must be held again next year and now that we know the route, we are hoping to attract many more riders. It will also help to do the trip earlier in the summer so we can avoid riding there in any darkness. Fortunately, the Deutsche Club holds several Biergarten events in the summer, usually one a month, so there are plenty of dates to choose from.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

D&R Canal Towpath Resurfaced this past Summer

At some point this past summer a portion of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath was resurfaced and the width standardized using a crushed red shale aggregate. The installation of the new surface has been confirmed from Landing Lane in New Brunswick, all the way down to the Griggstown Causeway but could extend further south than that.

The new smooth red shale surface on the D&R Canal Towpath.
This section is between New Brunswick and South Bound Brook,
just behind the Rutgers Preparatory School on Easton Avenue.


The new surface is a real pleasure to ride on and is even stable enough for cyclists using narrow road tires even though I wouldn't recommend using a road-bike on the towpath over long distances. With the new smooth surface, riding the canal towpath can now be done at faster speeds and is wide enough for two riders to comfortably ride abreast of one another.

Also, red shale is native to the Piedmont Region that the canal passes through so it looks natural and not out of place like some of the other materials used on the path in the past. I find this to be a nice aesthetic detail and give the D&R Canal Commission a "Thumbs-Up!" for getting this detail right.

Here the new surface was put down underneath this long and bumpy stone spillway.
While currently a pleasant and clever alternative to the spillway, this new surface
is likely to erode away the first time the canal level breaches the spillway.


My only concern is that a binder agent was not added to the red shale aggregate to stabilize the material from water caused erosion. Already there was some evidence if minor erosion in scattered locations and there has been very little rain in this area all Summer. It would seem that come the first major rain event, the amount of erosion will become much more noticeable and I have little hope of this material will remain in place during any flooding, which is very common along the entire length of the canal.

Woodbury Man Killed By Drunk Driver in Deptford

The following was originally posted by John Boyle on the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle News:


Another person on a bike struck and killed by a motorist in a wide shoulder.

According to the Camden Courier Post Thomas McCoy 44 0f Woodbury was struck and killed on Tuesday at 11:30 PM in the shoulder of Route 47 near Turkey Hill Rd by car the drifted into the shoulder. The alleged motorist fled but her vehicle was found about a mile up the road and she was arrested. The suspect was charged with death by auto, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and driving while intoxicated.


View Bicyclists Crashes 2008-2010 NJ and SE PA in a larger map

We extend our sympathies to Mr.McCoy's family. Every traffic death on our highways is one too many.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

UPDATE! Fahrrad fahrt zum Biergarten

We will be meeting in front of Newark City Hall at 6pm THIS Friday September 17th (not at 5pm as previously mentioned in the previous post about this ride). This is the only change to how this ride will be organized. Complete details below.

The sign of a truly civilized society. An actual bicycle way-finding sign
in Bamberg, Germany showing bicyclists the best way to the biergarten.


We will be riding with members of the Brick City Bicycle Collective from Newark to the Biergarten at the Deutsche Club of Clark, where I'm a member. The plan is to meet in Newark, in front of City Hall at 6pm and ride the 15 or so miles to the Deutsche Club at a fun, casual, 3-speed and family friendly pace using mostly quite residential streets.


View Larger Map
Approximate route from Newark to the Deutsche Club of Clark.


Besides having the greatest bier culture in the world, Germany is also host to one of the world's finest bicycle cultures. When I visit Germany I will often go for a ride with with friends and/or family on the country's spectacular bicycle infrastructure. On some evenings our final destination would be the biergarten. As such, this is something fun of German culture that I would love to share.

As for the biergarten itself, German biergartens are fun and family friendly environment so children are welcomed. There will be live music at the event along with German foods and plenty of bier (note - vegetarians will have some but limited options). Last call is at 10pm but festivities typically go longer. At the end of the evening people I will escort people the 3.3 miles to the Rahway Train Station so they can take the train back to Newark (and I back to New Brunswick). People also have the option of taking the train from Westfield on the Raritan Valley Line which is slightly closer at 2.7 miles. Either way you will be going home at night so a proper assortment of front and rear lights are a must if you wish to participate.

Don't miss out on this opportunity for a fun filled ride with New Jersey's largest and most authentic German Biergarten as your final destination. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to "ajbesold at yahoo dot com" so I have an idea how many wish to attend.

And while bikes and bier are some of the greatest things that make life worth living, it should go without saying, but drunk bicycle riding
IS DWI and will not be tolerated on the ride back to the train station. There will be police on site to enforce this!

Bike Morristown presents Bike-O-Rama Week

Good friend of WalkBikeJersey, Kendra from Bike Morristown forward to me some of the hip and groovy bicycle fun happening up in Morristown all week starting this Saturday and culminating in the Third Annual, Art of the Bicycle show. Check it out below and also checkout the details in these two stories (ONE, TWO) from the Morristown Green.

bike o rama

art of the bicycle poster

art of bicycle poster 2


Car Free Day sponsored by Keep Middlesex Moving

This comes to us from the folks at Keep Middlesex Moving. Unfortunately I couldn't find the direct link for you to register for the event on their website. I assume you must either live or work in Middlesex County to qualify for the contest. My apologies for the bad formatting.



Car Free Day 2010

September 22, 2010 is
World Car Free Day

KMM is celebrating Car Free Week by encouraging commuters to reduce auto use by going Car Free or Car Lite for just one day during the week of September 20, 2010.
Everyone who takes the pledge to go Car Free
is eligible to win a host of great prizes:

Grand Prize Winner - Bed and Breakfast Package from The Heldrich in New Brunswick which includes an overnight stay for two and brunch.

Other prizes are:
  • Dinner for two at Glass Woods Tavern Restaurant, Hyatt New Brunswick
  • Two tickets to see a show at Playhouse 22 in East Brunswick
More Prizes will be announced soon!

Special thanks to The Heldrich, Hyatt New Brunswick and Playhouse 22 for their donations.

Here are ways you can go Car Free or Car Lite:

Bring a Brown Bag for lunch
Use public transportation - a train, a bus, or light rail
Ride a bike or take a walk
Carpool or Vanpool
Work from home

Remember, pledging to do just one of the items
listed above makes a difference!

Take the Pledge and Go Car Free

Visit the KMM website and register today.
Deadline for registration is Friday, September 25, 2010.
www.kmm.org

Friday, September 10, 2010

This Tuesday! Bicycle Night with the Somerset Patriots

Just a reminder but this Tuesday, September 14th, the NJ Bike and Walk Coalition and the Somerset Patriots baseball team will be hosting bicycle night. For more info see my previous blog post or the Somerset Patriots Special Group Page.

Don't forget the Coalition will be a doing short 5mile ride before the game so it may be best to get there by 6pm.

I will be cycling to the event from New Brunswick at 5pm (to get there by 6pm) using the Delaware and Raritan Canal Tow Path going there and possibly for a portion of the return trip. Accordingly, a bicycle able to traverse an unpaved multi-use path with some bumpy sections will be necessary. Lights, front and rear, are an absolute must to ride with me since we will be returning late. Also, riders should be comfortable with riding on sections of busier roads even though I will try to keep them to an absolute minimum. The ride is about 8 miles each way from New Brunswick to the Stadium. I will be leaving from in front of the College Avenue Student Center at Rutgers University, sharply at 5pm. If interested please RSVP to " ajbesold at yahoo dot com ". Last minute arrivals are always welcomed but again I will be leaving at 5pm sharp!


View Larger Map

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Help Save The Lacey Rail Trail Project

An Appeal from the Rails to Trails Conservancy

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy calls your urgent attention to some disappointing news in New Jersey, where the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has reversed its previous denial of a Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit to Lacey Township.

In the settlement, the NJDEP now plans to allow Lacey to build a two-mile road in the railroad corridor that would have been a segment of Ocean County's Barnegat Branch Trail. If the road is built on this section, the trail can not be.

This development would also mean the loss of thousands of trees and would be a serious blow to the integrity of the overall trail, other segments of which are now under construction.

To learn more, please see these two recent stories from the Asbury Park Press:

DEP Reversal Ignores History

Lacey-DEP agreement clear way for road construction

As a trail supporter--especially of trails in New Jersey--we ask that you send an e-mail or letter to the NJDEP calling on them to deny this permit, as they originally did. For more information, addresses and a sample letter, visit the Lacey Rail-Trail Environmental Committee website at www.laceyrailtrail.org. The deadline for public comment is next week, so do not delay!

We also urge you to attend a public rally this coming Saturday, September 11, to save the Barnegat Branch Trail.

When: Saturday, Sept. 11, at 2 p.m.
What: "Save It! Don't Pave It! Once the trail is gone, it will be gone forever!"
Where: 828 Route 9 in Lanoka Harbor, N.J. Parking is available on Warren Avenue between Route 9 and South Street.


View Barnegat Branch Rail Trail in a larger map

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Focus On - Hoboken

TOTALLY unbeknown to me, the NJ Bike and Walk Coalition just started a series also called "Focus On" that they just published yesterday for the first time. I've been working on this first installment for over three weeks, well before I knew anything of their series so I not going to let them steal my thunder! :) Andy B.

This is first installment in what I hope I have time to turn into a running series. Since WalkBikeJersey generally looks a issues, stories and events of statewide importance, I thought it might be a good idea to try to place more focus on individual towns and projects that have the power to inspire and teach how to best accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians elsewhere. If one town or county has done something innovative here in New Jersey, maybe others will be more incline to give those treatments a try in their own communities. However, first they need to know about it!


To start this series, I thought that one could choose no better a place than Hoboken. While other towns may also have bike riding mayors and even their own Complete Streets policies, no other town is both as pedestrian friendly as Hoboken AND has started to build a comprehensive network of bike friendly facilities. Accordingly, there is much to talk about with regards to Hoboken and this first installment did get a bit longer than I would have liked. Still, if you’re a bike/ped planning wonk, I think (hope!) you’ll find this in-depth article interesting.


Anyway, for its groundbreaking work, Hoboken should be lauded and is why I honor it as being the first location covered in this new series. However, I still intend the coverage to be productively critical. If something is not up to best practice standards, it will be pointed out so that you, the readers (and hopefully local officials) can learn what the best practices are and most importantly, the logic behind these standards.


Without further delay; Focus On – Hoboken!



If you read the NJ Bike Ped News Digest regularly like I do, you will know that Hoboken’s Mayor, Dawn Zimmer rides her bike everywhere around town including most if not all of her official duties and functions. Who could blame her? In city only a mile square, built on a tradition grid, with no significant barriers, cycling is undoubtedly the quickest way around town and definitely the most fun. With a cycling mayor who was previously on the City Council, Hoboken has already done much to accommodate cyclists including using some very innovative road treatments. However, even though Hoboken is naturally well suited to transportation cycling, it is still much more (at the moment) a pedestrian town and that really can’t be forgotten.

The way many, if not most people enter Hoboken is through the Hoboken Rail and Bus Terminal. This terminal services seven NJ TRANSIT commuter rail lines, the Hudson Bergen Light Rail, a number of bus routes stations AND the PATH train. It is obviously a major hub of activity in Hoboken and is the portal by which a vast number of people enter the small city. Walking through the station one of the first sights people will see is a large amount of bicycle parking in and around the station. Some of the best parking is inside the station, sheltered from all weather on an unused station platform. This is by far some of the best bicycle parking at any NJ TRANSIT rail station. Unfortunately the bicycle parking provided does not come close to meeting demand, particularly in the Summer, as bicycles are crammed onto all available rack locations and also locked to anything else cyclists can securely lock their bicycles too (the below photo seems to be an exception from earlier in the summer).

Well placed, sheltered bicycle parking inside the Hoboken Terminal in early Summer.
Come August these racks were moved to a similar location close by
to make way for construction but were then loaded to capacity with bikes.


Another interesting aspect of the Hoboken Terminal is that the Hudson River Walkway goes right through the front (waterfront) end of the Terminal. The walkway comes up from Jersey City and the newly opened Pavonia Promenade from the south, passes the Light Rail portion of the terminal and continues north, right through the covered main rail terminal. What I found interesting is that while the walkway is also open to cyclists, there are no only very small and hard to see dismount signs for cyclists as they enter the covered and most busy portion of the terminal (it took several trips to the area for me to finally notice them). Amazingly (sarcasm alert!), cyclists manage not to crash into pedestrians or each other as they pass through the terminal even though there were always a few passing through the terminal at any given moment (at least while I was there). In fact, most if not all cyclists naturally understood that riding through this area is not the best idea, and dismounted and walked through the busy terminal. Still this is an area where a well placed and highly visible dismount sign on both ends of the terminal would probably be a good idea.

The Hudson River Walkway passes right through the terminal.

Notice the small dismount sign dangling over the water?
I didn't the first 3 times I passed by either.

Moving north beyond the terminal but staying along the waterfront, Hoboken has what I feel is the best-designed section of the Hudson River Walkway, particularly for cyclists. Here there is a separated tree-shaded bikeway, very similar in design to the Westside Greenway in Manhattan. Unfortunately, the bikeway is only a quarter mile long and pedestrians seem to prefer the bikeway rather than use the walkway along the beautiful waterfront.

The well design bikeway is nearly always full of pedestrians.

Leaving the waterfront and the terminal behind one finds Hoboken to be a vibrant and pleasant city. During the several times I visited this Summer, I couldn’t help but feel that today’s Hoboken is very much like the “old neighborhood” many of our parents and grandparents love to reminisce about. While Hoboken is known for being a trendy and chic place to live, it seems to balance it’s recently found “hipness” with a salt-of-the-earth character that comes from its old-timers that managed to pull through the lean times and into the city’s renaissance.

Sidewalks are ubiquitous throughout town and being as dense and small as Hoboken is, it is not surprising to read that 95% of all trips within town are done on foot. Washington Street, Hoboken’s Main Street, is lined with all sorts of shops, restaurants, groceries, etc. Along much of Washington the extra wide sidewalks have been maintained, which gives plenty of room for commerce to literally spill out of shops without obstructing pedestrian movement in the slightest and restaurants and caf├ęs have plenty of room to set up plenty tables on this extra wide sidewalk. On some blocks however, the sidewalks appear to have been narrowed at some point in the past to provide room for more cars in the form of angled parking. While these sections of sidewalk do not appear noticeably narrow on these blocks, it is immediately apparent that the areas with the wider sidewalks are much more pleasant and have a better pedestrian environment since there is much more room for all to do business and walk around.

One of the most innovative things I saw was the use of flexible bollards placed in the street to prevent people from parking too close to corners and stop signs. Used in a few locations this is an absolutely brilliant idea and one I’ve only read about but never saw used in practice. Any town with aggressive illegal parking should take note! It’s only a shame that they were used in only two or three locations because illegal parking at corners and in crosswalks was rampant when I was there last and causes obvious safety issues for pedestrians and other traffic as well.

These flexible bollards are enough to prevent the owner of a $100,000+
Italian sports car from parking illegally in front of the stop-sign but would
the driver of a beat-up old delivery or pick-up truck even care?


Moving back bikes, the one thing that really sets Hoboken apart from almost any other New Jersey municipality is the comprehensive bicycle network the city is planning. Like with any bicycle transportation network anywhere, Hoboken’s is a work in progress. What is very interesting is that Hoboken has been bold enough to be the first in New Jersey to try some innovative bicycle amenities like “sharrows”. Unfortunately, due to political compromise or whatever other reasons, the execution of these bicycle amenities could have been done better.

Where the heck is the bicycle rack? Its way down the street behind the guy in the red shirt.
Oh! That's too far. I'll just park my bike here. By the way, nice wide sidewalks!

Staying on Washington Street for a moment, the first thing any cyclist will notice is the lack of a bike lane. Again, being the center of commerce in the city, there is obvious bicycle traffic demand. Bicycles were parked everywhere along the street (and I mean everywhere - more on that in a moment) and this was the only street that I can distinctly remember seeing numbers of other cyclists ride along. Unfortunately, this was one of the places where I once heard that political compromise prevented the installation of a bicycle lane or other bicycle traffic amenity. Cyclists can still approach Washington from one of the quieter side streets to their destination but if they need to go to two or more places on Washington, they would either have to go out of there way back around to those side streets or brave busy traffic. There seems to be enough room for cyclists (and for a bike lane for that matter) so most cyclists just deal with the traffic.

Also, while there is bicycle parking on every commercial block on Washington, unfortunately for whatever reason there is only one bicycle rack and it is placed in the center of the block. The blocks on Washington are long and if one’s destination is closer to a corner, it is impossible to even see the rack down the street. Bicycle parking cannot be approached in the same way car parking is done. Cyclists are much more like pedestrian in this respect and they simply ride directly to their destination before seeking a place to park. Once at their final destination they simply park their bikes to the first secure object they see. If it’s a bike rack, they will usually prefer to lock the bike to it if there is room, but if the rack is not noticeable or close enough so the owner can keep an eye on there bike while at their destination, they will just park to whatever is close by. Unfortunately, Hoboken is not alone in NOT getting all the details right about bicycle parking and mistakes like that described above and others are far too common in New Jersey.

Here on Washington Street, I’d suggest eliminating the central bicycle racks which are the substandard “wave” design (see the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals bicycle parking guide, 1st edition will do) and install a series of the much more secure and industry standard “inverted U” racks at even intervals along the entire length of the block. While a series of racks will certainly cost more to install upfront (and is probably the reason for the single bicycle rack) it should eliminate most of the unwanted bicycle parking on street signs, benches, trees and parking meters, and the damage (costs) to these objects that unwanted bicycle parking always causes. Finally, proper and clearly available bike parking also prevents bicycles from obstructing pedestrian movements that comes from people parking bikes to whatever they can loop their bicycle locks around.

While I haven’t been on every street in Hoboken, I have traveled to every corner of the small city by bicycle. On the two streets that I found with bicycle lanes, Hoboken places them on the left side of the street (Hoboken is mostly one-way streets). However they are placed squarely in the “door zone”. (Not to go into too much detail but the logic for placing he lanes on the left comes from New York City across the Hudson. The reasoning behind this practice is threefold: 1 – Drivers can see a cyclist better if the cyclist on the driver’s side of the car, 2- the cyclist is less likely to get “doored” since there aren’t always passengers exiting parked cars but there is always a driver, 3- and most importantly, moving cyclists to the left eliminates conflicts with cross town buses that stop at every other corner.). When I was on the streets with bike lanes, the traffic was rather sparse, almost non-existent. This factor alone seems to question the need for the lanes at all. I just took the regular traffic lane with absolutely no complaints from drivers since there were none.

Does this section of Grand Street require a bike lane with little to no traffic?

However, I did once read an article that Hoboken is also hoping that the lanes would calm traffic on these streets when it is there. This too is a very valid reason to install bicycle lanes. However on Grand Street, even with a bike lane and car parking on both sides, the remaining travel lane seemed very wide and still conducive to speeding by uncaring drivers. A better solution to me would have been to make the bike lane even wider (on the streets that have the room), preferably with a gore-stripped buffer from the parked cars to avoid all dooring. On narrower streets with little traffic, well-placed “sharrows” would seem to be a better option over bike lanes.

Where bike lanes are the best option on wider one-way streets, I’d personally like to see theme placed on the right side of the road. If there is already room to move bikes away from the door zone with a buffer then dooring is no longer an issue and that would eliminate that reason for putting them on the left. Hoboken also doesn’t have any regular cross-town buses running on its one-way streets with bike lanes (as far as I could observe), which eliminates this reason too. There is also an expectation by both cyclists and drivers that cyclists will be on the right side of the road unless they are turning left. Finally, I have also observed from riding in New York City, that when a bike lane is on the left, drivers feel more comfortable coming uncomfortably close to a cyclist while they leave 6 feet of space and more for the parked cars to the right side of their cars.

Finally and possibly most interesting for New Jersey cyclists is Hoboken’s use of “sharrows” on narrow one-way streets where there is not enough room for a bike lane or even enough room for a car driver to safely pass a cyclist. Hoboken should be given credit for being one of the first New Jersey municipalities to have the guts to try using this new traffic control device. Unfortunately here again the important details in properly applying this device have been lost. On the very narrow one-way streets where sharrows are used they are placed so far to the right side of the travel lane that the right eight to twelve inches of the sharrows were often under the left side wheels of parked cars. If a cyclist were to use the sharrows as intended by riding directly over the center of the sharrow cyclists would be so far over to the right side of the roadway that they would be in danger of striking the rear-view mirrors of the parked cars, never mind that they would be at serious risk or doorings. Even further, cyclists are so far over to the right of the narrow lanes that their lane placement would encourage overly aggressive drivers to attempt to pass when there is clearly not enough room to do so at all. Also don’t forget that Hoboken’s bike lanes are on the left, so why switch things around for sharrow use? This only adds an extra and unnecessary element of unpredictability. While the placement of the sharrows may meet the absolute minimum distance of 11ft from the curb to the center of the sharrow (and I'm doubtful that they are at that minimum) according to the 2009 MUTCD (see page 22 of Part 9), one should remember that this is a recommended MINIMUM distance on streets with parallel parking and not the maximum.

"Sharrows" positioned to the extreme right of the narrow traffic lane.
This sharrow placement was typical around Hoboken. In some places, parked
cars actually had their left tires on top of the right side of the sharrow.

Again, Hoboken is a fun and easy town to walk and bike around. I don’t want to give readers the idea that this is not the case. I also don’t want to sound ungrateful for the statewide, groundbreaking innovations that Hoboken had the fortitude to install in an effort to promote bicycle and pedestrian safety.

However I feel that New Jersey bicyclists and bicycle advocates in particular deserve to hear a knowledgeable, and unbiased and unbridled opinion when it comes to the finer points of bicycle facility design. Again, too often bicycle facilities are installed in New Jersey that are less than ideal and in some cases downright dangerous. Unfortunately, there are few people in New Jersey that have the understanding of the finer points of bicycle and pedestrian facility design that are also at liberty to openly and critically discuss these shortcomings. It is my hope to us this blog and the “Focus On” series to help discuss these finer points in an open, unbiased and most of all, productive way.

Next in the series: Focus On - Princeton

New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition Seeks Executive Director

The New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition is seeking an Executive Director to continue its rapid growth as a statewide advocacy voice in New Jersey. The successful candidate will be an innovative self-starter, eager to take on the challenge of leading and growing NJBWC into a strong and effective statewide advocacy presence.

The New Jersey Bicycle Coalition (NJBC) was formed in February, 2009, as a nonprofit, 501(c) 3 whose mission is to promote bicycling and walking as healthy, efficient and environmentally sustainable means of transportation and recreation. In 2010, NJBC became the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition (NJBWC) to encompass pedestrian advocacy in its mission.

The Coalition’s goal is to make New Jersey a better place to live through safer, more enjoyable ways to bicycle and walk. Affiliated with the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking, NJBWC works to:

  • PROTECT the rights and safety of New Jersey bicyclists and walkers
  • PROMOTE bicycling and walking for fun, fitness and transportation
  • EDUCATE bicyclists, walkers and motorists about rights and responsibilities
  • CONNECT our communities with a smarter transportation system

In NJBWC’s first year, it organized New Jersey’s first Bicycle Summit, and began working with national, state, regional and local organizations and agencies to promote pro-bicyclist and pedestrian legislation and policies. We have recruited over 225 dues paying members and were awarded, in April 2010, a start-up matching grant from the Alliance for Biking and Walking in Washington, DC. In addition, REI Inc. awarded NJBWC a $5,000 grant in August 2010 to support its bicycle education efforts.

The successful candidate for our Executive Director position will be the first employee of the Coalition and will be responsible for the overall operation, initiatives, programs and relationships for the organization.

He or she should:

1. Have a sincere commitment to the mission of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition and a willingness to take on the work necessary for the fulfillment of its goals.
2. Be passionate about the Coalition’s goals and be willing to work diligently to
achieve them.
3. Be prepared to raise significant funds for public interest or advocacy work from a diverse range of funding sources, including private foundations, corporations, government grants, individual contributions and events.
4. Demonstrate success developing and managing nonprofit organizations, including the ability to accomplish goals working within a limited budget.
5. Establish and maintain a cooperative working relationship with the Board of
Directors, members, volunteers and others.
6. Possess experience and expertise as an advocate, familiarity with building coalitions and partnerships while employing different advocacy approaches and techniques.
7. Demonstrate superior communications skills, both oral and written.
8. Demonstrate leadership skills necessary to recruit and organize members, volunteers and to develop future leaders. Experience managing, supervising and hiring professional staff and/or consultants.
9. Possess a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field. Other direct experience and qualifications may be considered in lieu of a college degree for an otherwise qualified candidate.


The responsibilities of the Executive Director position will be as follows:

1. Raise funds to enable NJBWC to carry out its mission. As a relatively young organization, NJBWC is highly dependent upon increasing sources of revenue from memberships, sponsorships, grants and other sources of funds. This will be an extremely important part of the Executive Director’s overall responsibilities and, to some extent; he or she will be raising his or her own salary.
2. Working closely with the NJBWC Board of Directors to develop and implement key goals and strategies
3. Membership Recruitment/Retention and Volunteer Development
4. Representing and promoting the interests of New Jersey bicyclists and
pedestrians on state and national legislative issues.
5. Development of the NJBWC budget, in concert with the organization’s Treasurer
and Board of Directors, and adherence to that budget.
6. Management of several related projects simultaneously, creating positive
outcomes for the organization (Program Management)
7. Building and maintaining partnerships with local organizations, elected officials,
NJDOT, state Transportation Management Associations and other agencies.
8. Inspire, manage and lead staff, volunteers, ensuring that the mission and goals
are met.
9. Serve as chief media spokesperson for NJBWC, communicating the organization’s goals and priorities to diverse audiences.

Compensation
1. $45,000 - $55,000 p.a., commensurate with experience
2. Additional allocation for benefits

To Apply
Send a resume and cover letter to exec@njbike.org. Please include the words “Executive Director Position” in the subject line. Electronic submissions only; no mailed or faxed submissions will be accepted. No phone calls, please.

The New Jersey Bicycle Coalition does not discriminate on the basis of race, color,
religion, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, disability,
sex, age or any other protected classification.

Please furnish three (3) references and samples of writing skills

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

UPDATED! Fahrrad fahrt zum Biergarten!

UPDATE! The only change to the biergarten ride will be the meeting time. We will be meeting in front of Newark City Hall at 6:00 pm, NOT 5:00pm as previously stated.

Translation - Bicycle ride to the biergarten!

A few months ago I made a casual remark to Zoe Baldwin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Brick City Bicycle Collective that we should join forces and organize a bike ride from Newark to the Biergarten at the Deutsche Club of Clark, where I'm a member.

An actual bicycle way-finding sign in Bamberg, Germany
showing bicyclists the way to the biergarten.


Well it looks like we are going to try and make this happen. The next and last biergarten of the season at the Deutsche Club will be on Friday, September 17th. The plan is to meet in Newark, possibly in front of City Hall at around 6pm and ride the 15 or so miles to the Deutsche Club at a fun and casual, 3-speed friendly pace using mostly quite residential streets (exact details on the meeting location and time will be forthcoming).

Besides having a great if not the greatest bier culture in the world, Germany is also host to one of the world's best bicycle cultures. When I visit Germany I will often go for a ride with with friends and/or family on the country's spectacular bicycle infrastructure. On some evenings our final destination would be the biergarten. As such, this is something fun of German culture that I would love to share.

As for the beirgarten itself, German biergartens are fun and family friendly environment so children are welcomed. There will be live music at the event along with German foods and plenty of bier (note - vegetarians will have some but limited options). Last call is at 10pm but festivities typically go longer. At the end of the evening people I will escort people to the 3.3 miles to the Rahway Train Station so they can take the train back to Newark (and I back to New Brunswick). People also have the option of taking the train from Westfield on the Raritan Valley Line which is slightly closer at 2.7 miles. Either way you will be going home at night so a proper assortment of front and rear lights are a must if you wish to participate.


View Larger Map
Tentative route from Newark to the Deutsche Club of Clark.


Don't miss out on this opportunity for a fun filled ride with New Jersey's largest and most authentic German Biergarten as your final destination. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to "ajbesold at yahoo dot com" so I have an idea how many wish to attend.

And while bikes and bier are some of the greatest things that make life worth living, it should go without saying, but drunk bicycle riding
IS DWI and will not be tolerated on the ride back to the train station.

LAB Supports 21st Century Transportation Policy: Asks for Support

This comes from our friends at the League of American Bicyclists:

Healthy Alternative to Big Oil!
Support H.R. 4722, the Active Community Transportation Act

Earlier this year Representatives Blumenauer (D-OR), Capuano (D-MA), Carnahan (D-MO), Cohen (D-TN), Filner (D-CA), Lipinski (D-IL), and Moran (D-VA), introduced the Active Community Transportation Act (H.R. 4722) which would provide long term concentrated funding to assist communities in implementing active transportation networks.

Currently there are 62 co-sponsors of the Bill and Congressman Blumenauer is starting a second push to add additional co-sponsors by the end of the August Congressional District Work period.
Please contact your Representative over the next few weeks to urge them to sign on to this important piece of legislation that will help communities across the country provide healthy transportation options that also help reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

Thank you in advance for your help in adding your Representative to the list of co-sponsors. Also, if your Member has already signed on please just take a moment to send them a note thanking them for co-sponsoring H.R. 4722.