NJDOT has released its long anticipated New Jersey Bicycle Manual. This manual was produced with the assistance of the New Jersey Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Safety Education Sub-Committee with members representing Bike New York, Hohne Consulting, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, New Jersey Department of Transportation and The RBA Group. This manual is only available on-line as the general policy within state government is to no longer print certain documents as a means to save precious tax payer dollars.
Unlike previous NJ Bicycle Manuals, this one is not written for children only. It presents the information in clear and concise manner for a general audience with diagrams and text that cover nearly all situations a bicyclist would encounter on the streets and multi-use trails. Overall this is a well produced document however it does have one major omission. Beyond that oversight, the manual is excellent and pretty much follows the principals of Smart Cycling as developed by the League of American Bicyclists. There is even a section at the end talking about pedestrians safety and what bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians themselves can do to keep pedestrians safe.
Topics covered include the following:
- Traveling by Bicycle / Purpose of This Manual
- Selecting, Fitting & Equipping Your Bike
- Quick Maintenance Checks
- Off to a Good Start
- Traffic Basics
- Sharing the Road
- Parking Your Bike
- Difficult Situations
- Riding at Night & in Rain and Snow
- Riding with Others
- Riding on Shared-Use Paths
- NJ Bicycling Law & Roadway Restrictions
- Traffic Signals, Signs and Road Markings
|Shared Lane Marking or "Sharrow"|
Beyond that, any other issues with the manual are rather minor. In a few places the manual seems to be missing some diagrams and pictures that could go a long way in better explaining what's described in the text. For example some of the more advanced traffic maneuvers are not clearly depicted in some of the diagrams. In other cases they are not even shown in a diagram at all, like when trying to demonstrate a "Copenhagen Left" also called a Box or Pedestrian Left.
Same with the section on parking and locking a bike. The text discussing the best practices on this topic is superb and spot on with what I teach people to do, but the photos don't show a properly locked up bike all that well. For example the picture of that sweet looking Italian road bike (hint, hint) is too small to show that there is also a cable securing the front wheel and saddle. Also the advice about NOT locking bikes to trees is good but only gives half the story. Not only does locking a bike to tree have the potential to permanently damage the tree but thieves have been known to cut down smaller trees to steal the bike!
|Hot Bike! To bad it's hard to see how the cable was used to secure the front wheel and saddle.|
I also found that there could be some confusion in some section of text. In the "Sharing the Road" chapter, there is a section that talks about a motorists' responsibilities when sharing the road with cyclists but it is not clearly labeled nor defined. A a big bold clear title like "Motorists' Responsibilities When Sharing The Road With Bicyclists" might have been helpful to clear up any possible confusion. And on page 46 there is a sectioned title "Blind" and its totally unclear at first that this refers to "Blind Intersections." Finally the section on the different classes of roadway signs could be explained a little better.
Overall I still consider the manual to be an excellent document and has much to teach bike riders. Even without a section on bike lanes, routes and sharrows I would still highly recommend to all interested in cycling, beginner to expert. Still, I feel the lack of any discussion on bicycle lanes or "sharrows" is a pretty big oversight and left me disappointed.
If I were a teacher giving it a grade, I'd give it a 88 out of 100 (100 being absolutely perfect), still a B+. If it had a section on bike lanes, routes and sharrows presented as well as the rest of the manual, I would have given it a 96.