Friday, November 18, 2011

Are Fall leaves turning your bike commute into an unnecessary hazard?

Rt 27 South near Carnegie Lake - Photo M. Hommer
It happens every Fall.  Towns all across New Jersey and elsewhere in the country tell their residents to "pile all leaves at the curb."  Not only does this often squeeze cyclists out of the only place that they feel safe to ride but it also creates an additional hazard as many of these leaves get crushed into a fine puree by passing cars which then turns into an incredibly slippery paste that can drop a cyclist in a split second.

While this is a problem all across New Jersey,  a good friend of mine often finds himself riding on New Jersey Route 27 just north of downtown Princeton.  Every year he tells me that leaves and other yard waste completely block the relatively wide and useful shoulder.  What makes this hazard of particular concern is that this section of Route 27 is also the on-road route of the East Coast Greenway.

Imagine if it was common practice to tell people to block a motor vehicle traffic lane with yard debris.  It wouldn't be tolerated and neither should this practice as there are clear alternatives.   In my town, residents are required to bag their leaves into large paper leaf bags.  Even better, most home owners could compost their leaves on sight and use them to increase the organic mater content in your garden and flower beds.  Brush and branches could be left on the grass off the shoulder and sidewalk.

More photos of the hazards on Rt 27 after the break

All photos by Mark Hommer.

Rt 27 southbound Near Carnegie Lake.  Not much room to navigate between what remains of the shoulder and heavy, highspeed (45mph) traffic.
Rt 27 southbound Near Carnegie Lake.
Facing northbound on Rt 27.  Notice the works dumping more leaves into the shoulder on the opposite side of the street.


Max Power said...

In Madison, this symbol on the pavement:
apparently means "pile your leaves here"

In Chatham Borough, we don't have bike lanes, but owners are required to pile leaves above the curb.

Anonymous said...

I live in Teaneck (Bergen County) where there are precious few bike lanes to begin with, which very few use. Residents routinely dump their leaves and other debris in the bike lane, as if it's considered perfectly reasonable and legal to block a bike lane with rubbish.

My question is whether this is legal? Obviously it'd be illegal to dump garbage in a driver's lane. Is it legal to do so in bike lanes? How can I find out this information?

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