Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mapping All US Traffic Fatalities for 2001-2009

The GIS wizards at ITO World put the 369,629 US traffic fatalities between 2001 and 2010 on a single interactive map. We zoomed in on New Jersey, click on the key button to hide it. Note the clusters of blues (peds) and greens (cyclists) in the urbanized areas of the State. Thanks to the Guardian Datablog for broadcasting this amazing map.


  View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rutgers Releases New Jersey's 2011 Pedestrian Safety Tracking Report

Today the Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center of New Jersey released 2011 Pedestrian Safety Tracking Report. The primary purpose of the report is to track crashes and analyze patterns including hot spots where multiple crashes have taken place. 2011 New Jersey Pedestrian Safety Tracking Report Final For a more detailed description of the report go to the New Jersey Walks and Bikes Blog.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ADVOCACY ALERT: New Brunswick to discuss bicycle ordinance tomorrow

At the New Brunswick City Council meeting two weeks ago the Council decided to postpone their discussion of the proposed bicycle sidewalk ban ordinance till their next meeting which will be tomorrow November 16th at 6:30pm.  At the November 2nd meeting photocopies of the ordinance were presented to all attendees (see photos below).  As written, the draft ordinance would ban all cyclists from most city sidewalks regardless of age.  There was some consideration to allow cyclists to use "multi-use sidewalks" on NJ Route 18 and on several other roadways.  However in addition to the sidewalk ban, Section III, Paragraph B of the draft ordinance would ban cyclist from riding two abreast regardless if motor traffic is obstructed or not.  This is part is most disturbing because New Jersey Statute 39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file grants cyclists the right to "travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded."

During the public comment period at the end of the November 2nd council meeting, I addressed my concerns with the ordinance as drafted and provided some historical background and the state of cycling in 1893 when the original city ordinance banning cycling on the sidewalks was written.  From there I told the council that I was glad to see that the draft ordinance considered the needs of cyclists who use the sidewalks on Rt 18 and several other locations.  I suggested that the sidewalk ban not apply to children under the age of 14 and that it should also NOT apply to to sidewalks that are on Rutgers University property that are also not immediately adjacent to city roadways (ie. in quads and on campus between other buildings).  I did suggested to the council that a sidewalk bicycle ban was very appropriate, regardless of the age of the cyclist, in the central business district and in other select sections of the city that see constant pedestrian traffic day and night.  However I felt that the sidewalk ban was totally unnecessary on most residential streets elsewhere in New Brunswick.  I also addressed the issue of the draft ordinance's complete ban on riding two abreast which restricts the right to do so granted to cyclists in New Jersey Statute 39:4-14.2.   I wondered aloud if the city could restrict a right granted by the state and let them know that my understanding was that they could not.

Finally, I asked the council to consider why cyclists feel the need to ride on the sidewalks in the city in the first place.  Such behavior is typical when there is a dangerous on-street bicycling environment, or at least a perception that the street is a dangerous place to ride.  I told the New Brunswick City Council that the best way to solve the problem of cyclists riding on the sidewalks was to provide cyclists a place to ride in the street.  I was blunt to the Mayor and Council that New Brunswick was way behind peer university towns all across the nation that have done much, much more to accommodate cyclists.

In closing I told the Council that they could call on my expert opinion on this and other future bicycle issues in New Brunswick.  I also reminded them that some of the worlds leading experts regarding bicycle and pedestrian issues are literally a stones throw away from City Hall at the Bloustein School, namely Prof. John Pucher and the staff at the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center which is part of the Voorhees Transportation Center.

Photos of the draft New Brunswick City Ordinance that would ban all cyclists from city sidewalks are below.  Click on each and enlarged to read each page.

Friday, November 11, 2011

US Senate to Bicyclists - GET OFF THE ROAD!!!

Sign the League of American Bicyclists Petition!

Yesterday, I quickly put up a link to a Streetsblog DC article that gave a good rundown of the major aspects of the proposed US Senate transportation funding bill.  While that article was good at giving a overall summary of this big piece of legislation, it did miss this small clause on page 226 of the Senate Bill:
(d) BICYCLE SAFETY.—The Secretary of the appropriate Federal land management agency shall prohibit the use of bicycles on each federally owned road that has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour or greater and an adjacent paved path for use by bicycles within 100 yards of the road.
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you.  This is a mandatory sidepath law that forces bicyclists off federally owned roads (mostly in National Parks and Forests and military bases) and onto bicycle paths no matter how poorly the pathways are engineered.

Luckily, the hard working folks at the League of American Bicyclists didn't miss this egrigious little detail and fortunately for all of us, they are not going to take this lying down (HINT! This is a great example of why you need to join the League!).  In his blog post (read it!), LAB President, Andy Clarke blasts this clause as "paternalistic," and a "pretty awful" precedent.

Well, you don't have to take this direct assault to your right to ride a bike on a public right-of-way lying down either!  The LAB has put together a quick and easy petition that takes no more than a minute to fill out.  As I write this over 2,100 have already signed this petition and about a hundred people have been signing it every hour.

Make you voice heard in the US Senate.  Remind them that, "You ride and you vote!"

Senate forwards Transport Bill WITHOUT bike/ped funding

The following is written by Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog.DC and is reproduced here due to the importance and urgency of this issue and as she has done a MUCH better job summarizing the issue then I have the time to. 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted unanimously this morning to pass a two-year transportation reauthorization bill, moving the bill one step closer to passage by the full Senate.
Unlike in the House, where the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has full responsibility for the transportation bill, the Senate splits jurisdiction among several committees, so the saga isn’t over yet by a long shot. The Senate Banking Committee still needs to consider the transit part of the bill, Commerce will get its hands dirty on the rail portion, and Finance is going to figure out how to pay for the whole thing.

Non-Motorized Transportation Takes a Hit
Rarely have bike and pedestrian safety been so squarely at the center of a Congressional boxing match as during the debate over this bill. The fight over dedicated funding for bike/ped projects – much of it focused on the Transportation Enhancements program – threatened the delicate bipartisan consensus for this bill. What emerged was a compromise that placated even the most hardened TE haters like Sens. James Inhofe and Tom Coburn.

To continue reading this article follow the link to the complete story at Streetsblog.DC.

Also make sure you read Tanya Snyder's second look at the Senate Transportation Bill and why she thinks it's not as bad as it could have been.  Also make sure you read the reaction by Rails-to-Trails' Kevin Mills to Tanya's second article (his is the second comment).  He is not so optimistic.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

STOLEN BIKE!! Maplewood - Brown Surley Crosscheck

The below comes from Tom Reingold, a leading force behind the South Orange Maplewood Bicycle Coalition.  Help Tom get his bicycle back!


Stolen from my home in Maplewood at around 10:30pm on November 7, 2011.

CASH REWARD if you bring it back to me. CASH REWARD if you lead me to the person who had it or has it. This bike is not only valuable to me, it has a lot of sentimental value. I put a lot of handiwork into building it.

Brand: Surly

Model: Cross Check

Color: Brown, though it may be painted by the thief

Distinctive features: Unusually shaped mustache handlebars. Drum brake hubs (i.e. the brakes are in the wheel hubs; they don’t grab the rims). Silver fenders.

Phone: 973-821-3662

Monday, November 07, 2011

HISTORY LESSON: How the Dutch got their cycle paths

I came across this great video the other day that presents one well accepted view of how the Netherlands became one of the best countries in the world for cyclists and cycling infrastructure.  The video was produced by Mark Wagenbuur who, with blog founder David Hembrow, produce the superb A view from the cycle path... blog which documents Dutch cycling infrastructure for all the world to see.  Besides the blog, if you go to Mark's YouTube channel you will find over 150 videos that will give the curious American a great idea of what a transportation infrastructure built around the bicycle can look like.

One thing that you should take away from this video is that the world class Dutch bicycle infrastructure that many think was always there, was almost lost at one point and that advocacy was a critical part of turning local and national transportation policy around in the Netherlands.  Imagine what New Jersey might look like today if bicycle advocacy had been well organized since the 1970's.  I doubt it would be exactly like the Netherlands but I think we would be much further along then we are today.

Friday, November 04, 2011

BCBC Halloween bicycle scavenger hunt this Saturday

Our really cool friends at the Brick City Bicycle Collective in Newark along with City Councilman Augusto Amador and Grove Street Bicycles of Jersey City will be hosting their 3rd Annual Halloween Bicycle Scavenger Hunt starting at 11:30 this Saturday.  For more information including a registration form please go to their webpage for the event.

I sure wish I could make this event!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Rand Paul's Attack On Bike/Ped Funding Defeated In Senate

The below message comes from our friends at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and was written by Nicholas Mirra.

They attacked again, and again safety and forward thinking prevailed.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Cars)'s plan to scrap the Transportation Enhancements program was defeated Tuesday by a 60-38 vote. Thank you to everyone who contacted your senators and urged them to vote against this backward-thinking, regressive bill.

Unfortunately, this will likely not be the last time members of Congress attack federal funding for bicycling and pedestrian improvements. We will keep you informed so you can help us drag members of Congress, kicking and screaming, into a future where pedestrians and bicyclists are safer.

The Boston Globe has an article about the vote, and some of the misinformation which was fueling arguments for ending the Transportation Enhancements program.

The League of American Bicyclists posted a recap and includes who voted how

[Update: 4:15 pm: A previous version of this post stated that Pennsylvania's two senators voted along party lines. Sen. Casey voted against the measure, and Sen. Toomey voted for it. Party lines, however, is an inaccurate method of recapping the vote. While no Democrats or Independents voted in favor of the bill, seven Republicans and one Independent voted against it. ~NM]

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

ADVOCACY ALERT: New Brunswick to discuss reinstating 118yo bicycle ban

The large, imposing and dangerous Penny-
farthing was still popular when the
original New Brunswick bicycle sidewalk
ban was put into place.
Tomorrow at 6:30pm the New Brunswick City Council will discuss the possible reintroduction of an 1893 city ordinance that would ban ALL cyclists from riding on ALL city sidewalks regardless of age.  According to a September 23rd article in the Rutgers University Daily Targum, the Victorian Age city ordinance was accidentally repealed last year (sorry but I could not find the language of the old ordinance or the proposed reintroduced ordinance O-091101).

When the ordinance was originally passed in 1893, almost all bicyclist were adults and were often called "scorchers" as they were often the fasting things on the roadways (see bottom of page 3).  The large imposing and dangerous penny-farthing was still the bicycle of choice.  Roadways were often made of dirt even in cities and most importantly, the modern traffic laws that we take for granted today were still many decades from being developed.  When one considers this, the law in its time made total sense.  But that was over 100 years ago and the law is clearly antiquated today at least in its old form.

While we at WalkBikeJersey do not usually advocate that adults ride on the sidewalk, there are some situations where it might be okay and even appropriate.  Children under 15 (give or take a year) should be allowed to ride on most city sidewalks.  NJ Route 18 in New Brunswick was recently rebuilt with wide sidewalks for bicyclists to share with pedestrians.  Reinstating the old ordinance would seem to require cyclists to ride in the highway with high-speed traffic where there is often no shoulder.  And yes, we've all ridden down the sidewalk a little bit to get a little closer to our final destination.  As long as this sidewalk riding is done with discretion, care and caution for pedestrians and traffic at intersections, all should be okay.

However, it is also appropriate to ban cyclists from certain sidewalks.  New Brunswick being a city, has a busy downtown with sidewalks that are packed with pedestrians most hours of the day and night.  It is never appropriate for cyclists to ride on sidewalks that are full of pedestrians.  In the central business district even children should refrain from sidewalk riding and walk there bikes.

Yet, the question that should be asked (and often isn't) is, "Why do adults insist on riding their bikes on the sidewalk in the first place?"  Well, the reality is that many adult cyclists have been literally scared off the roads due to poor roadway engineering, careless and sometimes reckless drivers and a long, pervasive, popular but false belief that bicyclists simply don't belong on the roadway that was "built for cars."

If New Brunswick would really like to reduce dangerous bicycle riding on sidewalks, it needs to begin providing well engineered on-road bicycle amenities that have been proven exceptionally effective in towns and cities all across the country for many decades.  Being a college town, New Brunswick is unfortunately, way behind most of its peer college cities in providing appropriate bicycle amenities.

If you would like to attend the meeting to voice your opinion about this ordinance and help begin a constructive dialog with the New Brunswick City Council to provide well engineered on-road bicycle amenities all throughout the city (and not just between college campuses), please attend the New Brunswick City Council Meeting on Wednesday at 6:30pm.  The meeting will be held in the New Brunswick City Hall, located at 78 Bayard Street in the Council Chambers on the second floor.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

News Flash: "GOP lawmakers spin funding tall tales" about the need to eliminate TE funding

If you haven't heard, there are some Republican Congressmen and Senators who are claiming that Transportation Enhancement (TE) funding, the primary source for bicycle and pedestrian project from the federal government, is driving the US Government broke and causing our nation's bridges and roadways to crumble (read here)

Well fortunately, the good folks at the League of American Bicyclists have done an excellent job of refuting those claims.  To backing up the League's arguments, Jay Walljasper of the Huffington Post wrote a great piece claiming that federal money on bicycle and pedestrian projects is money well spent. 

Well now there's even more!  An October 31st article by Joan Lowy of the Associated Press essential shreds any remaining credibility of the GOP claims that the TE program is full of wasteful spending.  She even goes as far to say in the title that "GOP lawmakers spin funding tall tales."  You can read the article in full here.

Also check out the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federations well articulated response to the revelations found in the AP article.  In their response, MOBikePedFed makes the the very astute observation:
The fact check is unusual — every supposedly horrible example of Transportation Enhancements spending is completely debunked. Each example turns out to be either grossly exaggerated or completely misleading. That’s not surprising, because Transportation Enhancements is the single largest source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian funding in the U.S. today, and those projects are important, popular, and much needed.

There are more than enough very good, very needed, projects to crowd out bad projects — and it looks like that is exactly what happened to many of the examples opponents have cited. They were bad and so they were turned down for funding entirely. That’s a sign of a system that is working — but it hasn’t stopped opponents from clogging the media airwaves and the public discourse with these fabricated examples. 

Enhancements funding is used effectively and fills an important need in communities large and small, and ranging from urban to suburban to rural. Bicycle and pedestrian projects are inexpensive, cost-effective, popular with citizens, and well used. We always have plenty of money to build a new freeway through town or add an extra lane so that semi-trucks can get there a few minutes faster. And you’re telling us we can’t put in a sidewalk and a crosswalk on the state highway going through town, so that grandma can get from her home to the grocery store safely?
It's great to read of the TE program and the spending of some of that money on much needed bicycle and pedestrian projects getting so much support. But there is something that you can do.  People for Bikes, an initiative of Bikes Belong, has put together this petition for us all to sign.  Take a minute or two to fill it out!