Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bikes on NJ TRANSIT now a leading transportation issue

After breaking the story here about NJ TRANSIT's policy change that no longer allows bicyclists to board or de-board NJ TRANSIT trains at low-level stations, nearly 300 of you signed our petition asking NJDOT Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman James S. Simpson to overturn this new restriction.

According to an article from this past Sunday's edition of the Record about the NJ Bike and Walk Summit, Commission Simpson has heard your voices and is now keenly aware of the hardships this new policy is causing bicyclists particularly in Bergen and Passaic Counties where few train stations have high-level platform stations:
At NJ Transit’s Feb. 8 board meeting, Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson said his office had been bombarded with letters from bikers. He directed the agency’s advisory committee – the North Jersey Transportation Advisory Committee – to review the policy and provide recommendations to the full board.
 It would also seem that our friends at the Voorhees Transportation Center have been tasked with trying to find a solution that would be amenable to both cyclists and the safety concerns of NJ TRANSIT.  In an email on Monday, staff members of VTC asked if select members of the bike/ped advocacy community if any of us had any ideas of how to solve this problem.  I believe that there is a possible solution and responded immediately with an in-depth examination of the problem with a possible simple solution.

More to follow as we at WalkBikeJersey will follow this story until its resolved.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Trail from Bridgeton to Philadelphia - How Do We Do It?

Imagine a multi-use trail that spans 3 counties in South Jersey. One that could connect with the East Coast Greenway and Southeastern Pennsylvania's enormous Schuylkill River Trail network on one end and a network of trails to the beaches of Ocean City on the other

There is a rail alignment that could accomplish this, or not. From Bridgeton to Glassboro the alignment is known as the Bridgeton Secondary - an abandoned rail right of way that only requires prioritization and funding from Cumberland and Gloucester Counties. From Glassboro on north the story is totally different, the proposed Camden to Glassboro Light Rail Line has already gone through a scoping study and a rail with trail concept was not considered. However Delaware River Port Authority has just set aside money (as a loan to NJ TRANSIT) for the important Environmental Impact Study (EIS), and will offer a chance for citizens and other interested parties to include a trail along the rail alignment or elsewhere along the corridor. Currently the EIS is in its early stages and the public comment period may not be announced for some time. Check periodically with this blog or go to

The last leg between Camden and Philadelphia is becoming a reality. Construction on new segments of the Camden GreenWay will begin in March. Meanwhile the DRPA has posted its Request For Qualifications for the design of the Ben Franklin Bridge Walkway Ramp, which when completed in 2014 will replace the 3 story stair tower with an ADA accessible ramp.

The vision for the trail

Monday, February 13, 2012

NJ TRANSIT Bike Policy a drag on NJ bicycle tourism

The New York Cycling Club has recently gotten wind of our petition to NJDOT Commissioner to reverse NJ TRANSIT's recent policy that restricts bicyclists from boarding trains with their bikes at low-level platform stations (ones that are not ADA accessible).  This has brought about a new flood of petition letters from New York City cyclists, many of whom do not own cars and rely on NJ TRANSIT to access New Jersey's excellent riding destinations.

Most NYCC members have complained that they won't be able to bring group rides into New Jersey anymore or will at least be forced to greatly reduce the number of recreational rides they do in New Jersey due to this policy shift.  NYCC Ride Leaders have said that they will have no other choice but to take more of their group rides out to Long Island, Upstate New York and Connecticut using the MTA rail systems.  With that, they also add that they will spend their money in those areas instead as most rides usually include buying supplies like water, snacks and Gatorade, and often finish with lunch or dinner at a local establishment.  It's important that NJDOT Commissioner hear that this policy is a drag on economic growth for New Jersey as many cyclists are well-off and have disposable income to spend on weekend trips, particularly those living in affluent New York City.

But again, this should come as no surprise.  In chapter 7-3 of my 2009 masters degree report, A Review and Critique of NJ TRANSIT Bicycle Access Policies, I take a brief look at the economic potential of the New York City bicycle tourist looking to escape the city for the weekend.  In the executive summary I wrote:
NJ TRANSIT does not proactively market to bicyclists who may want to use NJ TRANSIT to access weekend and recreational destinations. Most notable, is the very large and captive “car-free” populace of New York City. NJ TRANSIT should investigate offering special packages to entice bicyclists to use NJ TRANSIT’s services to reach their destinations.
In 2007 there were only 209 cars per 1000 residents in New York City and only 138 cars per 1000 residents in Manhattan,  If looked at in another way 15 out 17 Manhattan are car free and those residents have the easiest access to NJ TRANSIT.

Still, not being able to take your bike on the train to go on a "fun" recreational ride is really nothing more that an inconvenience.  When people have trouble getting to their place of employment and loose their jobs because of the new policy, that's another thing all together.  Unfortunately we at WalkBikeJersey have gotten word of this actually happening and later in the week, we will be bringing you a first hand account of a person who lost their new job because they couldn't get off a train near their place of employment.

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Driver 3X over Legal Limit Gets 7 Years for Killing Cecilia Harrop

The below post originally appeared in the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle News and is reproduced here with permission.  

According to the Courier Post, 40 year-old Daniel Stocklin pled guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 7 years a jail for killing tricyclist Cecilia Harrop, 39, in Brooklawn on July 7, 2010 (reported here). Stocklin’s blood-alcohol level was .246 at the time of the crash (the legal limit in NJ is .08.) The article notes that Stocklin was pulled over nearly a quarter mile away - technically a hit and run. The Judge has also suspended his license until 2020. Stocklin was also convicted of DUI in 1994.

View Bicyclists Crashes 2007-2010 in a larger map

  • Four days after Ms. Harrop's death, 39 Year Old Manuel Albandoz was allegedly drunk, unlicensed, and driving a black Ford Taurus that did not belong to him when he fatally struck Celina Langan in the bike lane at Torresdale and Adams Avenues in East Frankford. This blog post suggest that Vehicular Homicide by DUI charges were dropped and bail was reduced. His attorney's quote was particularly disturbing.
  • On September 14, 2010, 44 year old Thomas McCoy was killed by a drunk driver on Route 47 in Deptford, NJ. On February 6th, Mary Dalton pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and must serve out 85% of her sentence in jail. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16th and she could face up to 10 years in jail.
  • Paul Jones, the man who struck and killed Randall Bratu on Baltimore Pike in Upper Darby on December 30th 2010, pled guilty and was sentenced for 3 to 6 years in prison plus 3 years probation and $15,000 in restitution. Last month, the Bicycle Coalition sent a letter to the court in asking for sentence stronger than the 3 year minimum for the offender.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Act Now on Key Transportation Votes

Here we go again. the Transportation Bills in the Senate and House are moving forward and once again we are asking you to take action today.

On the House side there is HR 7, a train wreck in every sense of the word. Besides taking away bicycle and pedestrian funding the bill also negates bike ped access requirements for bridges, defunds Amtrak, guts NJ Transit and allows oil drilling off the Jersey Shore. Would anyone representing New Jersey consider voting yes for this bill? Probably. This is such an unpopular bill that you will have to go all the way back to SOPA to find anything comparable.

Here is how House Speaker Boehner glosses over the cuts last week - "Reforms passed by the Ways & Means Committee today will stop taxpayer dollars from being siphoned off for non-economic projects - such as beautification and bike paths - which currently receive 25 percent of Highway Trust Fund expenditures, and direct 100 percent of that funding to core infrastructure projects."

Last week Representative LoBiondo voted against taking out bicycle and pedestrian funding in the bill in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Next week it will be everyone's turn to vote.

On the other side of the dome the Senate's MAP-21 bill does not promise doomsday but it does merge Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements and Recreational Trails into an "additional activities" fund.  Cuts their allocation by 30% and allow states to opt out of funding these programs. NJ DOT has in the past given back a disproportionate amount of Transportation Enhancements funds back to the Federal Government in the form of recessions. A proposed amendment known as the Cardin-Cochran amendment would allow local governments to apply directly for federal funds to build walking and biking infrastructure. The amendment doesn't redeem the bill, but it's an improvement, and our Senators need to hear our support for it.

Take Action!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Pennsy passes progressive Safe Bicycle Passing Law

It's official.  Pennsylvania now has a FOUR Foot Safe Passing Law!

Joe Stafford of Pennsylvania Walks and Bikes is reporting that Governor Corbett has signed HB170 on Thursday which does much to clarify and codify what drivers must do to safely pass a bicyclist.  According to language directly from the new law:
The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a pedalcycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the pedalcycle within not less than four feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed (emphasis mine).
Not only does this law require more from drivers than the three foot minimum required in many other state's "safe passing" laws but PA's new law also requires drivers to reduce their speed to what must assumed to be less than the posted speed limit when passing a cyclist.

But wait!  There's more!

Besides this, the law clarifies that drivers can cross the double yellow line to pass cyclists as long as it is safe and the overtaking driver yields to all oncoming traffic. This is something that is conspicuously absent from New Jersey's vehicle code which calls into question the technical legality of crossing a double yellow line to pass not only cyclists but also slow moving vehicles like farm tractors and construction equipment.

Also, the new law states that drivers cannot interfer with cyclists riding within the law:
No turn by a driver of a motor vehicle shall interfere with a pedalcycle proceeding straight while operating in accordance with Chapter 35.
This is essential a no "right-hook" law.  Way to go PA!

Finally, this new law allows would seem to allow cyclists the full use of a lane on a road that is no more than one lane in each direction.  This legal privilege comes with the very reasonable caveat that cyclists "shall use reasonable efforts so as not to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic." For the protections and privileges this new law provides it reasonable to allow cars to pass when reasonable and safe to do so.

New Jersey could learn a lot from the recent Bicycle Safe Passing Laws passed in Delaware (move over language and this week clarifications with regards to shoulder and right-turn-only lanes) and now Pennsylvania.  The language of the current "safe passing" bill floating around the New Jersey Legislature is meek at best and might make matters worse as argued by me (1 & 2) in this blog and doesn't clarify issues like passing cyclists in no passing zones

Friday, February 03, 2012

Correction: Albio Sires sick. Unable to vote on Bike/Ped Amendment

It should have been a tie!

If you checked the latest voting results on the bike/ped amendment from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy as I did. you may have noticed that Congressman Albio Sires' name (NJ 13 District) was nowhere to be found.  Unfortunately, the story coming to WalkBikeJersey straight from Andy Clarke at the League of American Bicyclists was that Congressman Sires was sick today.  As such he was unable to vote on the Bike/Ped amendment proposed by Congressmen Petri (R-WI), Johnson (R-Ill) and Lipinski (D-Ill) that would have to restored the Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements programs in the Transportation bill.  This is contrary to an earlier report from my college here at WalkBikeJersey.

Besides Congressman Sires, Bob Filner (D-CA) also did not vote for some reason.  In all likelihood if they were there, both Democrats would have voted in favor of the amendment to save bike/ped, SRTS and TE funding in the transportation bill. As such it would have been a 29 to 29 tie.

Again we need to thank our own Republican Frank LoBiondo (NJ 1 District - Yeah Frank!) for having the fortitude to cross party lines to do the right thing and vote to save bicycling and walking.  He and the two other Republicans, both of whom sponsored the amendment, voted in favor of this amendment which shows weakness with the Republican position on this issue.

As for Congressman Sires, if you live in his district (Northern Newark, Perth Amboy, HOBOKEN, Jersey City, etc.) wish him well on his illness and just remind him of the importance of biking and walking not only in his VERY urban district but also to New Jersey and the Nation as a whole.

Albio Sires' 13th District

Thursday, February 02, 2012

LoBiondo and Sires Fight the Good Fight In A Bad Transportation Bill

The votes are in for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Amendment to preserve Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements. The Amendment sponsored by Representatives Petri (R-WI), Johnson (R-IL) and Lipinski (D-IL) narrowly failed by a vote of 27 to 29.

NJ representatives Sires (D-13 Hudson County) and LoBiondo (R-2 South Jersey) voted yes for TE and Safe Routes. Rep. LoBiondo's vote was particularly heartening as he was the only Republican non bill sponsor who voted for the amendment and faced enormous pressure from the House Leadership to vote no. If you live in either Congressman's district please send them a personal Thank You by clicking the respective link.

So what happens next? According to America Bikes, the Republican leadership in the House wants the Transportation Bill to be voted on by the full House before the next recess begins in late February. Other committees will take their shots at the bill tomorrow and next week, and the bill could be up for a vote in the full House of Representatives the week of February 13th. After that the battle switches to the Senate which has a much better but from from perfect bill of their own. This battle is far from over.

Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio gives an excellent speech in defense of Safe Routes to School

House Bill worst than expected! Draft would eliminate bicycling from transportation program!

The below comes to WBJ straight from the League of American Bicyclists.  Take 2 minutes to write your congressman by pressing the "Take Action" button:

Moments ago, Congressman John Mica (R-FL) announced the introduction of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. The proposed bill eliminates dedicated funding for bicycling and walking as we feared, and it goes much further and systematically removes bicycling from the Federal transportation program. It basically eliminates our status and standing in the planning and design of our transportation system -- a massive step backwards for individuals, communities and our nation. It's a step back to a 1950s highway- and auto-only program that makes no sense in the 21st century.

The bill reverses 20 years of progress by:  
  • destroying Transportation Enhancements by making it optional;
  • repealing the Safe Routes to School program, reversing years of progress in creating safe ways for kids to walk and ride bicycles to school;
  • allowing states to build bridges without safe access for pedestrians and bicycles;
  • eliminating bicycle and pedestrian coordinators in state DOTs; and
  • eliminating language that insures that rumble strips "do not adversely affect the safety or mobility of bicyclists, pedestrians or the disabled."  
On Thursday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee will mark-up the bill and Representatives Petri (R-WI) and Johnson (R-IL) will sponsor an amendment that restores dedicated funding for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School. Representatives Petri and Johnson can only be successful if everyone with a stake in safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways contacts their representative today.  

Because of these urgent new developments, and the vital importance of a HUGE turnout on Capitol Hill in March, the National Bike Summit early bird registration deadline has been extended to Feb 20. We need every single cyclist in Washington, D.C. that the city can hold (and that's thousands ...). Register today!

Stay in touch by visiting and for background and breaking news.   


Andy Clarke
League President