Friday, May 03, 2013

NJ somehow hangs on to #7 in Bicycle Friendly States rankings

In a state where bike lanes remain a novelty, it's hard to believe that New Jersey continues to rank in the Top 10 of the Bicycle Friendly State rankings.  Yes, there are scores great people working on making New Jersey a better place to walk and bike including Sheree Davis and her colleagues at NJDOT,  the gang at the Voorhees Transportation Center - Bike/Ped Resource Center, Cyndi Steiner at the NJ Bike and Walk Coalition, Janna Chernetz at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, John Boyle here at WBJ and at The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and numerous local groups like Walk Bike Morristown, West Windsor Bike/Ped Alliance, Bike&Walk Montclair and Bike JC to name a few.  But still!  It just doesn't seem right. 

According to the League of American Bicyclists rankings, New Jersey is blowing away California ranked at #19 (Seriously?!?!) which has long been at the cutting edge of bicycle accommodation and has dozens of the best Bicycle Friendly Communities, Universities and Businesses.  We also outrank Wisconsin and they have Bike Share at the steps of their capitol in Madison!  

So lets review:
  • Again, bike lanes are an extremely rare sight in New Jersey, never mind ones that are actually compliant with MUTCD and AASHTO standards.
  • Our "Best in the Nation" Complete Streets Policies are routinely ignored, forcing advocates to waste valuable time on campaigns (1, 2, 3). This is a BIG DEAL right now as the state rebuilds from Hurricane Sandy. Even when NJDOT does build for bicyclists, the designs for on-street bike facilities are far from optimal. “Bicycle Compatible Shoulders,” aka “the same exact design we would have built if bicycles didn’t exist” is the go-to bicycle facility. 
  • NJ TRANSIT is the only transit agency in North America that has actually regressed on bicycle access. It recently added weekend restrictions on it’s trains that never existed before. Bicycle parking at stations is far from accepted standards. NJ TRANSIT doesn’t have a bike/ped coordinator.
  • New Jersey perennially ranks in the middle of most categories in the Alliance for Biking and Walking Benchmarking Report.
  • Our Vehicle Code needs a major overhaul. It is so bad that the NJ Supreme Court recently passed a ruling on the code that correctly (in my expert opinion) concluded that bicycles CANNOT ride in the roadway shoulder (So much for “Bicycle Compatible Shoulders”). We have no safe passing law and it is unclear in the code if drivers can pass, or cross the double yellow to pass, bicyclists when safe.  The folks at VTC worked really hard with a number of advocates for over a year to remedy this, only to see the work languish.
  • Not a single county or municipality in New Jersey has a full-time bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

Yes, New Jersey does a lot of things very well. I won’t deny that, but progress is painfully slow and in many areas, non-existent. A wake-up call was sorely needed for the powers-that-be in New Jersey. A demotion out of the Top 10 would have done that. #20 seems much more appropriate. Treading water at #7 I feel is in most ways counterproductive.


Tom Reingold said...

Keep up the good work, folks. I'll be leaving New Jersey this summer or fall. I hope to provide bike advocacy and education in New York State, where I'll be living.

Andrew J. Besold said...

Sorry to be loosing you Tom. Likely not the reason for your leaving but it's a shame that many bicycle advocates and trained professionals have to leave New Jersey to find work. Another sign of a problem in New Jersey (More about this in a later post).

Tom Reingold said...

My advocacy work was always volunteer. And we're not moving for work. We're downsizing, and we're both from New York, so we'll fit in fine there. Thanks for the well wishes. I'm sure we'll meet again. I certainly hope so.