Saturday, February 28, 2009

More Bike Access Needed on Shore Buses

Denver RTD motorcoaches have under the floor luggage bins and front bus bike racks. These buses can carry 2 - 8 bicycles depending on luggage loads. Photo by Sidney on Picasa

As I have written before getting to the Jersey Shore on a NJ TRANSIT bus can be a challenge. Bikes must be placed in the luggage bins and are expected to be loaded last. Because the center compartment has been modified to hold a wheelchair lift there is essentially one bin to store luggage and bikes. During the summer everyone has luggage and cyclists can be left stranded.

So why not make the small investment in bus bike racks on these long distance motorcoaches. This would preserve bike access during peak luggage times and would allow buses to carry 4 or 5 bikes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Brunswick Bikeway Fatally Flawed

The Rutgers University daily, The Daily Targum reported last week about the WAY too long awaited New Brunswick Bikeway. To save space you can read about the details here (Proposed path aims to increase bike safety). The story does a good job summarizing the proposed project.

Unfortunately this proposal is so far from ideal it is a step backwards. Below is my unedited response that appeared in today's Targum.

The proposed New Brunswick Bikeway, as reported is fatally flawed!

The routing of this project down Neilson Street instead of using the entire length of George Street forces cyclists on an unnatural, circuitous route that literally pushes cyclists away from and avoids most of the important downtown destinations. Any safety benefits for cyclists using the proposed route along Neilson Street are also questionable at best.

Unfortunately this logic was lost on the City when it eliminated the use of George Street before the study even started because it did want to loose a handful of on-street parking spaces (I was told this at the public comment sessions for this project several years ago). Considering New Brunswick just built the Morris Street parking deck with 824 spaces and the Rutgers’ Public safety building deck has room for several hundred additional cars, parking on this section of George Street is plentiful. The loss of 20 or so parking spaces in this area should have never been an issue and still could have been minimized with an innovative design.

George Street is the natural, most direct way between the College Avenue and the Cook / Douglas campuses. As such, nearly all those who currently bike between the two campuses already use this most obvious route. As these cyclists ride down George Street, they also have easy and convenient access to downtown New Brunswick with its shops, theaters, restaurants, hotel and government and University buildings. It is not unusual for cyclists to stop at destinations along the downtown section of George Street as they ride between campuses. Unfortunately nearly all of these destinations are avoided by using Neilson Street.

Like many other poorly planned bicycle projects in New Jersey, this one too will get little use. The proposal runs counter to an extremely strong natural demand that cyclists have for using George Street. If built as currently proposed, Neilson Street will continue to be avoided and cyclists will carry on using George Street. Precious government funds will again be wasted and this project’s undoubted failure will only give fuel to critics who (falsely) believe that the government should not be funding bicycle transportation projects. It is a shame that a much needed project that has been in the making for nearly 20 years will be ruined because the needs of hundreds, if not thousands of bicyclists will be marginalized all to save a mere handful of parking spaces.
On top of these concerns I field checked Neilson Street today and as I remembered, much of it is a one-way street. This would make retrograde bicycle travel something new in New Jersey (which Title 39 does not dirrectly address). The new, and very confusing intersection at New and Neilson streets, with its complicated, brand new traffic signal would have to be totally re-engineered to allow for the cyclists to travel west. All of this including, getting cyclists to and from Neilson along Albany Street (NJ Rt 27) will be very expensive and just ends up putting cyclists where they don't want to be.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Montclair Pursues Bike Parking Ordinance

From the Baristanet -

Finding a parking spot in Montclair is a perennial problem plaguing the public - but recently the discussion has spinned over to include bicycles. Montclair Mayor Jerry Fried and the town's planning board attorney Ira Karasic have drafted an ordinance that will make Montclair more bicycle-friendly. It's only mildly surprising coming from Fried, known to champion the benefits - personal and social - of two-wheelin' around town.

The proposed ordinance would require developers to provide safe and secure bicycle parking in any new building or addition to an existing building. That would include commercial, multi-family, recreational facilities and parking lots at transit centers.

While you are perusing that story on Baristanet leave a positive comment, example "I support better bicycling in Montclair and everywhere in NJ." The incendiary nonsense there reminds me of one of my favorite stories in "The Onion" Local Idiot To Post Comment On Internet

Sunday, February 08, 2009

So what can be done? Solution #1 - Educating Enforcement

Earlier we talked about how bicyclists and pedestrians now account for nearly 27% of all fatalities, up from hovering around 23% for the previous 4 years. Well here is one idea to improve these statistics. I came across this while reading on the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) listserve and it really seems to have merit.

The story comes from Robert Johnson at a group called PedNet out of Missouri. Since I'm quoting him I'm purposely going to hide some names but the story is telling and his idea is something that should be given a try her in Jersey.

In September I had the opportunity to train all 150 (Blank) Police Department officers on bicycling law and issues. I went through the laws line by line, explained why the laws were written the way they were and gave them video examples what we were talking about.

This has made a tremendous difference in (Blank). Before the training the police department ignored bicyclists except for occasionally admonishing one for taking the lane even when the law allowed. They simply did not know the laws which led to their inactivity in enforcing laws for both motorists and bicyclists and led to some unfortunate remarks in local media outlets. The month after the training the PD made about 100 “contacts” with bicyclists who were breaking the law and one officer told that was about 100 more than ever before. Most of those were red light runners and riding at night without lights. That was 5 months ago and even now bike shop employees tell me story after story of a bicyclists coming into the shop, talking about getting pulled over and buying lights for their bicycle. They are also much more active when a bicyclist reports an incident of motorist harassment. It seems to me that every officer really believes that bicycles are vehicles which some clearly did not understand before the training.

The other thing I tried to convince them is that if a bicyclist is in a crash with an automobile then tell the media what led up to the crash. Most crashes in Columbia involve a bicyclist riding at night without lights or a sidewalk bicyclist. The newspaper articles typically state something like “bicyclist hit by suv” with no details as to why it was typically the bicyclists fault......or at least they were riding in a way that we teach not to. Since the training we have had three bike/car crashes severe enough to make the media and in all three the it clearly stated that the bicyclist was riding on the sidewalk and hit in the crosswalk. I think that is important because even though bicycling/car injuries happen much less frequently than auto/auto injuries in Columbia people tend to dwell on the bicycle injuries much longer and its a real detriment to people riding.

A personal failure of mine was the University of (Blank) Police Department. The chief just could not get past their ego’s to accept any training. They said that people already ridicule them and do not think of them as a “real police force.” Pulling over a bicyclist would only further that belief according to them. I have gently pushed as far as I can with them but they refuse and as a result we have 30,000 students in (Blank) who have no idea how to ride a bicycle. They sometimes find themselves under a automobile when they decide to leave campus and take a trip to Wal-Mart at 2 am, without lights and enter a crosswalk at 15 mph which is how they have ridden on campus and its the normal way to ride on campus.

So in my experience if you can get the Police Department to accept training that is well thought out, balanced on the issues of bicycle/auto and presses to them that bicyclists have RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES that it can go a long way towards safety and public relations.

If anyone has any specific questions about our training or how we made such an arrangement with our PD then just drop me a note.

This definitely seems like a great idea for New Brunswick and Rutgers University. With 40,000 college students and a large population of migrant workers in town, there is plenty of bike riding going on. Unfortunately 95% of riders I see usually violate at least one traffic law in a very flagrant manner. Many ride on the sidewalk (which is dangerous as well as being illegal in New Brunswick), ride with no lights at night, run red lights and ride against traffic just to name the most typical violations.

If we want cycling to be taken seriously and as a viable for of transportation just like motor vehicles then we must ride and act responsibly (I know most reading this blog already do). We must also expect the police to take our violations seriously and treat them with equal seriousness.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More than 1/4 of all traffic fatalities in NJ were bikes & peds!

Thats right!

Nearly 27% of all traffic fatalities in New Jersey for 2008 were pedestrians and bicyclists.

This was not easy to cobble together since I came across the numbers to put this together from 3 different news sources, so I will apologize in advance if I'm not 100% correct.

Okay, on Dec 17th 2008, The Daily Record reported (using NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety numbers) that as of Dec 14th there were 22 bicycle fatalities. This number was nearly double from the 12 fatalities in 2007 and also in 2006. Afterwards there were no known reported bicycle crash fatalities as covered in the NJ Bike/Ped News Digest.

On Jan 31st 2009, Today's Sunbeam of Salem County ran a traffic safety article about driving and the Super Bowl. In that article (again using NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety numbers) it said that 594 individuals lost their lives in "traffic crashes" and 137 of those were pedestrians.

An earlier story from The Press of Atlantic City, touting the remarkable 17% reduction in total traffic fatalities said that the number was a little higher at 597 (State Police statistics). In this story they tout the nearly 2 Billion (yes with a "B") fewer vehicle miles driven in the state as the primary reason for the reduction.

So lets do the math (I will use NJ Highway Traffic Safety numbers for consistency).

22 bicyclists + 137 pedestrians = 159 total active transport fatalities.

159 total active transport fatalities / 594 total fatalities = 26.8%

I would have liked to have done a trend analysis with numbers over the past 5 or 10 years but fatality and nonfatal crash stats (overall, pedestrian, bicycle) were not easy if impossible to find directly online (it would be nice to have those numbers readily accessible online for all to see).

I could comment some more but I just let that fact that 27% of all traffic fatalities New Jersey were bicyclists and pedestrians speak for itself (I wonder if that also includes pedestrians killed by trains). I also wonder if 27% of highway traffic safety funds will go to bike / ped improvements and programs this year.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Millville Sidewalk Cyclist Arrest

Click on the image to see the video

From the Courier Post - Sheila Stevenson was arrested on Feb. 3, 2008, on the 500 block of North 2nd Street in Millville, NJ for riding on the sidewalk. Stevenson's arrest, captured on dashcam footage from the officers Police car, is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the woman against Millville Police officers.

Full Story

The officer made a statement at the end of the story that included this line: "She was charged with a city ordinance violation for riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in the arts district, a traffic summons for failure to keep right on a bicycle..."