Tuesday, September 29, 2009

East Coast Greenway Hudson Loop Ride - Sunday, October 11th

On Sunday, October 11th at 8:00am The East Coast Greenway Alliance will be hosting their 2nd ANNUAL HUDSON RIVER LOOP TOUR along the Hudson River waterfront in both New Jersey and New York. The ride will explore both the West Side Greenway in New York City and the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway on the New Jersey side, both proposed spurs of the ECG.

Connections over the Hudson River will be made by ferry to the south and by riding over the George Washington Bridge to the north. There will also be two rides. A shorter 17 mile loop and a 25-30 mile route.

For more information about the ride and to sign up see:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Advocacy Ride and Lunch - Oct. 3 - Montclair

On Saturday, October 3rd a few of us are organizing an informal lunch meeting and bike ride in Montclair about the future of New Jersey bicycle and pedestrian advocacy. This is the North Jersey edition of this meeting - if it's a success and there's interest, we may organize meetings in south Jersey and the Jersey Shore area. Of course, advocates from anywhere in New Jersey are welcome!

New Jersey has an active community of local bicycle and pedestrian advocates - but we don't talk often enough. Let's get together to talk about these opportunities:
1. Sharing knowledge and sweat equity to be even more effective locally.
2. Working together to plan common campaigns on high priority objectives.
3. Organizing to advocate at the state level for better laws and policies.

Here's the plan:

10 am - 11:30 am
Meet at Edgemont Park, 292 Valley Road, Montclair, NJ 07042
This is an easy-paced ride. We will be stopping at a few points along the way to learn how the mayor and citizens of Montclair have been working to make cycling and walking safer, and the challenges they've faced. This will set the stage for discussion about the issues common to all NJ towns. Family members are welcome on the ride, keeping in mind that we will be riding on some busy roads - so trailers and trail-a-bikes will be in order for younger kids.

Lunch and meet!
Nauna's Bella Casa, 148 Valley Rd, Montclair, NJ 07042
Discuss the future of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy. Be sure to RSVP so we get enough tables.

Many thanks to Bike Montclair for help with hosting and organizing. RSVP below.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The 9W Bicycle Phenomenon - Part 2

Continuing north on 9W past those annoying "Bicyclists are required by law to ride single file" signs, the road is soon surrounded by the Palisades Interstate Park on both the east and west sides. Here is where the ride begins to get rather scenic and is reminiscent of roads much further away from New York City. This is part of the allure that brings so many New Yorkers over the GWB and onto 9W in the first place. At this point 9W has a nice wide shoulder on both sides that is mostly swept free of debris which provides for relatively relaxing riding.

Things are pretty uneventful along the route until we reach the site of Jessica Purcell's severe crash that Jen Benepe reported about last month. Short before 9W cross into New York State there is a traffic light that allows motorist to make a left to enter the Palisades Interstate Parkway. This light is located at the bottom of a valley and bicyclists easily reach speeds in excess of 35 mph so they can maintain their momentum to help get up the other side. When we passed through the light was green and there were no issues but I can see how a cyclist could get distracted for a moment and not be able to stop if a car stops for the light at this intersection. Unfortunately the right side shoulder was eliminated recently to make for a left turn bay for cars to increase motorist safety but this has left no run-off room for cyclists.

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What I did notice however was that the center yellow gore striping went on for quite a ways on both sides of this intersection. While done to increase motorists' safety by making sure to keep cars separated around the blind curve leading up to that intersection, the nature in which it was done eliminated the shoulder on both sides. As such cyclists have no where else to ride in except the travel lane. While not such a big deal in the north bound direction, the elimination of the shoulder becomes a big deal going south since there is a considerable climb and bicyclists' speeds are sure to be rather slow.

Interestingly enough an older streets view image shows this stretch of 9W prior to the recent restriping.

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What is sad here is that during the reconfiguration of the roadway, the engineers did not seem to take into consideration the needs of the thousands of cyclists that use the roadway, as evident in the design. While undoubtedly safer for motorists, the new design sure did not feel safer to this cyclist. What is somewhat annoying from a cyclist's perspective is that the center gore striping leading up to the intersection pictured at top seems excessively long. It wouldn't be so bad if it were for a 100 or 200 yards but it goes on for nearly half a mile!

Anyway soon after this we enter New York State and took a right turn down to the exquisitly beautiful riverside town of Piermont. Riding north now along quite Piermont Ave cyclists are treated to stunning views of the Hudson River along with beautiful homes. Soon after leaving Piermont the road changes names and turns into River Rd. Along the way there are non-regulation signs posted very high stating that cyclists must ride single file. Now I'm not an expert on NY State law pertaining to cycling so local towns may be able to pass there own ordinances that further restrict how a bicycle may operate. Still Jen told me that the relationship between the local police and cyclists here is also rather confrontational. From these signs, I didn't find that hard to believe.

Still the traffic is very light on this road and the scenary just to stunning to worry about such things. Soon we passed underneath the Tappanzee Bridge and enter Nyack which is also a very beautiful river town. After we made a few turns we entered Nyack's downtown and took a break at a cafe' / bakery. What greets me here is a sight rarely seen in the USA; dozens if not 100 or more bicycles and they were everywhere! There must have been at least 1/2 million dollars worth of bikes there. This cafe' has obviously profited handsomely by catering to these cyclists and bicycle parking was at such a premium that one or two on-street parking spaces were converted over to bicycle parking, something VERY rarely seen, particularly on the East Coast. The picture below only captures a small part of the scene and one of Jen's gregarious friends.

I was amazed by what I had seen. There was no doubt after seeing this velo-spectacle that Route 9W must have the greatest concentration of cyclist anywhere in New Jersey.

Soon Jen and I, along with several of her friends headed back south to Jersey. As we continued south dozens of cyclists kept on coming north. That newly restriped section of 9W proved to be rather uncomfortable as cars passed us as we climbed. Fortunately traffic volumes were still rather light. Further south still, Jen and I parted ways as she needed to get back to her place and I wanted to ride the enchanted (if very bumpy) Henry Hudson Drive that actually enters Palisades Interstate Park and goes below the cliffs. From there I went underneath the GWB and used the new bike path that leads to the bridge so I could ride to Manhattan and do a loop around Central Park. All the while cyclists are still coming and going. Even when I return from my loop and cross back to New Jersey, dozens of cyclists continue to cross the bridge in both directions.

If the sight of hundreds of bicycles at that cafe' in Nyack didn't prove the incredible popularity of the 9W ride, this continued stream of riders over the GWB, over a period that spanned several hours sure did.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The 9W Bicycle Phenomenon - Part 1

Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to investigate what is probably the single most popular bicycle ride in New Jersey. I was invited by the ever so lovely Jen Benepe of Benepe's Bike Blog to do the 9W ride. Jen has been reporting about the New York City competitive bicycle scene for some time with her blog and recently moved to this side of the Hudson. The popularity of riding 9W for New York City cyclists and two recent violent bicycle crashes on 9W in New Jersey (that Jen reported here & here) had me curious to see for myself what was going on.

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For those of you who don't know about what is happening in this northeastern corner of the state let me take a moment. Everyday hundreds and often thousands of athletic New York City cyclists cross the George Washington Bridge to ride up 9W to the towns of Piermont and Nyack just over the boarder in New York State. After doing the ride for myself I can understand why. It was one of the most beautiful rides I've ever done in New Jersey.

Jen and I started out around 9am on a foggy Sunday morning only to find dozens of riders already returning from the north. The first couple miles north of the GWB, 9W is 4 lanes with no shoulder. Jen told me that only recently were the shoulders eliminated in this section to add more travel lanes. Car traffic was light early that Sunday and cyclists were clearly outnumbering the cars however I was told that 9W is a totally different beast on weekday evenings when many NYC cyclists ride the route to train. Jen also told me that the elimination of the shoulders has made things very difficult for cyclists and has caused aggravation between drivers and cyclists. Fortunately that wasn't an issue this morning.

Further along we passed the sight where Camille Savoy was killed last November by, what seemed by all accounts, an incompetent driver (killed by an overtaking driver while riding to the right of the fog line). My observations of the sight found nothing about the area that would indicate a problem with the roadway that could have contributed to the cause of the crash.

Further along I notice signs that said something like this (I'm paraphrasing):
Bicyclists are required by law to ride single file.
Strictly Enforced

To which I say BULLSHIT!

And I quote:
NJ Provision -39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; provided, however, that any person may move to the left under any of the following situations:

(a) to make a left turn from a left-turn lane or pocket;

(b) to avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway;

(c) to pass a slower moving vehicle;

(d) to occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic;

(e) to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise shall ride in single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

As you can clearly see that sign is obviously wrong and the right for cyclists to travel two abreast when traffic is not impeded is actually mention twice in Provision - 39:4-14.2.

Unfortunately, Jen told me that a cyclist friend of hers was recently ticketed for riding two abreast while both he and his wife were riding in the shoulder. The two of them obviously couldn't be obstructing moving motor vehicle traffic in the shoulder so it would seem that the ticket was totally bogus. Someone needs to educate the local police and take down or at least modify these signs. We happened to bump into this fellow later in the trip and he reassured me that he was going to fight the ticket.

Wow this has gotten long really quickly!

Well then you will just have to stay tuned till I have the time to write Part 2 (there will be no Part 3, I promise). There is much more to this story.