Monday, November 26, 2012

Restore the Shore Better than Before!

You have seen the disaster photos over and over, but what I noticed in these photos was that the most basic forms of transportation - walking and biking were the only viable ways to get around in the hours immediately after the storm. In the absence of subways, traffic signals and even gas stations, Bike Portland did an excellent job of documenting the surge of bicycle traffic in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. On a lesser scale pictures from the barrier islands showed the same thing. Roads were either destroyed or covered with sand and debris that made car travel impossible.

Buried within the $30 billion dollar price tag are miles of damaged boardwalks and multi-use paths.Check out the shambles left over from the Sandy Hook Bikeway and the Henry Hudson Trail.  The tourist packed boardwalks will be rebuilt very quickly (perhaps too quickly). But the lesser used off-road paths may be pushed way down the priority list and perhaps in the case of the frequently damaged Bayshore section of the Henry Hudson Trail,a discussion about a total redesign. It is going to take a concerted effort by bicycle and walking advocates to bring these trails back up to speed

Multi-Use Path at Sandy Hook

The discussion of sustainable redevelopment of the coast is focused around the restoration of natural features to buffer the damage that robust coastal storms bring as well as implementing stricter building codes. But this rebuild is also an opportunity to create a more sustainable and safer transportation system as well.

Route 35 between Island Beach and Pt. Pleasant is a great example. In the 50's and 60's this road was expanded to create a four lane highway through some of the most densely built beach communities in the state. While there are wide shoulders, much of the road lacks sidewalks, crosswalks and even landscaping. To reform minded planners and landscape architects Route 35 looks like a blank slate.

View Larger Map
We can make this a complete street! Photoshop anyone?

The need to cross major arterials in shore communities is very strong. Accommodating all those beachgoers with beachfront parking would require huge and unsightly parking fields. So most renters and weekend visitors use the best ways available to get there - on two feet or two wheels (or sometimes 3 wheels). These roads are often the biggest barriers to get to the beach and can be especially frightening for groups with lots of gear and small children.

The rebuild of roads like Route 35 and Route 71 will put the NJ's complete streets policy to the test. County roads such as Long Beach Blvd are not subject to the State's policy, but the discussion to make all roads ravaged by Superstorm Sandy safer begins Today!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

What were you thankful for this Thanksgivings weekend?

As you likely remember, the weather this Thanksgiving Day was spectacular.  When it became logistical possible for me to ride my bike the 50 miles to dinner at my brothers house in beautiful Long Valley New Jersey, I jumped at the opportunity to do the spectacularly fun ride.   As luck would have it the wind was at my back and the sun warmed the Autumn air just right.  The miles ticked by at fast and seemingly effortless pace and elevated my mood even more than on a typical ride.

With nearly three hours of time alone with my thoughts, I let my mind wander and ended up contemplating the meaning of the holiday.  As someone who is passionate about making the world better for those who walk and bike and inspired by the beautiful New Jersey countryside, I began thinking of what I'm thankful for. While this is far from a comprehensive list, and it sure doesn't replace friends, family and health, I thought I'd let you know of some of the things that I'm thankful for in our small niche in the world.

  • New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition - It's been a very tenuous first couple of years but New Jersey's still fledgling biking and walking advocacy is getting a little more stable.  For several years the Coalition was being held together by the tireless and valiant efforts of its past presidents, Jim Nicholson and Karen Jenkins.  Without their effots I doubt we would be having a 4th Annual New Jersey Bike Summit this February. 

    However I'm extra excited this year because the Coalition has a paid executive director. I am very thankful that Cyndi Steiner is at the helm simply because she's a highly experienced "bicyclist".  She just doesn't ride a bike once in a while but rather lives her life around the bicycle and uses her bike everyday for spirited high-speed fun as well as practical transportation.  As such she knows, firsthand what its like trying to ride a bike around the state and dealing with its drivers.  But what few people know is she wouldn't be there if it wasn't for Brendan Poh, owner of Cyclecraft, who is significantly underwriting her salary.  Talk about putting you money where your mouth is.  Thanks a bunch Brendan!

  • NJ TRANSIT - Yeah, they sometimes disappoint us bike advocates.  And yes, I don't ride the trains everyday during rush hour to have become bitter but no other state has a statewide transit network like NJ TRANSIT.  With new, world class, rail and bus rolling stock, NJ TRANSIT is becoming an increasingly attractive option.  The new

Friday, November 16, 2012

Do the DVRPC "Bike to Transit Stations" survey

The very nice yet exceptional sheltered bicycle
parking at the Hoboken NJ TRANSIT Station.
If you live in, or travel with your bike in the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) service area, please take a moment to fill out the Bike to Transit Stations survey.  In New Jersey DVRPC services Mercer, Burlington, Gloucester, and Camden counties and this survey is investigating bicycle parking conditions at all rail transit stations in these counties.  These include all RiverLINE and PATCO stations, SEPTA's West Trenton Station, and NJ TRANSIT's Princeton, Princeton Junction, Hamilton, Trenton, Cherry Hill, Lindenwald and Atco Stations.  This is a map based survey.  Simply scroll over to the station or stations that you use, click on the button and give your feedback about the bicycle amenities (or lack there of) at that particular station.

The survey is open until December 1st and when I looked at it today many New Jersey stations had not been surveyed even once.  So if you get board watching football between courses at Thanksgiving dinner, do the survey instead and fill in those blanks!

More about this survey can be found in this write-up by Silva and our friends at the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Parks, Trails and favorite bike roads likely unsafe and closed this weekend

Stay out of the parks!  Stay off the trails!  And be careful when you ride your bike on the road this weekend!

Most state parks are closed due to storm damage mostly in the form of downed and dangerously hanging trees.  D&R Canal State Park (includes Six Mile Run) and Allaire are on the list.  Both parks are popular with mountain bikers and casual cyclists alike who ride on multi-use trails.

Many county parks are likely in the same condition.  Checking the Monmouth County Parks Department webpage didn't find any mention park closures but its hard to imagine that they are in any better shape.  Hartshorn Woods reaches several hundred feet in elevation only a half mile from the Atlantic.  With such exposure to the brutal winds of Sandy, it's easy to imagine that the forest receive significant damage there.

Elsewhere in Monmouth County, it is highly probable that the Henry Hudson Trail will also have tree as well as flooding damage.  The exceptionally scenic Bayshore Trail portion of the Henry Hudson (between Highlands and Atlantic Highlands) was damaged by storm surge in the March 2011 Nor'easter.  With stories coming in of catastrophic flooding damage in many Raritan Bay communities the trail must be in much worse condition after Sandy.

Scenarios like these are sure to be repeating themselves in many parks throughout the state.  If you haven't been specifically informed that the park and or trail is safe for you to walk, hike or bike, you should stay out!  There is no need to put more demands on our strained emergency management systems.

The same amount of caution applies to us road cyclists too.  While the roads may be open to traffic, hazardous conditions remain.  Tree and other debris still liter roadways, particularly on the edge of the roads that cyclists frequent.  Not only could one crash into unexpected hazards deposted at the side of the road but branches, leaves and other litter can cause one to slip and crash, particularly when riding a bike with narrow tires.

Again, be safe and maybe wait till next weekend to go out and have fun.  We got too much cleaning up to do this weekend anyway.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Post Your Bikes After Sandy Photos

Tired of looking at photos of gas lines? How about photos of bikes being used for transportation in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? We would like to see them, tag them as bikesandy on Flickr.