Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cyclist ticketed for riding in Chatham shoulder in serious left-hook crash

On December 19th the Chatam Patch reported a bicyclist suffering serious injuries in a crash involving a left turning motor vehicle while the cyclist was riding in the shoulder.  It is bad enough that the cyclist, Jose Batista of Cranford, was seriously injured in the crash but according to the Patch report, the Chatam Police intend on issuing a summons to Mr. Batista for "failure to exercise due care when passing a standing or slow-moving vehicle proceeding in the same direction."

In this case it would appear that Mr. Batista was riding his bicycle heading east in the shoulder while passing backed up motor traffic in the travel lanes to his left.  At the entrance to the CVS Pharmacy a driver heading east left a gap open so that Patrick McVeigh of Chatham, the driver of the vehicle involved in the crash who was heading west, could turn left and enter the CVS parking lot.  As the vehicle driven by Mr. McVeigh crossed the path of Mr. Batista, Mr. Batista then crashed into the rear of Mr. McVeigh's vehicle.

The first curb cut on the right is likely site of the Batista crash. View Larger Map

This case brings up a number of problems with shoulder cycling in New Jersey that continue to put cyclists at risk of injury, as well as prosecution from the law.  As reported by WalkBikeJersey earlier this year, The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on a lawsuit that involved a cyclist tragically killed while traveling in the shoulder.  That case had the court rule on the legality of shoulder cycling and the court declared:
Bicyclists do not have special privileges on a roadway’s shoulder. Indeed, a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder. The Motor Vehicle Code does not designate the roadway’s shoulder as a bicycle lane. 
If one were to only consider the court's interpretation of Title 39 it would seem that Mr. Batista was in clear violation of the law.  However a commenter on the Chatham Patch story notes that, just a half mile to the west of the assumed crash site Main Street, also known as NJ 124, has a marked bike lane in the town of Madison. 2008 Google Streetsview imagery would seem to confirm this.  The commenter also notes that at the municipal boarder of Madison and Chatham Borough, which is the intersection of Division Ave/Brookdale Road and Main St, there are no MUTCD compliant "Bike Lane Ends" signs.  This too is confirmed on Google Streetsview.

This "Bike Lane" symbol is located in the town of Madison and is less than 2500 feet from the likely crash site.
View Larger Map

Unfortunately for Mr. Batista, he likely assumed that either he was allowed by law to ride his bike in the roadway shoulder and/or that the shoulder was still a designated bicycle lane in the Borough of Chatham as it is in Madison. Also, the ambiguity of the signage and the roadway markings (the marked bike lanes in Madison are stripped more like shoulders and do not follow bike lane standards) and the lack of proper bike lane signage did not help clarify things for him.

The reality remains that shoulder cycling has been declared illegal and will remain so until this issue is addressed in the New Jersey Legislature.  Still, where shoulders have been designated as bike lanes, all effort must be made to mark them properly in accordance with accepted national standards.  It is simply not fair and even dangerous for cyclists to do it any other way.  Riding a bicycle on New Jersey's roadways is difficult enough.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tri-State Transportation Campaign releases its Northern New Jersey’s Most Dangerous Roads for Biking report

Despite New Jersey's already great cycling and our states potential to be truly exceptional amongst its peers, the unfortunate reality is that the number of bicycle / motor vehicle crashes remains all too high.   The Tri-State Transportation Campaign took a simple and objective look at these crash numbers in northern New Jersey in a new report released this past Tuesday.  From the TSTC's blog:
TSTC’s new analysis, Northern New Jersey’s Most Dangerous Roads for Biking, highlights the 19,551 bicycle (bicycle and motor vehicle) crashes in 13 Northern New Jersey counties (Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren) that occurred from 2001 through 2011. Of these, 81 were confirmed fatal. The analysis supplements the 2011 TSTC report, Southern New Jersey’s Most Dangerous Roads for Biking.
The brilliance of this report is that it does nothing but simply map out the crash locations in each of the northern 13 New Jersey counties and lets the patterns speak for themselves.
Bergen County Bicycle Crashes 2001 - 2011.  TSTC.
From the TSTC's analysis it would seem that the crash rate correlates very closely with the population density of each county.

Also, as TSTC noted, a large percentage of these bicycle / motor vehicle crashes are on arterial roadways whether that might be in Essex or Hunterdon County and all others in between. This is something that most experienced cyclists know instinctively and try to avoid those roadways whenever possible, even in the most sparsely populated parts of the state.

This report is solid evidence that two things should be happening to make bicycle transportation in New Jersey much more safe:
1 – When at all possible, efforts must be made to make these arterial roadways safe for cycling whether that be shoulders, bike lanes, road-diets, cycletracks, etc. As for road diets, a good number four-lane roadways simply do not have the traffic volume to warrant the need for four lanes.  These could very easily be put on a road diet and bike lanes installed.  Elsewhere, other solutions will need to be explored.
2 – Wherever practicable, bicycle routes should be created that guide cyclists off of the arterial roadways and onto safer rural tertiary and urban residential roadways. New Jersey, unlike most other states, has great interconnected residential and rural tertiary roadway networks. Experienced cyclists know this and use this network to safely navigate all around the state. A well thought out and marked, MUTCD compliant bicycle route network could aid less experienced cyclists and those new or just traveling through New Jersey, to find safer routes off the major arterials, that still provide reasonably direct routes to their final destinations.
Again, thank you Tri-State for crunching and geo-coding the statistics.

PS - Could you use red push pins to highlight the fatalities next time?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jersey City announces plan for 54.7 mile bicycle network

This news is getting a little old now but is significant enough on the statewide level that WalkBikeJersey needs to cover it.

Early last week the Jersey Journal reported about Jersey City's plan to add 35.2 miles of bike lanes and 19.5 miles of sharrows throughout the city in a attempt to start a comprehensive, 54.7 mile bicycle transportation network.

Jersey City is in a unique position to create a fairly luxurious bicycle network as most of the main avenues are exceedingly wide and underutilized, at least in the eastern portion of the city.  It has been my own personal experience that much of Jersey City's streets are easy to navigate, even during rush-hour, as motor traffic demand is just not there.

This is, in part, due to planning efforts in the city that placed much less emphasis on accommodating the car and instead focusing efforts on planning around pedestrians and public transportation, namely the Hudson-Bergen Lightrail and PATH.  Also, Jersey City doesn't even require parking and puts a maximum on the number of spaces!  So effective has this planning been, that it was the focus of a major Streetfilms series and can be viewed below. 

This is the first large New Jersey town to embrace a comprehensive bicycle plan and will undoubtedly act as a model and leader for many other Jersey towns to follow.

Go JC!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Tacks found in shoulder of Rt 9W in New Jersey

Image courtesy and (c) Cyclists International
Cyclists International blog reported on December 4th of tacks being sprinkled on the shoulder over a 2 mile stretch of Rt 9W in New Jersey.  For those that do not know, this portion of 9W is the most popular bicycle route in the nation with as many as 1,500 cyclists and more using the route.

For more details regarding this incident check out the full story on Cyclists International.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Bike Ped Plans In Brigantine, Pleasantville and Atlantic City

While Governor Christie talks about the "new normal" for Ocean and Monmouth County beaches the old normal seems to the general condition of shore communities south of Little Egg Inlet. My brief visit to Atlantic City yesterday (away from the beach) confirmed that. I can also confirm that urban bicycling in AC is still a less than pleasant experience. I had plenty of company out there and the lack of accommodations has resulted in an improvised bike riding culture, with cyclists riding every way and place except on the street with the flow of traffic. On the pedestrian side the City is second to Newark in pedestrian crashes per capita.

But the City is doing something about it. NJ DOT in concert with the Casino Redevelopment Authority (CRDA) is wrapping up its bicycle and pedestrian plan and it will be making a final presentation to the public. The boldest proposal - a road diet and cycletracks on Atlantic Avenue, a heavy lift indeed. There is also a proposal for a two way cycletrack on wider and less busy Baltic Avenue which would hook in to a "24 Hour Loop" on the north end of the Boardwalk (which by chance happened to be the section that was conveniently wiped away by Sandy). Look for a public meeting to happen in late January, the plan will have to be approved by City Council although the City and the CRDA have already begun looking to fund some of the plans recommendations

Two of the City's neighbors are also taking advantage of NJ DOT's Local Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning Assistance Program with bike ped plans. Tomorrow Pleasantville will be holding a final public meeting tomorrow December 6th at the Pleasantville Library between 5:30 and 8:00 pm. The Library is located at 33 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, next to Pleasantville City Hall.

Finally Brigantine is in the early stages of developing its bicycle and pedestrian plan.  The first phase involves filling out this online survey. If you walk or bike in Brigantine and would like to see more improvements (the city already boasts some bike lanes) then please fill out this survey (

We cannot over emphasize the importance of the Local Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning Assistance Program. It is one of NJ DOT's most cost effective tools and has helped them earn a top 10 position in the Bicycle Friendly States program. One of the most difficult things to do these days is to ask a municipality to find tens of thousands of dollars and a reputable consultant to develop a plan to make it easier to walk or bike. If you look at a map of bike lanes in New Jersey you will find that about 80% are in communities that have adopted a plan. You won't find an official NJDOT page, although Googling will give you some access to previous applications. Contact NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Office for more information

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Bike / Ped investments critical as Hoboken PATH Station remains closed

News 12 New Jersey is reporting today that demand for bicycle parking at the Newport PATH Station has skyrocketed as the Hoboken PATH Station remains closed due to flood damage from Hurricane Sandy.  This is not surprising to us here at WalkBikeJersey.  With the opening of the Newport section of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway in 2009 the cities of Hoboken and Jersey City are connected for bicyclists and pedestrians like never before.  The Newport walkway has proven to be very popular with locals and exceptionally useful to commuters during normal circumstances.  In the Summer of 2011 the East Coast Greenway Alliance conducted trail counts and found that over 1,100 trips occurred on this section of the walkway between 4 and 7pm on one particular weekday.     

Locals walk and ride from Hoboken to Jersey City on the Newport section of the walkway, Summer 2011. (c) AJ Besold
With the Hoboken PATH Station remaining closed due to extensive damage, the walkway is now proving to be critical transportation asset.  By bike and using the walkway, the trip between the two stations is stress-free and takes about 5 minutes.  By road, cyclists would have to travel on treacherous Observer Highway, Marin Blvd and Washington Blvd (all roads even this LCI would rather not ride on) and its nearly twice as far (Note - WBJ realizes that those living in western Hoboken would find it more direct to use Marin Blvd to get to the Newport PATH Station).

View Hoboken PATH to Newport PATH in a larger map

This sudden emergency demand for bike parking at the Newport PATH didn't just materialize out of the blue after Hurricane Sandy.  Under the leadership of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, the City of Hoboken has been working hard to make the city and the Hoboken Transit Terminal much more accommodating for those looking to use a bike.  Back in October, Hoboken was named a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.  With the Hoboken PATH Station remaining closed, the Newport PATH Station has become an obvious alternative for those looking to access the PATH system by bike.  Without the Newport walkway the PATH system would have remained much more difficult to access for many Hoboken residents.