Wednesday, January 30, 2013

D&R Canal Towpath / East Coast Greenway closed in Franklin Township

Driving past the Amwell Road trailhead of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath two weeks ago I saw something rather unusual.  There was a six foot tall fence blocking off the entire trailhead parking lot, including access to the trail itself.  Today as I was out riding my road bike, I purposely pedaled past the trailhead to get a closer look.  There was a sign on the fence indicating the following:
The towpath from AMWELL ROAD (RT 514) TO THE WESTON CAUSEWAY will be CLOSED FROM JANUARY 21 THROUGH JUNE 30 due to repair work on the spillway. Also note there will be NO ACCESS TO/FROM COLONIAL PARK VIA THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE. Please plan your routes accordingly.

View D&R Towpath / East Coast Greenway Closure in a larger map

Above is a map of the trail closure and one potential detour.  Be aware that the traffic volume on Amwell Road can be rather high and there is no shoulder.  Also the crossing at Manville / Weston Causeway can be tricky and extra caution should be taken.  Millstown River road is also a possibility detour but the traffic can be high in this road as well.

Noting the above hazards, its a shame that the trail had to be closed for this entire stretch.  The spillway being reconstructed (red point) is north of the Colonial Park Bridge (green point).  It would have been nice to keep the trail open to the Colonial Park Bridge as a detour through the park (green line) would have eliminated the most hazardous Amwell Road leg.  However when I was there, the Amwell Road trailhead was being used as a staging area for the contractors and heavy equipment was being driven on the towpath.  Still, it would be nice to at least keep the part of the trail open when construction is not being done, like on weekends.

Another note of importance found on the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission website was this:
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission will be conducting a renovation and rehabilitation to the pedestrian bridge located at Bulls Island Recreation Area Day Use Area. The foot bridge will be CLOSED to the public between SUNDAY, MARCH 3, 2013 TO FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2013. Please plan your routes accordingly.

View Larger Map

As many of you know, the elegant suspension footbridge over the Delaware connecting Bulls Island and Lumberville PA is an important connection for many cyclists.  The next closest bridges at Stockton and Frenchtown are miles away.  I crossed the bridge just 11 days ago and no notices were posted of the pending two month closure as of yet.

Friday, January 25, 2013

4th Annual New Jersey Bike Walk Summit Happening February 23rd

The New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition in partnership with the Voorhees Transportation Center will be hosting the 4th Annual New Jersey Bike Walk Summit (link to preliminary agenda) on Saturday February 23rd at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. This year there will be 20 panel sessions to choose from, including one that will discuss The Circuit and how it can affect trail development and bike mobility in New Jersey.

The NJBWC headed up by Executive Director Cyndi Steiner is diving headfirst into state bicycle and pedestrian issues. They have partnered with us as well as the Tri State Transportation Campaign, NJ Future, the Safe Routes to School Partnership and other local advocacy groups on numerous issues. Most notably they have been working with NJDOT and the State's three Metropolitan Planning Organizations on policy changes under MAP-21 and with New Jersey Transit to improve its bike on rail policies. NJBWC's statewide advocacy strengthens our local advocacy efforts in the Garden State.
Registration fee for the Summit is $50 online, $65 at the door. For more information on the NJ Bike and Walk Summit go here. The Bloustein School is just a 5 minute walk from the NJ TRANSIT New Brunswick Station at the corner of Livingston Ave and New St.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

WBJ Exclusive: Driver charged with Chelsea Traynor's death ran red light

"I can tell you without a doubt that the truck ran the red light. It was a big 4x4 type pickup doing maybe 50mph."  That is what an eyewitness told WalkBikeJersey last week after we ran the story about Roger Hode being charged in the crash that took Chelsea Traynor's life.  Also according to the eye witness "she had the green light and that the truck ran the red light."

When WalkBikeJersey visited the site in December 2010, we looked at the signal timing specifically at how long it took to cross the intersection once the pedestrian signal button was pushed.  With this information it would seem likely that Chelsea took the time to wait until she had the proper signal and the right of way.  This new information makes her death all the more tragic.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Driver who killed Rutgers student charged in 2010 traffic death

The Star-Ledger is reporting that Rodger Hode of South River has been charged with aggravated manslaughter and death by auto in the December 2010 killing of Chelsea Traynor on Route 18 in New Brunswick.  On the morning of December 9, 2010 Traynor was crossing Rt 18 on her bicycle at the southern most intersection of George St when Hode's Ford pickup truck hit and killed her. 

View Bicyclist fatality Rt 18 and George St. 12/9/10 in a larger map

The then 21-year-old Californian Chelsea Traynor, of Concord, California was a sophomore, in the class of 2013, majoring in nutritional science at the university’s School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in New Brunswick, formerly known as Cook College.  She had previously studied at Humboldt State University in California and had recently transferred to Rutgers.

Site of the Traynor crash in December, 2010.
Traynor's death was the second reported bicyclist/pedestrian fatality on the newly renovated New Brunswick section of Rt 18.   The previous fatal crash was in October of 2009 when 15yo George Coleman was struck and killed just north of the George St intersection at Commercial Avenue.  WalkBikeJersey is thankfully unaware of any other pedestrian or bicyclist fatalities along this stretch of highway since Traynor's death.  WalkBikeJersey reverently visited the crash site in only a few days after the tragic events and investigated and photographed the facilities as they were at that time.

Our hearts at WalkBikeJersey reach out to the Traynor family and hope that justice carried out in her case.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Could Brooklyn's loss be Newark's gain?

I don't know if you've been following the velodrome folly in Brooklyn lately.  Joshua P. Rechnitz, a  reclusive philanthropist and bicycle enthusiast offered $50 million to build a velodrome on the Brooklyn waterfront.  Somehow Brooklyn was not able to turn this major gift into a reality, so the offer has been withdrawn, for now, and Rechnitz is looking for a new home for his gift.  That could still be in New York City or it could be somewhere else in the Metro area.

Frank Kramer.  Photo - Bibliothèque
nationale de France, département
Estampes et photographie
But not far away from Brooklyn, a few miles west of the Hudson River, New Jersey's largest city has a long lost but storied past with regards to track cycling.  Back in the early 20th Century,  Newark was once the epicenter of bicycle racing the US and was home to several velodromes in its heyday.  The most prominent were the Vailsberg Velodrome and the Newark Velodrome on South Orange avenue which was called the "cradle of cycling."  All of the great American cyclists and many greats from around the world also raced in Newark.

One of the greatest of those early American greats was Frank L. Kramer, of East Orange, winner of 16 consecutive US Titles.  He won most of those titles in Newark.  And the one and only time Kramer won the UCI World Title, he rode to victory on the track in Newark.  And one of the few times Kramer lost a US title, he lost to his good friend and the greatest African-American cyclist of all time.  Equally legendary 'Major' Marshall Taylor beat Kramer at the Vailsberg Velodrome in 1900 (unconfirmed).  And for those that don't know, it is likely that Taylor would have challenged Kramer for many more US Titles hadn't racism made it much more appealing to Taylor to race in Europe and elsewhere abroad.

So here is my simple proposal.  Why not approach Mr. Rechnitz to bring his velodrome to Newark?  His gift could go a lot further in the Brick City than it could in Brooklyn.  It could also be a new focus of community reinvestment and sports culture in Newark.  Despite the plague of doping in the professional sport, bicycle racing is bigger than ever with amateurs.  A velodrome in Newark would bring hundreds if not thousands of cyclists to the city with money in hand.  With Newark's and New Jersey's storied history as the epicenter of bicycle racing during the Golden Age of Bicycling a hundred years ago, Newark is the natural choice for Mr. Rechnitz' velodrome.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Burlington County Bike Plan Project Goes Online

If you live, work or bike in Burlington County then let your voice be heard. The County in cooperation with the Cross County TMA is developing a bicycle master plan that will identify a proposed county bikeway network (on and off road) and will include implementation strategies for planning and funding. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2014 and a website has been created for the plan.

Bicyclists boarding the RiverLINE at Beverly Edgewater Park Station

The first two public meetings are scheduled to be held later this month where you can talk to the project team about bicycle corridors, barriers to bicycling and gaps in the existing and proposed county bikeway network:

Thursday, January 24th 4PM-7PM, 
Burlington County Department of Resource Conservation, 
624 Pemberton Browns Mills Road, Pemberton, NJ

Wednesday, January 30th, 4PM-7PM, 
Roebling Museum, 100 Second Avenue Roebling, NJ 
(Adjacent to the Roebling RiverLINE Station)

As a side note, any bridge or engineering fan should check out the Roebling Museum. Although the museum is technically closed until the Spring, you will be able to walk by some of the exhibits to get to the meeting room.

For more informaton on the Burlington County Bicycle Master Plan contact:
Graydon Newman, AICP

Friday, January 11, 2013

Passed by 6 inches - "Drive fair, Pass Bicyclists With Care"

It's such a real shame but I feel more and more like I'm cycling on borrowed time despite being a highly experienced LCI who rides in near perfect compliance with New Jersey law and doing all that I can to avoid busy, narrow roadways.

I was having an exceptionally great ride in beautiful Hunterdon County, NJ yesterday.  As it was early afternoon on a weekday, traffic was exceptionally sparse making the already lightly traveled country roads in the area all that much more bicycle friendly.

I was heading south on County Rd 579 just north of Ringoes, NJ.  I had just passed County Rd 609 (Rosemont-Ringoes Rd) as a large semi truck heading north was coming towards me.  I could also hear that there was a vehicle coming up from behind.  I held my line riding no more than 2 feet from the white fog line.  Simultaneously as the semi truck passed, the vehicle from behind suddenly overtook me as significant speed.  It was a black mid 1990's Chevy pickup.  I don't know how I wasn't hit by the passenger review mirror as the Chevy passed me by a mere SIX INCHES!!!

I know for sure that it was only 6 inches because I smacked the back of pickup truck as it passed.  Doing so my elbow barely extended before the back of my knuckles hit the sheet-metal of the side of the truck bed.  I also remember my hand never got more than 10 inches away from the outside of my handlebars which also means that the truck must have missed my shoulder by no more than 6 inches.

View Larger Map Site of my near miss on County Rod 579 just north of Ringoes, NJ.

This was by far the closest NEAR MISS I've ever experienced in my 20 years and 50,000 miles of riding. But what is sadder even still was that this was the second of three scary close overtaking maneuvers that I would experience over 2 days of riding.  On Tuesday I was passed dangerously close on Canal Road in Griggstown and later on Thursday I would be passed by about two feet on Amwell Road just west of Neshanic.  In all three situations the driver of the overtaking vehicle decided it was his right to pass despite oncoming traffic making such maneuvers nothing less than reckless.  Also in all three situations, traffic was very light and overtaking drivers could have safely passed me if they only slowed down and waited a few moments.

It is my opinion that dangerous passing maneuvers by overtaking drivers is the most serious threat to experienced cyclist and is something that should be address immediately by those at NJDOT and at the NJ Bike Ped Resource Center.  There is very little that even an experienced cyclist can do and one cannot see the dangerous pass coming.  Yes, as an experienced LCI, I know you could take the lane but that is Russian Roulette of another sort and takes an extremely high level of "fortitude" to stick one's 12mph derriere out in front of 2 tons of 50mph metal traffic.  All that one can realistically do is hope and pray.

So what can be done on the state level? Well here are a two simple suggestions:
  • Pass a New Jersey version of Pennsylvania's "4-foot Law" that also clarifies many aspects of how to properly and now legally pass a bicyclist.
  • Start a message campaign on NJDOT variable message boards that inform drivers how to safely pass bicyclists in the vein of "Click it or Ticket" or "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaigns.  Something like "Drive fair, Pass Bicyclists With Care."  This would a nearly expense free way of quickly getting the message out.  It should be followed up by a TV and radio PSA campaign by NJ Highway Traffic Safety.

Oh yeah!  Regarding the driver of that six inch passing black Chevy pickup, despite "coming in contact with me" (my hand made a loud notable thud) the driver didn't even slow down.