Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fall leaves New Jersey cyclists in a leafy situation

New Jersey is blessed with many wonderful treelined neighborhoods.  The massive trees that tower over some New Jersey suburbs add character and beauty, provide shade that keep neighborhoods cool during the summer, all while filtering harmful particulates and sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere.  Trees are wonderful community assets that too often go under-appreciated.

These leaf piles take up much of the parking lane narrowing the usable roadway for cyclists.

That said, it's at this time of the year where we blessed with big trees must pay the piper and rake up all those leaves.  So far so good.  However it is how the leaves are stored at the curb awaiting pickup that can cause a real problem for cyclists. Most communities just have residents pile their leaves at the curb in the street.  In neighborhoods with lots of large trees these piles can get deep and wide.  Not only do the piles block the portion of the road that many cyclists use, the leaves can also be blow around getting onto the rest of the road causing even more hazards for cyclists as our friends at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia discussed earlier this week.

In Westfield, much of the ridable side of Rahway Ave is blocked by leaves forcing
cyclists to ride in the travel lane kept clear by passing cars.  Anyone need a chair?

Leaves blocking the shoulder of NJ 27 in Princeton. Photo - Mark Hommer

Now leaves don't need to be stored this way for pickup.  Other towns have their residents place leaves in biodegradable paper bags and then neatly place those bags at the curb awaiting pickup.  The benefits to this system are obvious.  The side of the roads frequented by cyclists stays clear and clean of leaves, eliminating all of the hazards caused by the other system. There is no reason for cyclists to be exposed to these hazards two-plus months every year when better systems exist.

Leaves neatly awaiting pickup in biodegradable paper bags.

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