Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No bikes on NJ TRANSIT trains Christmas Day. Eve?

Here we go again!  The Grinch is coming to NJ TRANSIT to kick you off the train on Christmas Day.  It's is another bike blackout day on NJ TRANSIT but not today Christmas Eve which seems backwards because today is a much busier travel day.  Considering that reality don't be surprised if crowded trains today force conductors to kick you off today too.

In case you haven't memorized the rules:

Bicycles are not permitted on trains (with the exception of the Atlantic City Line) on New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, day after Thanksgiving, Sunday after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Bicycles are not permitted on the day before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but are permitted on the holidays themselves.

So if you didn't read this in time and you wind up stranded somewhere remember that you can take your bike on the Atlantic City Line, most buses, ferries, PATH and NJT light rail. Bolt Bus will accept bicycles if space is available.

We still feel that if NJ TRANSIT added vertical bike racks to all of its rail rolling stock like that found on the German made RiverLINE lightrail cars, the space efficient storage of bikes would make the need for blackout dates a thing of the past.  RiverLINE trains have no blackout times or days which we feel is in part due to the well designed on-board vertical bike racks.  Connecticut DOT is doing just that and is paying for Metro North RR to install racks on trains serving the New Haven Line.

Bike racks on the NJ TRANSIT RiverLINE.  When not in use
passengers can fold down the seats and sit down.  This space
efficient design could easily be retrofitted to most NJ TRANSIT
heavy and light rail rolling stock.

NJ TRANSIT along with Metro North/Long Island RR and Chicago's METRA are the only commuter rail lines with black out dates. However recently we heard that METRA is narrowing its rush hour restrictions and eliminating black out dates.  With bicycling more popular then ever the time is now to modernize NJ TRANSIT's bike on rail policies.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Where do you park your bike when visiting Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital?

Unfortunately this holiday season someone very dear to me is in Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.  Being that the hospital is an easy bike ride from my house and the weather relatively warm, I figured why not ride!

A view of the main building and entrance to RWJUH.
Note the nice Sharrow painted on Somerset Street by
the City of New Brunswick.

However when I got to the front door and the ER there isn't a bike rack in sight.  There is one about a block away over by the Cancer Institute of New Jersey but it is still far from ideal.

Hey!  Is that bike parking I see near the front door of the Cancer Institute?

Oh...  Wheelbenders!  Moving along...

So with those wheelbender racks not quite cutting the security threshold and being in front of the wrong building anyway, I decided to park my bike to a stainless steel railing near the front door of the main building but a little out of the way of the main entrance.  Still, since this was not an official bike parking spot I felt uncomfortable about leaving it there.  Not that I felt it was unsafe location but because I felt security itself might try to remove it.

Finally a parking spot!  Note the mailbox in this photo and
its location in the first photo for an idea where I parked.

So what's the deal RWJUH?  Your the flagship hospital of New Jersey and we all know you do a great job promoting preventative medicine.  So why make it hard for people to choose an active means of getting to your hospital, whether a guest or an employee, by not providing quality bike parking that's easy to find? 

I know.  You're busy doing one hundred and one other things.  That's okay.  We understand but we are here to help.  SERIOUSLY!  If you read this blog post just let us know with a reply in the comments.  I'm a professional regarding all things bike and pedestrian and would be glad to quickly show you the finer points of bike parking at such a large institution over lunch.  Looking around you have quite a few places to stick a few bike racks.  It's not rocket science.  Just send us message! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A look at Newark's and New Jersey's first parking protected cycletrack before its gone

Well, it might have been too good while it lasted. If you read The Star-Ledger or have been following our FaceBook Page you are likely aware of the parking protected bike lanes on Mt. Prospect Ave in Newark's North Ward, the first that we are aware of in New Jersey.  Columnist Barry Carter has been writing a series (1, 2, 3) about the claimed hardships the streetscape redesign, particularly the parking protected bike lanes have caused the local residents and merchants.  This Tuesday he claimed victory over the bike lanes after Mayor Baraka issued an executive order allowing drivers to park at the curb until the roadway could be entirely redesigned without the bike lanes as they are now.

A sample of the bike lane and streetscaping.

So hearing that the day's were numbered for this innovative facility, I made a small detour during my day at work on Tuesday and visited Mt. Prospect Ave by car and then walked around on foot around the entire Streetscape Area.  For those of you who don't know this project is located in Newark's North Ward which is a vibrant Spanish speaking neighborhood just south of the town of Belleville (see map below).  The bike lanes extend right to the Belleville boarder.

Some of the concerns voiced in Carter's columns may have some validity.  Merchants complained that with the road narrowed there is no place for them to receive deliveries without blocking the roadway.  Similar projects in New York City rededicated some parking spaces for deliveries.  I didn't observe any specific loading zones here but there were also no deliveries going on.  Also, residents complain with the road narrowed, garbage pickup now backs up traffic.  However this only happens for a few minutes several times a week at most.  With the traffic volumes I observed this didn't seem likely to be a big problem, no more than illegal double-parked cars (more on that later).

Cars allowed to park in the bike lanes due to the Mayor's executive order.

The other concern was that the city doesn't have a plan to deal with snow removal from the bike lane.  The photo below of this now legally parked van shows the width of the lane.  However I also think this is non-issue.  In Montreal they don't plow most of their parking protected bike lanes and use them for snow storage.  There is no reason why that couldn't be the plan here in Newark too.

This van shows the width of the bike lane.

However the crux of the argument to remove the bike lanes was that they had eliminated valuable parking that was preventing customers from visiting the stores on the avenue.  Also, since the addition of parking protected bike lanes had narrowed the width of the the avenue, customers now would not longer be able to double park to quickly visit store.  However in the hour I was there on Tuesday December 16th between 2pm and 3pm, parking was not at all a problem.  Again, I arrived by car and was able to find a parking space on just about every block, if not on Mt. Prospect Ave itself, on the immediately adjacent side streets.

Plenty of parking on this side street when I was here.

Now I will confess that I was only here for one hour on a Tuesday afternoon.  I do not live or work there.  Things could be vastly different after 5pm and/or on weekends.  Still parking was plentiful on Mt. Prospect when I was there and on the immediately adjacent side streets.  To the west a block away most of the curb space was free for car parking.  I would be hard pressed to believe that one couldn't find a parking space within any one block on this portion of Mt. Prospect at any time or day.  The only real bone of contention here seems to be people's ability to double-park directly in front of the establishment of their choosing which has always been illegal.

Plenty of parking on both sides of Mt. Prospect here too.

Many more photos and the conclusion after the break.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Good retail bike parking ain't rocket science

Last week we asked what it might say if McDonald's were to become more bike friendly.  All we were really asking for is better bike parking.  Is that too much to ask? Below is a photo of the bike parking at the Rite-Aid Pharmacy in North Brunswick, NJ which is only 1/4 mile from the McDonald's featured in last week's article.

Two inverted "U" racks, well spaced, right up front!  How hard was that?!?!

In a rare twist, this bike parking was only provided by request of myself and the zoning board during site review. North Brunswick does not have an ordinance requiring bicycle parking and got the parking due to several variances the project required. To my surprise they got the bike parking done perfectly!  Bravo!

Unfortunately good retail bike parking is such a rarity in New Jersey.  My god people this ain't freaking rocket science!  Follow the damned cookbook!  All it takes are two inverted "U" racks, properly positioned and well spaced right up by the front door.  On the rare occasions it is even provided, 9 times out of 10 it is done so wrong, as demonstrated in the selection of photos below, that it is barely even usable.  UGHH!!

Don't forget, all the bike lanes in the world won't do you much good if you don't have a minimally acceptable place to park your bike once you get to where you're going.

Great positioning but that sub-standard "wheelbender" rack
is as cheap as they come and not even secured to the ground.

A "wave" rack squeezed up against a wall.  It's amazing
that these cyclists were able to park their bikes at all.

An inverted "U" rack placed 4 inches from a wall.  Need we say more?