Pete Avelar painting a yellow Lenape Trail blaze in Branch Brook Park, Newark, with Sacred Heart Cathedral in background. Photo by Paul Kiczek.
Want to see more of New Jersey? The best way to see a state or country is on foot. Here’s a Columbus Day walk through Essex County, from preserved woodland through suburbs and ending in New Jersey’s largest city, Newark.
FreeWalkers, a social network for people interested in distance walking, is sponsoring The Lenape 34. Scheduled for Columbus Day, October 11, 2010, the 34-mile walk will begin at the Millburn, NJ train station and proceed along the Lenape Trail though South Mountain, Eagle Rock, and Mills Reservations, as well as through Montclair, West Orange, Nutley, and Belleville, ending in Newark.
The trail walk will begin at the Millburn train station at 7 AM and conclude at Penn Station in Newark. If you’re not up for the entire trek, you can do a portion. More details are at the Lenape34 Web site.
The Lenape Trail is part of the Liberty Water Gap Trail, which goes across the entire state of New Jersey (130 miles) from the Delaware Water Gap to the Statue of Liberty, through Essex, Morris, Warren, and Sussex Counties.
Have you noticed the pedestrian countdown signals at all corners of Route 571/Princeton-Hightstown Road, Cranbury Road and Wallace Road? Crosswalks and ADA-compliant ramps have yet to go in, but this is a big safety improvement for one of West Windsor’s busiest intersections. Getting it made safer for pedestrians, many of whom are headed to and from the Princeton Junction train station, has long been a top priority for the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, and we applaud West Windsor Township, Mercer County and the New Jersey Department of Transportation for making it happen.
New York City has just done a big study on 7,000 pedestrian-motorist crashes that have resulted in serious injuries or fatalities and their causes. As the New York Times put it, male drivers and left turns were the biggest culprits. Cabs, buses and trucks account for fewer collisions than private cars. The city already is planning a series of changes, including eliminating some parking spots so that pedestrians and left-turning motorists can more easily see each other.
Other findings, according to Streetsblog: Driver inattention is the most common cause of crashes that seriously injure or kill pedestrians; failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk is responsible for 27% of such crashes; speeding is a factor in more than 20% of such crashes, but most New Yorkers don’t know the citywide speed limit is 30 mph.
And a lesson that is applicable to West Windsor: Not surprisingly, more crashes occur when visibility is poor. With daylight hours shrinking, think about how to make yourself more visible (such as with reflective vests, hand-held flashing lights).
On a clear summer day, driving back to West Windsor from a bicycling weekend in New York State and Vermont, we took a break to stretch our legs along the Walkway Over the Hudson. What a treat! The walkway offers excellent views north and south along the Hudson, across to Poughkeepsie, down to the trains traveling along the riverbanks and to boats along the river. Lots of people use the walkway for exercise and sun, though there aren’t yet any benches along the span.
Twenty years after a 1974 fire ruined the tracks of the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, built in 1888, Poughkeepsie’s Bill Sepe began advocating to convert the rail bridge to a pedestrian and bicycle trail. The dream became a reality when the walkway opened in October 2009, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Henry Hudson in his ship, the Half Moon, from New York harbor to the site of Albany, NY.
People of all ages and abilities use the walkway, and it’s is a terrific asset for area residents or workers, who can stroll/jog/bike across and back before or after work or at lunch. Developers might not have thought there would be many people coming from the Highland side, since there were only about a dozen metered (2-hour limit) parking spaces, though we and others parked on the road without fees. As we approached Highland from the Thruway, there were a few signs for the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which will eventually connect the Walkway Over the Hudson to the trail systems in the Shawangunks and the Catskills.
Warnings on the walkway Web site note that the temperature of the concrete can be up to 20 degrees hotter than the air, so people are advised to carry water, especially for pets, and to be careful of the dogs’ paws on the hot surface.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston has released Professor Lex Frieden’s study (an online survey of disability leaders), Impact of the ADA on Communities, a report of the status of improvements for the disabled 20 years after adoption of the American with Disabilities Act in July 1990.
The report indicates that there have been significant improvements for the disabled population. As well, the report highlights areas where more work is needed to fully implement the ADA and to enable people with disabilities to reach their goals of independence, self determination, and full participation in society.
Highlights of the report:
Two-thirds of people with disabilities who were polled in the study believe that ADA has been the most significant social, cultural or legislative influence on their lives in the past 20 years.
The ADA’s greatest impact has been improvements in access to public accommodations.
Other areas of significant agreement regarding improvement are employment, transportation, and public awareness.
Overall, more than 90% of the survey respondents believe that quality of life for people with disabilities in communities across America has improved greatly since passage of the ADA.
Progress still needed:
The biggest disappointment of the disability leaders who were surveyed is the lack of progress by people with disabilities toward reaching goals of economic independence.
Respondents were also disappointed in the impact of the ADA on healthcare, housing, and employment.
Improvements in access to public accommodations, transportation and public awareness are consistently acknowledged, but the need for further compliance is evident.
Lex Frieden is Professor of Biomedical Informatics and of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine. Frieden, who uses a wheelchair following a 1967 traffic accident in which his spinal cord was severed, helped craft the ADA, which was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990.
The WWBPA continues to advocate for ADA compliance in the township and issued a assessment of compliance in February 2010, concluding:
… with the notable exception of intersections and crosswalks, which have a large scope and must be addressed, despite a fairly long list, the work required to bring the Township’s facilities into ADA compliance is fairly modest. We suggest that by aggressively pursuing its statutory requirements, the Township could gain statewide prominence as a community friendly to the needs of its many disabled residents and visitors. Such action would certainly be recognized at least at the state level by government and the many organizations representing the disabled.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo report that a morning walk to school could reduce the amount of stress children feel later in the day. Heart rate and blood pressure levels remain lower, which can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.
The researchers note, “Cardiovascular reactivity — including changes in heart rate and blood pressure due to stress — is associated with the beginnings of cardiovascular disease in children, and atherosclerosis — the dangerous build-up of cholesterol, calcium, fat and other substances in artery walls — in adults.”
Think kids don’t get stressed? Remember how you felt taking a test, speaking in front of classmates and just trying to fit in.
The researchers go on: “ Because it’s not known how long the protective effect of a bout of exercise lasts, parents and educators should promote active play time throughout the day. If it only lasts a couple of hours, then it would be most beneficial if a child walked or biked to school, then had recess during school, as well as a break at lunch, so they had opportunities for physical activity throughout the day. This would put them in a constantly protective state against stressors that they’re incurring during the school day.”
Other studies suggest that being fitter helps make kids smarter.
Johnson Trolley Line Bridge on the Ewing-Lawrenceville Boundary looking south into Ewing. Jim Castelize working to clear brush, June 2010.
Another trail to discover in Mercer County: the just-renovated section of the Johnson Trolley Line connecting Whitehead Road Extension in Ewing with the portion of the Johnson Trolley Line in Lawrenceville. WWBPA member Van Cotter, a member of the Ewing Environmental Commission, reports that it is now walkable and bikeable with mountain and touring bicycles.
The trail surface is hard-packed dirt/cinders with some rocks and a few old rail ties. In wet weather, there are some puddles. The trail passes through pleasant mixed deciduous forest including many native tree species: ash, oak, maple, sassafras, etc.
Biking/walking north, the trail crosses a bridge into Lawrenceville and picks up the Johnson Trolley Line in Lawrenceville. The trail there is broken by I-95, and there is talk of creating an overpass over the interstate to reconnect the Johnson Trolley Line, similar to what was done for the D&R Canal over Route 1.
The trolley line that ran along this route once connected Princeton and Trenton. The trail renovation was a joint effort of the Ewing Environmental Commission, Ewing Township Department of Public Works, and local Boy Scout Troop 15. Future work could include extending the renovation south to Spruce Street in Ewing. This section is privately owned and thus will require securing permission from the owner(s). Other work could include painting the bridge at the Ewing Township-Lawrenceville line and adding signs identifying the trail.
On a perfect day for a bike ride, 75 people came out on Saturday, August 14 to celebrate the completion of the missing segment of the D&R Canal towpath between Trenton and New Brunswick – representing New Jersey’s longest segment of the East Coast Greenway. Many members of the WWBPA rode, as did West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and Council President Diane Ciccione as well as New Jersey Assemblywoman Grace Spencer. Lawrence Mayor Pam Mount was there for the start, and Congressman Rush Holt spoke (but didn’t ride), noting that he began championing this project when he first went to Washington 12 years ago. The 1.5 mile stretch of macadam belies the obstacles. Not only were there negotiations with Conrail but a number of other surprising obstacles came into play – such as issues with billboards. But all of that is now dust under the wheels.
Riders took it slow, taking nearly an hour to ride the seven miles to reach the Battle Monument in Trenton. After a 40-minute rest break hosted by the Trenton Cycling Revolution, the group returned along the same seven-mile route. The ride was capped off with sandwiches, salads and sodas at the Brearley House in Lawrence Township, provided by the East Coast Greenway and New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition.
The WWBPA thanks Don Pillsbury from the Lawrence Sustainable Transportation Committee for this report.
HAWKs are High-intensity Activated Cross Walk lighting systems and are a way to let pedestrians cross busy roads without a standard traffic light. The signal stays dark until pedestrians or bicyclists want to cross. They press a button, and the overhead signals flash yellow lights, followed by a solid yellow and a solid red, stopping traffic so the people can cross.
Researchers with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University last year compared before-and-after accident data at 21 HAWK sites in Tucson, Arizona and found a 13% to 29% reduction in all crashes and a 50% drop in pedestrian accidents.
More states are installing them, as USA Today recently reported. The WWBPA thinks one place it could work in West Windsor is at Sherbrooke Drive and Princeton-Hightstown Road so that pedestrians can cross from the Sherbrooke development to the Acme shopping Center.