Why is the rate of traffic fatalities falling faster in Europe than in the U.S.? The reason, according to a broadcast on NPR, has to do with how each uses available technologies and how each focuses on safety.
One example the broadcast cites is a decision by voters in Houston to ban cameras designed to catch people running red lights. The winners argued that cameras were there to raise money, not to improve safety.
But, it adds, safety experts say traffic tickets aren’t written for everybody, just people who break the law.
“We’ve sort of lost track of the fact that the real victims of red-light running aren’t the red-light runners; it’s the people they’re running into,” says Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “There is a segment of the population that seems to feel that they have the right to violate speed laws and run red lights without getting caught.”
“It’s not that they have technologies that we don’t have; it’s that they use them more extensively and they manage their highway safety programs more [intensely] and better than we do,” says Indiana University’s Clinton Oster.
“I set out one summer morning to seek adventure. I don’t know how I summoned up the nerve to begin, but begin I did. I climbed onto my bicycle, pedaled away from my front door, and didn’t stop riding for four years until I arrived back home.”
Alastair Humphreys talks about how he rode 46,000 miles around the world and discovered that the world isn’t as scary as he thought. “I wasn’t rich (the whole trip cost approximately $10,000), I wasn’t brave. I wasn’t very fit. I just did it.”
Brr! Alastair Humphreys takes a bike across a snowy mountain pass
While this sort of trip may be more adventure than most of us can imagine (and are quite happy to just read about it), we can find adventure closer to home. Go for a hike in the Sourlands, wander through the Plainsboro Preserve or ride part of the High Point to Cape May bike route … there’s no shortage of possibilities if we, like Alastair Humphreys, just open our mind to it.
The WWBPA would like to hear about your adventures. Help encourage others to walk and bike!
New Jersey Future, a website that reports on open-space preservation, transit-oriented development and more, writes:
Bicycling has grown steadily in popularity over the past decade across the country, both as a form of recreation and, more often, transportation. One sign of this shift in New Jersey has been the appearance of bicycle advocacy groups including theBrick City Bike Collective in Newark, the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, to help push for the rights of bicyclists and pedestrians. Infrastructure to accommodate this new interest in bikes, however, has been slower to develop.
That is starting to change, albeit slowly. The state, several towns and at least one county have already adopted “Complete Streets” policies that call for the accommodation of all users, not just motorists, when designing new and retrofitted roads. Now, the City of Newark is working on what will be the state’s first protected bike lane. The lane, which will run on Mt. Prospect Avenue in the city’s Forest Hill District between Branch Brook Park and the Heller Parkway, is part of a larger effort that will include new sidewalks, flower planters, trash receptacles, trees, traffic signals, and benches along the stretch. The project is being done with the help ofSam Schwartz Engineering, and is funded by the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2011.
The bike lane is an innovative and exciting development for Newark, and should inspire more cities to construct their own protected bike lanes. Yet the fact that this project is so noteworthy indicates how far we have to go in making our streets safe and inviting for everyone. Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations should be the norm, not the exception, when designing our roads, and should be as an integral component of every project’s budget, not a special add-on paid for by supplemental funds. The state Department of Transportation’s Complete Streets policy goes a long way toward making this a reality, but it applies only to state roads, which make up a small percentage of the all the roads in the state. It is up to counties and municipalities, like Newark, to adopt Complete Streets policies of their own, and make sure that projects like these are routine, not remarkable.
Separate bike lanes and paths, or share the road? This is a lively debate in the bicycle advocacy community, almost as controversial as whether bike helmets are good for cycling because they save lives or bad because they discourage too many potential cyclists (also known as the “dork factor”).
Some say paths separated from the roadway are safer and encourage more cyclists. But such paths are costly, have their own conflicts (different speeds among cyclists and between cyclists and pedestrians). Plus, the law says bicyclists have a right to the road (and must follow all the rules of the road). By taking their place in the road, share-the-road proponents say, drivers must acknowledge the presence of cyclists and either pass them safely or go at a slower speed. Poorly designed bike lanes, such as those too close to parked cars and/or traffic, might mean less safety, as one study found. The WWBPA has recommended a two-foot buffer between a lane of parked cars and a bike lane to prevent cyclists riding into a door that is being opened (“dooring”).
One idea in between is “bicycle boulevards,” which optimize low-volume and low-speed streets for bicycle travel and discourage cut-through vehicle traffic (a plus for residents!). In Denmark, Copenhagen is extending its bicycling network outward into the suburbs, creating what the blog Copenhagenize calls “bicycle superhighways,” for commutes of six miles or more. Other interesting ideas are “green wave” traffic lights, which coordinate the signal timing to hit green lights along your route, “branded” signage for specific routes, even bicycle service stations along the way.
West Windsor is planning to fill in several gaps in the sidewalk network near the Princeton Junction train station.
The Township has acquired an easement along the Alexander Road frontage of Princeton Polygraph, the building between the old compost and mulch site and the U.S. Trust building at the corner of Vaughn Drive. As a result, a contract has been awarded to install sidewalks on the missing link on that side of the road from the roundabout to Vaughn Drive.
In addition, sidewalks will be installed on sections of Wallace and Alexander roads near the Arts Center, including the missing link across from the Arts Center, so that there is a complete connection between Scott and Wallace roads.
Improvements near the train station are being funded by a state Safe Routes to Transit grant.
Sidewalks are going in as part of the first phase of the Penn-Lyle improvements. One section will be from Old Village Road on the same side as the Trolley Line Trail to the point where the sidewalk now begins. Another addition will bridge the gap where the road crosses Duck Pond Run. This will create a continuous sidewalk from Village Road to High School South and Clarksville Road. (Bike lanes also will be added from Westwinds Drive to New Village Road.)
The township also has acquired an easement along the Alexander Road S-curve from Princeton University and has awarded a contract for sidewalks there.
Weather permitting, some work on all these projects will be done this year; otherwise, work will start once the weather warms up in the spring.
The township is still working on acquiring an easement for a sidewalk on the curve of North Post Road so that there can be a sidewalk link from the Municipal Center and library to the train station.
The WWBPA thanks the township for these improvements and others this year. They will go a long way toward making it safer for high school students to walk to school and for anyone wanting to walk to the train station.
Township Council adopted a new concept Monday night for shared streets, also called a woonerf, for the Princeton Junction Transit Village. What’s a woonerf, and how does it work?
Developed by Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, a woonerf is a street where pedestrians and bicyclists share the roadway with motorists as equals. This concept goes by a number of other names, such as Living Streets, Home Zones or shared space.
The WWBPA made several recommendations to improve the bikeability of the proposed area, including more bike parking at the Farmers Market and in residential parking structures, as well as requiring back-in diagonal parking for improved safety.
The WWBPA is confident that this plan, if built as shown in the pattern book, will be eminently walkable, and will provide those bicyclists who are comfortable in traffic with a wonderful place to stop and enjoy the amenities, like the Farmers Market. We are hopeful that motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians will embrace the new shared street and quickly learn to navigate without traditional traffic control.
We have a state highway map; now we’re going to get a state bike map!
The New Jersey Bicycle Map, funded through the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and managed by The RBA Group, is in the works. This will provide a map of the preferred bicycling routes for the entire state. Their target is to have the map ready for the public in the summer of 2011.
Share your routes! To make sure they hear the needs of cyclists from around the state, NJDOT is hosting three meetings (all during regular working hours, unfortunately for most of us).
Wednesday, December 1
10 a.m. to noon
55 East Hanover Ave
Tuesday, December 7
9:30am to 11:30am
1035 Parkway Ave
Wednesday, December 8
10 a.m. to noon
The George Luciano Family Center
Cumberland County College
Prior to the meeting, all are encouraged to review the draft map on the interactive website, (http://bikemap.com/njbike/). You must register first and answer a few questions but then you can download PDFs of the latest drafts. If your town, county or other organization has data that might help in the correct or complete the map, you are also encouraged to upload it to that sight. Once you register on the site, you will receive e-mail notices each time a new map is posted.
Please RSVP to Elizabeth Cox, The RBA Group at 973-946-5736 or firstname.lastname@example.org a week before the meeting. Attendees will be sent an agenda and directions. If you are unable to attend, participation is encouraged through the website.
Once all the work is done, a PDF of the final map will be posted on a website. Printing of the maps will be sponsored by organizations interested in supporting cyclists. If your organization would like to help sponsor printing, please contact the NJDOT project manager.
West Windsor soon will install a “rectangular rapid-flashing beacon” where the Trolley Line Trail crosses South Mill Road so that trail users can safely cross this 50-mile-an-hour road. With a push of a button, users can alert motorists to their presence. Signage also will be changed.
Bicyclists and walkers currently see a “Bike Route End” sign when coming from Penn-Lyle and Brian’s Way. That was put in before the missing link along the Dataram property was added a couple of years ago, and some users are unaware that the trail continues through Community Park to Rabbit Hill Road.
In addition, the gaps in the sidewalk on Penn-Lyle will be filled in so that there is a continuous sidewalk on the Trolley Line Trail side of the street from Village Road to High School South and Clarksville Road. Work on this could begin this year and should be finished in 2011.
The WWBPA thanks the township for these improvements.
On September 21, 2010 Lawrence’s Township Council passed a Complete Streets Resolution, which calls for “all public streets … to safely accommodate travel by pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit and motorized vehicles and their passengers, with special priority given to bicyclist and pedestrian safety”.
Lawrence is one of the leaders in adopting Complete Streets in New Jersey, joining the state, Monmouth County, Montclair, West Windsor, Hoboken, Red Bank and Netcong.
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes “has directed his staff to consider context-sensitive solutions that enhance safety for all travel modes whenever the County implements an improvement”, according to a recent press release. Can a Mercer County Complete Streets Policy be far behind?
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A bridge (really two two-lane spans) being built to connect Ocean City with Somers Point (near Atlantic City) includes space for both bicyclists and pedestrians as it connects Atlantic and Cape May counties and eliminates some traffic bottlenecks. As an article in the Atlantic City Press notes, bicyclists and pedestrians were forbidden to cross the old causeway, which has virtually no shoulder and no sidewalks. The new bridge will have a 10-foot-wide bike path.
Construction has begun, and the new causeway, which replaces four low bridges on Route 52, should be open in December 2012.
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Cycling shoppers can look forward to Quaker Bridge Mall’s expansion and renovation, which will include improved bicycle and pedestrian access to the mall. The plan is to provide trail links to both the Avalon Run community southeast of the mall and to Yorkshire Village on the other side of Route 1, behind Mercer Mall, as well as a path along the southern portion of the mall’s loop road.
A macadam path is to be added from Grover’s Mill Rd on the southeast side of the property to the Route 1 access bridge on the southwest corner of the parcel. The path will continue over Route 1 via a new bike/pedestrian lane to be added to the bridge that now connects the mall to Route 1 near Patio World Fireplace & Hearth and Toys R Us. Lawrence Township is working with the Yorkshire Village homeowner’s association to extend that path to Canal View Drive. From that point it is relatively easy to access the D&R Canal towpath (and then the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail and the East Coast Greenway) via the existing residential street and path leading to the neighborhood’s community center.
The size and shape of the new path over Route 1 is still to be determined, as is the timeline for the whole project. The mall’s expansion, which was originally expected to be completed by now, has been delayed by the recession. The mall’s legal counsel was recently before the Lawrence Township planning board seeking a 20-year extension in their overall plan. The township granted an eight-year extension and underscored the importance of bike/pedestrian access over Route 1.
The West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance supports Lawrence’s efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian access over Route 1, which will improve connections for West Windsor residents as well. The current bridge over Route 1 on Quaker Bridge Road isn’t suitable for bicyclists and pedestrians. The WWBPA also wants to see the off-road path along Clarksville Road that is in West Windsor’s master plan become reality at some point and is pleased to see that a multi-use trail along Clarksville is part of the new apartment complex now under construction near the railroad bridge.
Our thanks to Lawrence Township’s bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group, the Sustainable Transportation Committee, for this report.
Calling all cyclists–and anyone interested in watching a great adventure film as well as helping to benefit a good cause!
Ride the Divide is an award-winning feature film about the world’s toughest mountain bike race, which traverses over 2,700 miles along the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. The film weaves the story of three characters’ experiences with immense mountain beauty and small-town culture as they attempt to pedal from Banff, Canada to a small, dusty crossing on the Mexican border.
The film will be screened on
Friday, December 3, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Saturday, December 4, at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
at the ACME Screening Room in Lambertville.
Extra attraction: Meet-the-Executive-Producer/Cyclist, Mike Dion: at post-film Q & A on Friday at 7 p.m. or at the Saturday Night Cyclist’s Reception at Chimney Hill Inn, Lambertville after the 7:30 p.m. screening.
Mike Dion is one of the cyclists in the film who participated in the race. The Ride the Divide film project is helping to raise funds for Livestrong, a foundation that fights to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.
Audience members can also do holiday shopping at the event and benefit a good cause. Cycling-related merchandise will be sold: 25% of proceeds after cost will benefit the Young Survival Coalition, young women facing breast cancer together, and 75% will benefit the ACME Screening Room film program.
For more information:
ACME Screening Room
25 S. Union Street
A sobering statistic is that even though most people live and work in cities, 28% of pedestrian and 30% of bicycle fatalities in 2009 occurred on rural roads.
Many times, Main Street doubles as the most direct connection to the next town, so the risk is that cars are moving faster in an area where people are on foot. Beyond Main Street, those different users, traveling at different speeds, share the road. Changing the road design, such as narrowing the roadway or adding trees and other sight-improvements, can slow down traffic, making the road safer for all. Widening roads is not only costly but encourages faster speeds.
Here’s one way to promote better understanding between cyclists and various kinds of motorists: swap roles. A town in New Zealand tried this with cyclists and bus drivers. The bus drivers got on bikes and cyclists rode with bus drivers, where they realized how difficult it is for bus drivers to see behind and to the side, exactly where cyclists tend to be. As for the bus drivers, one cyclist and transportation planner noted: “My bus driver buddy said it was a relief to get out from the main traffic and into a bike lane where he felt a bit safer.”
“It was amazing to see how quickly people’s viewpoints change once they can see the road through other eyes,” he added.
While an experiment like this won’t eliminate all the tensions between motorists and cyclists, it — and some common courtesy — could help reduce the tensions on the road.
The WWBPA trustees sent the following Letter to Congressman Jim Oberstar (MN), the chairman of the House Transportation Committee who lost his bid for re-election earlier this month. He has served in Congress for 36 years and was a champion for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, including the Safe Routes to School program.
November 13, 2010
Congressman Jim Oberstar
2365 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman Oberstar,
The trustees of the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (WWBPA) thank you for your steadfast advocacy of Safe Routes to School and of bicycle-friendly programs and policies. We know that support and funding for many of these initiatives would not have happened without your leadership.
As a local, grassroots organization, the WWBPA incorporates the principles of the Safe Routes program in our effort to make West Windsor Township, New Jersey and the surrounding region safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. We also advocate for “Complete Streets” (our town has signed on; our county is our next goal) and bicycle lanes as well as fund bicycle racks and promote bicycling and walking through a number of events.
We will miss your vision and vocal support for non-motorized transportation in Congress. It is up to us and the many like us across the country to honor your legacy by working for better and safer roadways, complete with bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and clearly marked crosswalks in all communities.
With sincere thanks,
West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance
The WWBPA conducted another in our series “West Windsor Walks” on Monday, November 8 from 6:45 to 7:15 a.m. at the intersection of Cranbury-Wallace Roads and Route 571. As we watch the construction of a sidewalk and new travel and turn lanes on the bridge over the railroad tracks and await the addition of marked crosswalks, we continue to see conflicts with pedestrian and cars. Many people cross mid-block both across Route 571 and across Wallace Road as they look for the quickest and, what they perceive to be the safest, routes to the Princeton Junction Train Station.
The WWBPA is honored to be recipient of a $1,900 gift to honor the memory of Ed Viraj Poreda, a WWBPA member who was killed in 2007 when an SUV pulling out from a side road struck his motorcycle. He also was involved with the Integral Yoga Institute Princeton, which was in the process of opening its Monmouth Junction facility. To honor his memory, IYI began an annual challenge that doubled as a fundraiser: 108 sun salutations (a series of 12 yoga postures). It doesn’t look easy! About 19 people took part in the 2010 challenge, and the number 108 refers to the number of beads on a mala, used in prayer or meditation.
This is the third year that the yoga institute has done this and the first year that it has shared the funds. The WWBPA is thankful to Ed’s widow, Ellen, for suggesting the WWBPA as the recipient. She notes that bicyclists and motorcyclists share some of the same safety challenges on the road, and the funds will help the WWBPA continue its work of promoting bicycle and pedestrian safety.
What is a Main Street and how can we tell a Main Street design when we see it? For West Windsor, this question is important because the county reviewed a Concept Design for Rt 571 in December 2009. Is it a main street design?
The Princeton Junction Redevelopment Plan adopted in March 2009 has a goal to “create a “Main Street” through incremental development that would transform the existing strip commercial form of development along Route 571 into a village form, with buildings close to the street. The objective is to achieve a desirable mix of pedestrian-friendly, village scale development with an emphasis on uses that service local needs. A village character would be created by encouraging pedestrian flow and stores and shops and personal service establishments on the ground floor of buildings and the use of upper floors for offices and residential dwelling units.”
Excellent so far, but what of the roadway itself? How do we know if the street supports these planned uses, or if it’s pedestrian-friendly?
Fortunately for West Windsor, many communities have faced these issues in the past, and based on that experience NJDOT and PennDOT compiled a comprehensive and flexible set of design standards in the Smart Transportation Guidebook, published March 2008. Following is a high level introduction, with extensive quotations.
Why Smart Transportation?
“NJDOT and PennDOT cannot always solve congestion by building more, wider and faster state roadways. There will never be enough financial resources to supply the endless demand for capacity. Further, both states realize that the ‘wider and faster’ approach to road construction cannot ultimately solve the problem. … The desire to go ‘through’ a place must be balanced with the desire to go ‘to’ a place.”
Context Sensitive Design
“Roadways should respect the character of the community,and its current and planned land uses. If appropriately designed, vehicular speeds should fit local context. The concept of desired operating speed … is key to the context sensitive roadway.”
Three kinds of design elements are described:
“Desired Operating Speed: This is the speed at which it is intended that vehicles travel.
Roadway: The design team should select roadway elements and geometry with a clear understanding of surrounding land uses.
Roadside: The roadside primarily serves the pedestrian and the transit rider and provides a transition between public and private space.”
Land Use Context
Seven land use contexts are described – Rural, Suburban Neighborhood, Suburban Corridor, Suburban Center, Town/Village Neighborhood, Town Center, and Urban Core.
Overlaying traditional functional categories, the guidebook describes a typology “which better captures the role of the roadway within the community.” These categories are Regional Arterial, Community Arterial, Community Collector, Neighborhood Collector and Local.
“Main Street is characterized by:
• Wide sidewalks and regular pedestrian activity;
• Street furniture and public art;
• Heavy use of on-street parking;
• Speeds of 30 mph or less;
• Preferably no more than two travel lanes, although three to four lanes are seen on occasion.
The Main Street would typically belong to the Community Arterial road type, or to the Collector road type. This is the case on Route 27 in New Jersey; this roadway hosts two Main Street segments between New Brunswick and Trenton, in the towns of Princeton and Kingston.”
Tables are provided which describe the appropriate roadway design standards for each type of roadway and land use context.
Based on the provided descriptions, the WWBPA believes Rt 571 is a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center, with the plan to become a Town Center over time. The table for a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center recommends the following (in part):
Lane Width: 10 – 12 ft
Shoulder Width: 4 – 6 ft
Bike Lane: 5 – 6 ft
Median: 12 – 18 ft for Left Turn, 6 – 8 ft for Pedestrian
Clear Sidewalk Width: 6 ft
Desired Operating Speed: 30 mph
The WWBPA believes the county engineers should consider these design standards in developing a Route 571 roadway that supports our goal of a Main Street for West Windsor. Please support our call for the engineers to review the design against the Smart Transportation Guidebook by contacting our public officials.