Cyclists and Walkers Count

Tuesday, September 17 by JerryFoster

Rite Aid on Counting DayWWBPA volunteers counted 334 bicyclists and pedestrians at 5 locations around the train station on Wednesday September 11, 2013 between 5-8pm. Last year the count was 355, but the numbers are not directly comparable, since we counted for an hour longer at 2 locations this year. Comparing the same locations at the same time slots, biking and walking decreased 15% over last year. In contrast to the past 2 years’ beautiful fall weather, this year the day was hot and humid, near 90 degrees, as well as falling on the anniversary of 9/11.

Once again we participated in the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, an effort to accurately and consistently measure usage and demand for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

Our 2013 findings:

  1. Cranbury/Wallace/571 (Rite Aid) – 19 bike, 81 walk
  2. Scott/Alexander (Arts Center) – 30 bike, 72 walk, 2 others
  3. Vaughn/Alexander (bus stop) –  18 bike, 55 walk
  4. Station/571 (Rep. Holt Headquarters) – 10 bike, 9 walk
  5. Wallace/Alexander (WW lot) – 12 bike, 23 walk, 3 other

Total: 334 people, 89 who bike, 240 who walk, 5 on wheelchairs, skates or scooters

Thanks to our volunteers!

Traffic along 571 in downtown West Windsor flowed freely throughout the observation time. This is consistent with the comment made recently by the township’s consulting traffic engineer, that volume along CR571 has been flat for a decade. In addition, the retiming of the lights at US1 and CR571, together with the reopening of the jughandles, ensures that not many cars can make it through 571 at the circle, so motorists find other routes.

Other observations:

  • midblock crossings of 571 at Rite Aid driveway – 12
  • male – 222, female – 107 (“Other” gender data not collected)
  • walkers – 240, cyclists – 89

One scary anecdote – traffic turning from Wallace onto CR571 was polite to the pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk, waiting until she had walked far enough so they could turn behind her into the right lane. Traffic turning left onto CR571 from Cranbury Rd was not so polite, seeing an opening to turn into the left lane but not seeing the pedestrian. Fortunately, the 2nd car making the left did see the pedestrian and stopped, as she had stopped in the middle to barely avoid being hit by the first left-turning car. It is exactly this sort of danger that leads many to cross at the driveways of PNC Bank and RiteAid, where the road narrows.

This sort of conflict should not be possible, and several alternate solutions are available – a left turn only phase at the light, a pedestrian only phase, or closing the right lane at 571, making one through lane, effectively narrowing the pedestrian crossing distance in addition to reducing the left-turning conflict. What do you think?

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Rt 1 Jughandle Design Needs Bike/Walk Improvements

Saturday, March 9 by JerryFoster

Many people regularly bicycle between West Windsor and Princeton, and the WWBPA is frequently asked at the Farmers Market for the safest route to Princeton, which involves crossing Route 1.

We generally recommend Washington Road (CR571) because the traffic circle slows down traffic and lets cyclists make themselves visible to motorists – unlike, for example, the high-speed ramps off Route 1 at Alexander, Meadow or Quaker Bridge roads.

West Windsor Township Council supports this, and adopted a resolution calling on Mercer County to designate a bicycle route along CR571 (West Windsor Twp Council Resolution 2010-R174).

Since West Windsor, Mercer County and NJDOT have all adopted Complete Streets policies, we were disappointed that no bicycle or pedestrian safety accommodations were evident in the jughandle concept design.

We recommend the following safety improvements to benefit both bicyclists and pedestrians who wish to use or cross Route 1:

1. Add a multi-use path at least on the east side of Route 1 from Alexander Road to Plainsboro, to connect the Dinky Line multi-use path behind the Alexander Road offices to the Penns Neck neighborhood and on to the hospital (and wellness center) in Plainsboro. Improved pedestrian and bicyclist accommodation for Penns Neck will prevent this stretch of Route 1 from becoming as deadly as further north in Middlesex County.

2. Create a safe bicycle route crossing Route 1 using Washington Rd/CR571, for example by reducing the design speed of the jughandle linking southbound Route 1 traffic to CR 571/Washington Road, or by creating a stop from the jughandle before turning right on CR571, to allow drivers an opportunity to look for bicyclists. The current highspeed jughandle merge design will create a dangerous condition for bicyclists traveling the bicycle route between Princeton and Princeton Junction train station.

3. Add marked crosswalks to all legs of the intersections.

4. Add bicycle lanes or sharrows to the improved intersections to guide bicyclists and alert motorists to the safest lane positioning while using the intersections.

5. Add a westbound bicycle crossing at Harrison even though there is no motorized vehicle crossing in that direction.

6. Add an off-road multi-use trail crossing Route 1 to connecting trails adjacent to the Dinky tracks, as described in the West Windsor Twp Circulation Element of the Master Plan.

Please contact our officials to support these recommendations.

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Bike and Walk To Reduce Congestion

Saturday, October 27 by JerryFoster

We recently sent a letter to the editor to the various local papers thanking NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson for reopening the Route 1 jughandles in West Windsor, and encouraging our officials to implement Complete Streets to reduce local congestion and build livable, bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities, rather than encouraging further sprawl.

In case you didn’t read it in the Trenton Times or on PlanetPrinceton.com, here’s the letter:

The West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance thanks New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner James Simpson for re-opening the Route 1 jughandles last week. We applaud NJDOT’s leadership in recognizing the need to maintain a balance between local and long-distance congestion.

Transportation policy favoring long-distance traffic creates sprawl, which is not desirable for economic, environmental, public health and safety reasons. In contrast, Complete Streets policies encourage sustainable development by creating livable communities. NJDOT’s Complete Streets policy leads the nation, according to Smart Growth America, requiring roads to be designed and built for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. Mercer County and West Windsor Township have also adopted Complete Streets for roads under their jurisdictions. Implementation will create viable alternatives to driving that mitigate local congestion.

Implementing Complete Streets in West Windsor, including crosswalks, connecting sidewalks and bike lanes around the train station, has already reduced congestion. We recently counted 355 people biking and walking near the station during evening peak hours, up 18% over last year.

We encourage everyone to reduce congestion and stay healthy by biking and walking for short trips – we even think it’s fun. Although congestion is here to stay, Commissioner Simpson improved livability by reopening the jughandles – let’s do our part by biking or walking to school and work whenever possible.

 

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Feds Focus on New Jersey to Improve Pedestrian Safety

Thursday, February 16 by JerryFoster

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) chose New Jersey as one of 13 states which “experienced pedestrian fatalities above 150 per year and above the national rate of 2.5 per 100,000 population.” These states receive extra attention in the effort to reduce pedestrian fatalities on our roadways. According to the article “Spotlight on Pedestrian Safety” in the current issue of Public Roads, “FHWA’s aggressive approach to reducing the fatality rate in 13 States and 5 municipalities is showing promising results.

The multi-year focus on pedestrian safety produced a plan called “Pedestrian Safety Management In New Jersey: A Strategic Assessment,” which “examines the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches and recommends improvements that would provide for a more systematic approach.”

So what specific recommendations will best improve pedestrian safety? The New Jersey report covers over 100 recommendations, but 3 have been chosen as the top priorities for improving pedestrian safety, according to a recent memorandum, “Promoting the Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures“:

  1. Medians and Pedestrian Crossing Islands in Urban and Suburban Areas
  2. Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (HAWK light, a pedestrian-activated traffic signal that stops traffic)
  3. “Road Diet” (Roadway Reconfiguration)

How can these proven safety features help West Windsor? The WWBPA recommends medians and/or pedestrian crossing islands for the new CR 571 design, along with a lower design speed and other measures, like a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (HAWK signal) at Sherbrooke Drive and 571.

A Rapid Flash Beacon, another type of pedestrian-activated signal, is planned for Sherbrooke and 571 – we hope it will greatly improve the safety of that crossing. Examples are at the trail crossing on South Mill and near the train station at Scott and Wallace. Studies of the Rapid Flash Beacon are promising, but of  the 22 roadways in one study, only 1 had a posted speed limit as high as CR571’s 40mph, and only 2 had about the same volume (17K-18K average daily traffic), and only 1 had more volume. So we’ll hope for the best.

A Road Diet is when the road is reconfigured from 4 lanes down to 3, one travel lane in  each direction and a center turn lane, plus bike lanes on each side. The WWBPA has long recommended road diets for Canal Pointe Boulevard and Alexander Road between Rt 1 and Vaughn Drive, and believes the treatment would be appropriate for Roszel Road and Carnegie Center Drive as well.

Why is the WWBPA for road diets in these areas but recommends medians and/or pedestrian crossing refuges for CR 571? The difference is in the  number and density of driveways – our Rt 571 downtown area has too many compared to office park settings like Canal Pointe and Carnegie Center.

 

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Transit Village Not Enough to Achieve Smart Growth

Sunday, December 25 by JerryFoster

This post was published as a Letter to the Editor in the West Windsor Plainsboro News December 16, 2011.  In response to Lucy Vandenberg’s letter in the West Windsor Plainsboro News December 2, 2011, WW Transit Village a Model for State. As I expect Ms. Vandenberg would agree, the Transit Village is a good start, but more needs to be done to achieve the benefits of Smart Growth.

It’s not enough that the Transit Village will “make it possible for people to get out of their cars and walk, bike, and take the train to their destinations.” We must be able to safely walk and bike to and from the Transit Village.

It’s not enough to have compact development – we need a grocery store within walking distance, like the Acme that used to be in downtown West Windsor. Land use law and/or policies must require diverse uses – we need more than banks and real estate offices downtown, so that people have a variety of walkable destinations.

It’s not enough that compact development could be environmentally beneficial – we need specific open space preservation tied to specific dense developments like the Transit Village. It’s irrelevant that other space in New Jersey is already preserved.

It’s not enough to have Smart Growth policies for land use – transportation policy must support land use policy, by implementing the flexible standards in the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Smart Transportation Guidebook.

It’s not enough that NJDOT and West Windsor Township adopted Complete Streets policies – Mercer County must also adopt the policy, which requires roadway improvements to support walking and biking. Otherwise major roads like CR 571 in downtown West Windsor are subject to expensive but counter-productive “improvements” that don’t meet the the township’s goal for “pedestrian-friendly, village scale development.” There’s nothing pedestrian-friendly about a wider road with 30% more cars going 45mph, with no place to safely wait in the middle when crossing.

The Rt 1 Regional Growth Strategy is not enough, since it doesn’t sufficiently support redevelopment in Trenton and New Brunswick, the two already-compact but underutilized “developments” anchoring the region. With the right policies, much of the region’s growth could fit into Trenton and New Brunswick with far less environmental and traffic impact. Without supporting our cities, the strategy’s Bus Rapid Transit system will effectively encourage sprawl in outlying areas, contrary to its stated goal.

Respectfully, it’s wrong to promise reduced congestion by implementing Smart Growth, even with Smart Transportation and the Bus Rapid Transit system. Like water, the transportation network balances itself as people choose to walk, bike, drive, or take the bus or train, depending on the cost and convenience of each. If there is less congestion, people will switch to driving until there is enough congestion to make it better to take another way.

The Transit Village is a good start, but doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We need complementary supporting policies to achieve the benefits of Smart Growth. If Smart Growth just means new and denser development, then it has already failed to achieve its goals.

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WZBN TV-25 Highlights Route 571 Plans

Tuesday, December 13 by sandy

WZBN reporter Rose Eiklor interviewed Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and WWBPA President Jerry Foster and 2nd Vice President Alison Miller. The broadcast was on December 6, 2011.


Jerry made the case for a revised plan: “While the new plans will allow pedestrians to walk along Route 571 much more easily due to the new sidewalks, they won’t be able to cross as easily. And it’s not enough, in our view, to be able to just walk along a road; we’ve got to be able to cross it safely as well. Any median or refuge island that goes in the middle would be a huge improvement to being able to cross the road safely. The other main thing that we’re looking for is less speed through this section of our ‘Main Street.'”

Alison continued:
There also are many, many commuters who will cross right here [the intersection of Route 571 with Wallace/Cranbury], because this is the way to the train station, and it’s expensive to buy a parking space, especially when you can walk. And commuters are always in a hurry, and we’re very concerned about commuter safety.”

Mayor Hsueh worries that any changes in the design at this point will require the Township and County “to go back to square one again…I have reservations about [their design], because they didn’t know that we’d already discussed with County about those concerns. But County…also has certain kinds of ground rules regarding a county roadway, and we have to compromise with them.”

The mayor continued: “The speed limit is decided by the state DOT, so my feeling is, once we have this design done and once we have people riding bicycles around, [there will be] opportunities we can request for reevaluation of the speed limits, and there are technical standards–it’s not even political negotiations, it’s all based on statistical analysis.”

Commenting on the YouTube site, WWBPA trustee Chris Scherer notes, “It is not financially or socially responsible to implement a ‘ solution’ that requires rework to be considered safe and effective.”

WZBN TV-25 is New Jersey’s Capital News Station.

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Safer Pedestrian Crossing at the Train Station

Friday, November 25 by JerryFoster

A new rapid flashing beacon was installed recently at the new crossing between Schlumberger and the Princeton Junction train station. The crossing, which is only accessible via a new sidewalk connecting to Route 571, flashes yellow strobes when a pedestrian presses the crossing button. Thanks to the township for including this crossing and sidewalk in the extensive set of new sidewalks installed over the past few months, with funding from a Safe Routes to Transit grant.

These pedestrian-activated beacons have been very successful in getting cars to stop for crossing pedestrians in studies, and have a significant cost advantage over other treatments, since they are solar-powered. A similar beacon was installed at the Trolley Line Trail crossing of South Mill Road.

Since it’s new, it remains to be seen if commuters will cross at this location once they discover it. Most have been crossing at or east of the Schlumberger driveway across from the Amtrak driveway and then walking through the station parking lot, which is more direct. When I walked it, one commuter was doing that while another pedestrian who was walking her dog used the crossing with the flashing beacon.

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Proposed Route 571 Main Street Design Unsafe

Tuesday, September 13 by JerryFoster

571/Wallace-Cranbury morning commute 2The WWBPA responded to the county’s proposed CR 571 Main Street design recently, maintaining that it is unsafe for everyone: motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. In the past 10 years, two pedestrians were killed on this stretch of roadway (2004 and 2005), while no motorists were killed.  A 17-year-old motorist was killed in 2006, however, just west of downtown Princeton Junction, when she lost control of her car on the curve coming off the bridge over the train tracks.

The proposed wider-straighter-faster design does nothing to address these safety issues. Instead, it preserves the current 45mph design speed and 40mph posted speed limit. Drivers don’t respect crosswalks when they have to slow from high speed, and the proposed design does nothing to provide pedestrian refuges in the center of the roadway to promote safe crossing.

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

The design also features a new two-way center left turn lane (TWLTL) that studies have shown to be unsafe; AARP calls them “suicide lanes.” One study even showed that artificially lowering the posted speed limit, but not the design speed, caused an increase in crashes.

Picture 7

Here’s a picture of Hamilton’s SR 33 that most resembles what is planned. The 45mph design speed is simply not appropriate for the pedestrian friendly Main Street that our Redevelopment Plan envisions. A survey of other Mercer County towns shows that Princeton, Lawrenceville, Hightstown, Hopewell and Pennington all have 25 – 30mph speed limits on their Main Streets. Why not in West Windsor?

The WWBPA is not just opining, and we’re not just complaining – our response, and our recommendations based on the December 2009 Public Review, are founded on research and guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. We are recommending constructive, Complete Streets alternatives to remedy the safety issues and make a Main Street that we can all be proud of.

The current design shows why Mercer County should adopt a Complete Streets policy to complement the state and West Windsor township policies – our transportation network needs jurisdictions with consistent policies to benefit our taxpayers.

Thanks to everyone who has gotten involved to support our position! We appreciate all of you who have signed our petition at the Farmers’ Market, or who have contacted the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which recently conducted public outreach on this and other federally-funded projects.

More help is needed. Please contact our public officials to support our position. With a lower design speed and pedestrian refuges, our senior residents can cross Route 571 safely to the new Rite Aid, and our children can cross Route 571 safely to the new ex-Acme shopping center, as well as to the high school. And our teenage drivers should be able to keep control of their vehicles when going more slowly. Everyone benefits.

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A Much-Improved Intersection

Monday, September 5 by silvia

We’ve organized an educational walk, we’ve advocated and campaigned, we’ve waited and waited, and now with the completion of the new Rite Aid we finally have pedestrian crosswalks across all four roads at the Cranbury/Wallace/Route 571 intersection in Princeton Junction.

This intersection had the dubious honor of being top-ranked (or maybe bottom-ranked) in the 2008 WWBPA intersection inventory. As with many of the recent sidewalk and intersection improvements, this huge addition to walkability and safety was done with relatively little Township money; in this case the funds were largely state, county and private.

Is the intersection now perfect? It’s certainly a lot better, but lack of pedestrian refuges on the Route 571 crossings, poor visibility for vehicles coming off the bridge and turning right onto Wallace, and countdown lights that are still unreachable for wheelchair users forces us to give the intersection less than a triple-A rating.

In the “you can’t get there from here” department, lack of sidewalks on either side of Route 571 mean that it’s not possible to walk safely from the new Rite Aid to the soon-to-be-remodeled Acme shopping center. Well that’s technically not quite true: the safe route is now along Wallace, up Scott and along Alexander.

Sometimes things move slower than we’d like, but this intersection, along with many other intersection and sidewalk improvements over the last six months, is making West Windsor a better place to walk, or in the case of our wheelchair-bound trustee Michael, roll.

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What Makes a Main Street Work for Everyone?

Monday, July 18 by JerryFoster

Bicycle and pedestrian friendliness doesn’t have to be a win-lose battle between competing interests, but can be a win-win for everyone.  The right design balances safety, capacity and livability for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in a way that makes all groups comfortable sharing the space.

Notably, the roadway design should make motorists comfortable traveling at the posted speed limit, which should be 35mph or less so drivers will stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

One nearby example of pedestrian friendliness sometimes discussed is Mercer County Rt 526 in Robbinsville, where recent development included all the design items to make a pedestrian friendly area.

Does it work? Check these pictures – they apparently need a lighted sign board to remind drivers re: the speed limit, and to watch for pedestrians. Why might the roadway design not support the speed limit?

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Public Comment Needed on Route 571 Main Street Project

Wednesday, June 22 by JerryFoster

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) is putting out the New Jersey  federal transportation improvement projects for comment, including the Route 571 project between Clarksville and Cranbury roads. You can find details here:

The West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance’s recommendations for the project are here:

The current design calls for adding a center left turn lane, sidewalks and a bicycle-compatible shoulder, maintaining the existing design speed (45mph).

The problem is that the combination of same design speed, the additional center turn lane and roadway widening, but no pedestrian refuges halfway across the road will make it harder, not easier, to cross the street.

Essentially, there will be 30% more cars to dodge when crossing, which will be going faster than today, since they wouldn’t have to slow down for left-turning vehicles (which will be in the new center turn lane).

In our view, Route 571 is already too hard to cross, and this design will make it worse. Please join us in adding your comments to the DVRPC by following the instructions on their web page.

The stated goals are for a bicycle and pedestrian friendly main street, but the design details do not support the goals, according to the NJDOT Smart Transportation Guidebook. On the plus side, the recommended changes will save money and most importantly give us a Main Street we can be proud of, while still increasing  capacity.

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An Effective Pedestrian Crossing

Sunday, April 3 by JerryFoster


Check out the innovative pedestrian crossing in New Brunswick: Not only does it blink when a pedestrian is crossing, it shows the speed of approaching traffic. It’s even solar-powered. A possible solution for Sherbrooke and Route 571?

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Plainsboro Attracts Student Bicyclists

Monday, February 28 by JerryFoster

The big melt was on, temperatures were rising into the 60s, school was out for teachers’ professional development, and student bicyclists flocked to Plainsboro’s Village Center.

During a short stop on a bike for coffee and a muffin on that day just over a week ago, a very interesting phenomenon was observed: the numerous bike racks in the back parking lots were completely deserted. Not to worry, the benches in front had bikes locked to them, and the bike rack next to the entrance of the new library was packed!

Nice job, Plainsboro! We in West Windsor look forward to our revitalized Main Street Route 571 being able to attract our fair share of bicyclists out for a nice ride.

In the meantime, there’s a lesson for all: if bike racks are visible (so generally, near entrances), they’ll be used much more than if they are hidden away.

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Merchants Say Bike Lanes Good for Business

Sunday, February 20 by JerryFoster

According to a study of the economic impact of traffic calming measures in San Francisco, “Sixty-six percent of the merchants believe that the bike lanes have had a generally positive impact on their business.”

The 2003 study, by Emily Drennan of San Francisco State University, notes:

“Small business owners can be the most vocal opponents of traffic calming projects because they fear losing revenue due to changes to the streetscape.

Some research suggests that traffic calming projects can actually improve business conditions and raise revenues for small businesses (Lockwood, 1998).

The Valencia Street Bike Lane Merchant Survey uses business interviews to gather qualitative information about the effects of the Valencia Street bicycle lanes on small businesses in the area.”

Over 65% of the merchants surveyed supported more traffic calming measures.

How about in West Windsor? Will merchants support traffic calming on our Main Street, Rt 571?

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Wanted: A Trail Through the Acme Woods

Tuesday, December 14 by silvia

wooded pathThe revitalization of the Acme shopping center (really called Windsor Plaza) is crucial to the health of Downtown Princeton Junction. And all plans that call for a town center or village center there and have been endorsed by over the past couple of decades have included a path through the woods to serve as a safe, off-road route to the train station for pedestrians and bicyclists. The current plan for the path, contained in the Redevelopment Plan, is from the back of the shopping center to Borosko Place.

The new owner of site, Irv Cyzner, and the current Planning Board, don’t seem to want that path (read the Princeton Packet article, “Planners stay ruling on Czyner). But many residents support a trail.

Mr. Cyzner’s plans remain before the planning board, and a fourth public hearing on his proposals, this time to discuss a variance on the size of the shopping-center sign, is scheduled for 7 p.m.  Wednesday, January 12 at the Municipal Center.

This is our last chance before the planning board vote to voice our support for this vital bicycle and pedestrian link. Please come show your support.

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Tale of Two Engineers – One Visionary, One Recovering

Thursday, December 2 by JerryFoster

A revolution is underway in how towns are being redesigned for livability, and it’s playing out right here in West Windsor. The late Hans Monderman launched a movement for better safety without signs and signals, while in the Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, another engineer realizes that “Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), recounts the work of the late Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer who held to a maxim: “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.” In appropriate settings, he removed the signs and signals that tell drivers what to do. His goal? “I don’t want traffic behavior, I want social behavior.” His work underlies the design for the promenade in the new transit village west of the train tracks.

In Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, Charles Marohn relates his professional experience “convincing people that, when it came to their road, I knew more than they did.” Why? “I had books and books of standards to follow.” Finally, “In retrospect I understand that this was utter insanity. Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

This realization is slow in coming to our Rt 571 Main Street design, where the state guidelines are in place but the design hasn’t taken them into consideration.

Please help the county engineers learn from the transit village engineers by supporting the WWBPA’s recommendations for Rt 571 Main Street – slower speed, medians with pedestrian refuges and a pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic at the crossing at Sherbrooke Drive.

This redesign is our chance to make drivers comfortable with the slower speed – just posting a lower speed limit will not effectively slow traffic. Our tale of two West Windsors might have the happy ending of a pedestrian-friendly Main Street and transit village promenade, leading to higher property values for us all.

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How Can We Tell a Main Street Roadway Design?

Thursday, November 11 by JerryFoster

571/Wallace-Cranbury morning commute 4What 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.”

Design Elements

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.

Roadway Categories

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

“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 reviewed the proposed Concept Design for Route 571 against these and other Smart Transportation Guidebook design standards – please read our recommendations published January 2010.

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.

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Roadways Designed for Speeding?

Friday, November 5 by JerryFoster

Cars Don't Want to Stop from 40mphAccording to NJDOT’s Smart Transportation Guidebook, many different factors come into play when choosing a desired operating speed for a roadway. From the discussion of speed:

“Desired operating speed is best explained by its relationship to three other concepts of speed: operating speed, posted speed, and design speed.

Operating speed is the speed at which a typical vehicle operates, commonly measured as the 85th percentile speed of all vehicles.

Posted speed is the legal speed limit on a roadway. It is often set without any means of self enforcement, and drivers tend to travel at what they perceive as a safe speed regardless of the posted speed. Fewer than a third of drivers go the speed limit on urban and suburban arterials.

Design speed (as defined in the AASHTO Green Book) is the speed used to determine various geometric design features, including horizontal curvature, gradient, superelevation, stopping sight distance, and, for rural highways only, lane width.

Historically, New Jersey has required the design speed to be 5 mph above posted speed for existing roadways, and 10 mph for new roads.

The greatest drawback to the existing design speed approach is that drivers usually drive as fast as they believe the road can safely accommodate.

Existing policy may thus encourage operating speeds higher than the posted speed limit and/or selected design speed in an area.

In the interest of highway safety, it is desirable to have a stronger relationship between the posted speed limit, design speed, and operating speed. Therefore, this guidebook recommends that the desired operating speed for most roadway types be the same as the design speed, and also the same as the posted speed.”

According to the Rt 571 Concept Design reviewed by county engineers in December 2009, the Main Street Princeton Junction design speed is 45mph, posted speed is 40mph, keeping the same values as exist currently.

Vehicle speed affects pedestrians’ safety in a number of different ways.

Likelihood of Collision

“Faster speeds increase the likelihood of a pedestrian being hit,” according to Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.

Severity of Collision

If a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle traveling at 40mph, he/she has a 15% chance of survival, but if the vehicle is going 30mph, chance of survival increases to 55%, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Facilities Users Guide: Providing Safety and Mobility (2002).

Crosswalk Compliance

Last, motorist compliance with yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks is significantly improved by reducing vehicle speed to below 35mph, according to the federal report Improving Pedestrian Safety at Unsignalized Crossings.

The WWBPA has requested the township to work with the county to follow the new NJDOT approach (called Context Sensitive Design) to choosing a desired operating speed, to support our emerging Main Street. NJDOT guidelines for a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center or Town Center context call for a desired operating speed of 25 – 30mph. Please support the WWBPA by contacting our officials, or write us an email at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

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New Sidewalk for Rt 571 Bridge Over Tracks

Thursday, November 4 by JerryFoster

Crews Installing Sidewalk on Bridge over TracksCrews began installing new sidewalks on the bridge over the Northeast Corridor train tracks this week! When complete, this new section of sidewalk will greatly facilitate pedestrian access between Main Street Princeton Junction and the offices and neighborhoods west of the tracks. The WWBPA wishes to thank all the responsible parties for helping to make our community more pedestrian friendly.

Please join us at the intersection of Rt 571 and Cranbury/Wallace Roads on Monday, November 8 from 6:45am – 7:15am, to help educate morning commuters about the new law to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Hope to see you there!

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HAWK Approved by FHWA

Sunday, October 31 by sandy

Sherbrooke Crosswalk with and without Hawk

Route 571 and Sherbrooke Drive crosswalk today (left) and with simulated addition of Hawk signal (right)

We’ve long advocated for the use of the HAWK (High Intensity Activated Crosswalk), or Pedestrian Hybrid Signal. Since “a pedestrian hybrid beacon may be considered for installation to facilitate pedestrian crossings at a location that does not meet traffic signal warrants…” (Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices), we suggest that the Township and the County consider the HAWK for Route 571 at Sherbrooke Drive.

Here’s what the Fall 2010 issue of the US DOT Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Forum says:

The FHWA’s Office of Safety Research recently completed a report on the High Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK)—also known as the Pedestrian Hybrid Signal in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The HAWK is a pedestrian activated beacon located on the roadside and on mast arms over major approaches to an intersection.

The HAWK signal head consists of two red lenses over a single yellow lens. It displays a red indication to drivers when activated, which creates a gap for pedestrians to use to cross a major roadway. The HAWK is not illuminated until it is activated by a pedestrian, triggering the warning flashing yellow lens on the major street. After a set amount of time, the indication changes to a solid yellow light to inform drivers to prepare to stop. The beacon then displays a dual solid red light to drivers on the major street and a walking person symbol to pedestrians. At the conclusion of the walk phase, the beacon displays an alternating flashing red light to drivers, and pedestrians are shown an upraised hand symbol with a countdown display informing them of the time left to cross.

The crash types that were examined included total, severe, and pedestrian crashes. From the evaluation that considered data for 21 HAWK sites and 102 unsignalized intersections, the following changes in crashes were found after the HAWK was installed: a 29 percent reduction in total crashes, a 15 percent reduction in severe crashes, and a 69 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes. For more details, visit this website.

The HAWK is now an MUTCD approved device, so a request for experimentation is not necessary. Information on its use can by found in Chapter 4f of the MUTCD.

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