Friday, October 2 by JerryFoster
Let’s re-visit the great war between the executive branch (NJDOT) and the legislative (NJ Title 39) and judiciary (NJ Supreme Court Polzo v Essex County ruling) branches with regard to bicycling on the shoulder. Everybody does it, but is it legal?
NJDOT’s excellent 2011 Bicycling Manual recommends “riding on the right side of the road or on the shoulder.” NJDOT’s circa-1996 Introduction to Bicycle Facilities notes, “Advanced bicyclists are best served by bicycle compatible streets and highways which have been designed to accommodate shared use by bicycles and motor vehicles.” Paved shoulders are considered one form of bicycle compatible roadway.
So NJDOT encourages it, but does that make it legal? NJ Title 39:4-14.1 states: “Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”
Wait a minute, isn’t a bicycle a vehicle? Not in NJ – human-powered devices are specifically excluded from the legal definition of vehicle in 39:1-1: “”Vehicle” means every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or motorized bicycles.”
So what, it’s the same thing while riding in the shoulder, right? Not really, as the shoulder is specifically excluded from the “roadway” legal definition in 39:1-1: “”Roadway” means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.” So a cyclist riding in the shoulder would not be granted all the rights and responsibilities as the driver of a vehicle.
Aren’t we nitpicking? Motorists can’t legally drive in the shoulder anyway – cyclists can’t very well have the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of a vehicle while riding in the shoulder, as it would also be illegal.
Exactly! If a cyclist has the same rights/responsibilities to follow the rules of the road, s/he should only ride in the travel lane, not in the shoulder.
NJDOT’s lawyers, presuming to encourage only legal cycling behavior, may well point to the sentence structure of 39:4-14.1. It implies that every person riding a bicycle *outside* the roadway (e.g. on the shoulder) would not have the same rights/responsibilities as the driver of a vehicle, but that doesn’t make it illegal, since it’s not explicitly prohibited, like it is for drivers of a vehicle in 39:4-82.
Under this interpretation, it’s a cyclist’s choice whether to ride in the roadway, and be legally bound to follow all the rules of the road, or live free on the shoulder. Just think, no rules, no responsibilities – bike against traffic, blow the wrong way through stop signs, it’s all legal if you’re a cyclist on the shoulder. Under this interpretation, cyclists have an implicitly legal option to ride on the shoulder that isn’t offered to drivers of vehicles.
So which is it? Illegal or legally available w no rights/responsibilities? According to the NJ Supreme Court in Polzo v Essex County, “Bicyclists do not have special privileges on a roadway’s shoulder. Indeed, a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder. The Motor Vehicle Code does not designate the roadway’s shoulder as a bicycle lane.”
So, as far as the law with regard to cyclists is concerned, the NJ Supremes ruled that a cyclist “is directed” to the roadway, “not on the roadway’s shoulder.”
The Polzo ruling was in 2012 – why is NJDOT still encouraging cyclists to ride on the shoulder? Shouldn’t shoulders with sufficient space be designated as bike lanes? What ever happened to the Complete Streets policy?
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Wednesday, October 30 by JerryFoster
In our previous posts, we’ve seen that traffic engineers see urban where we see suburban or rural, and destroy downtowns by putting fast and wide arterials through them. As a result, conversations between residents and engineers are fraught with possible misunderstandings, making it very difficult to find the love.
Fortunately, this problem is well known, so the traffic engineering profession (Federal Highway Administration) developed Context Sensitive Solutions, to “develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility.” In other words, it encourages engineers to see farms and neighborhoods where we already see them, and to build appropriate roads for those places.
NJDOT and PennDOT even published the Smart Transportation Guidebook in 2008, which provides flexible roadway designs, e.g. for a community collector through a suburban neighborhood, 100% compatible with existing design standards (the flexibility was already there, who knew).
Problem solved? Not quite – NJDOT didn’t adopt the principles and practices in the Smart Transportation Guidebook. Why not, and how can we learn to love our traffic engineers if we can’t even agree on neighborhoods? Stay tuned for the next installment – Social Scientist.
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Thursday, June 20 by JerryFoster
Roszel Road has recently been repaved, with new curb cuts on the sidewalk (one side only) to bring them into ADA compliance. Does that make it a Complete Street? Let’s look at the road in the context of it’s use to find out – we’ll use NJDOT’s Smart Transportation Guidebook (STG) as an objective source of a Complete Streets definition in the context of the road’s use.
Roszel connects Alexander Road (between Rt 1 and the train station) to the Carnegie Center office park, and is home to Tyco’s corporate headquarters among other office buildings. STG calls this context a Suburban Corridor, while West Windsor’s master plan classifies the road as a Principle Collector – STG calls this combination a Community Collector, and provides guidelines we’ll use to compare with the current design.
The NJDOT guidelines recommend paved shoulders and medians or a two-way left turn lane, since Roszel is a multi-lane road – neither of which were implemented.
Sidewalks are recommended “as appropriate”, with a footnote detailing specifics for state and federally funded projects, so sidewalks on one side might be appropriate in a charitable interpretation, but we believe sidewalks on both sides are appropriate in this case.
Bike lanes are listed “Evaluate for suburban and urban contexts” so their absence in the current road is mainly problematic because there are no paved shoulders or sidewalks on both sides to accomodate those cyclists who are not comfortable biking in the road. There’s still time to paint sharrows in the right lane, to encourage bicyclists to use the shared roadway.
Overall, a significant opportunity was missed – Roszel provides a connection to one of our town’s major employment centers, and paved shoulders, sidewalks on both sides and bike lanes/shoulders would have been much more bike and walk friendly. Given the low volumes, a 4-to-3 lane road diet would have been ideal and inexpensive, with no loss of roadway capacity.
What do you think?
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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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Thursday, March 15 by JerryFoster
Complete Streets policies are being adopted in municipalities throughout Mercer County. Since March 1, Trenton, Hopewell Borough, Princeton Borough and Princeton Township have all adopted Complete Streets, joining West Windsor and Lawrence townships. Will Mercer County be next?
As of this posting, only Monmouth County has adopted a Complete Streets policy, although Essex County was asked to consider the policy last night.
Complete Streets policies make clear that bicyclists, pedestrians and other roadway users are to be accommodated by default, rather than by exception, and will greatly increase safety for all users.
NJ DOT Commissioner James Simpson calls it the Way to Zero Fatalities. NJ DOT’s Complete Streets policy was ranked as the best of its type in the nation, though New Jersey Future’s report shows several ways to improve its implementation.
Please join us to encourage Mercer County to adopt Complete Streets – since nearly every major road in West Windsor is a county road, our state and municipal policies are not enough.
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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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Monday, April 4 by silvia
Coming soon: a more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly Schalks Crossing bridge
Gov. Christie’s proposed NJDOT transportation capital program for the fiscal year that begins in July includes $8.7 million to replace the bridge deck over the railroad tracks on Schalks Crossing Road, heading north in Plainsboro toward South Brunswick.
A shared bicycle/pedestrian sidewalk lane will be provided through cantilever additions along both the east and west sides. (As the WWBPA noted in a letter to the Princeton Packet in 2009, the bridge on Clarksville Road could use this too.)
Roadway improvements would include milling and resurfacing the existing roadway approaches for tie-ins to the bridge.
The state’s capital program also includes funds for a New Brunswick Bikeway (which would link the various Rutgers campuses), various intersection treatments, and grade-separation crossings at locations in Middlesex and Union counties that intersect with the state highway system and will allow for a safe crossing along the East Coast Greenway route.
We’re also intrigued by a Lawrence Township project that is receiving $30,000 as part of an effort to turn a stretch of Business U.S. 1 into a pedestrian-friendly roadway that slows speeds and promotes business development. It’s described this way: “The roadway cross section (traveled way) will be reduced to provide 11-foot travel lanes, on-street parking along the northbound side of Route 1B, pedestrian “bulb-outs,” crosswalk enhancements and a 16-foot-wide center median, which can be planted with suitable low ground cover, flowers, etc.” The state’s five-year transportation capital plan calls for $4.3 million in the fiscal year that begins in July 2012 to cover construction costs. Sounds like a Complete Street!
Other projects include $3.5 million for right-of-way acquisitions as part of proposed safety improvements along Route 1 between Nassau Park and I-95. The five-year plan calls for spending nearly $9 million two years later for the actual construction. You can read more about these projects here.
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