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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Penn Lyle Road Improvements Completed

Thursday, December 15 by JerryFoster

It’s a challenge to keep up with all the improvements that have been completed this year, including the long-planned Penn Lyle Road project, which includes repaving, bike lanes and sidewalk connections. Thanks to the township for getting this done, even including porous pavement for the sidewalks!

Penn Lyle Road is a key connector between WW-P High School South and the bike lanes on Woodmere Way and Village Road, as well as to the Trolley Line Trail, a multi-use path that connects to Community Park and on to the bike lanes on Rabbit Hill Road, Bennington Drive and Southfield Road.

Including the new multi-use path along South Post Road, you can now bike from Mercer County Park, at either the Mercer Oaks Golf Course or at the Caspersen Rowing Center, to Village Elementary School or Grover Middle School, and on to McCaffrey’s grocery store, all via bike lanes or multi-use paths.? There are few gaps left in the biking or sidewalk network in the eastern part of the township.

Naturally, experienced bicyclists don’t regard these improvements as necessary, since they (we, actually) are comfortable driving our bikes in traffic, following the laws like anyone else on the road. For casual bicyclists, however, the bike lanes and paths provide the extra perception of safety that enables them to bike places they would not feel comfortable reaching without those facilities.

Please keep in mind that there are some things to watch out for when biking in a bike lane or on a path. Whenever there’s an intersection or driveway, many drivers? pay attention to the middle of the road to look for a car approaching, but may not look to the edge where the bike lane is, and so may not notice a bicyclist entering the intersection or driveway. Also, if cars are backed up, someone turning through a gap in the cars may not see an approaching bicyclist (or a pedestrian on the sidewalk at a driveway), since the driver is paying attention to the gap in cars but not yet to the space beyond. Just keep an eye out for these common causes of crashes, and you’ll be able to avoid them.

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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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Alexander Road S-Curve Completed

Wednesday, December 7 by JerryFoster

Among the amazing number of recent achievements, the Alexander S-Curve ranks high.? Starting at the Delaware and Raritan Canal, the new roadway includes bike lanes on both sides and a sidewalk on the south side of the road. The road was the site of a fatality several years ago, and the construction was delayed to avoid concurrence with the Meadow Road project. Thanks to the township for their very busy year and all the great results!

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St Paul’s Nighttime Visibility Event

Saturday, December 3 by JerryFoster

The WWBPA partnered with the Princeton Joint Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to promote nighttime visibility recently, at St. Paul’s? church in Princeton. We were able to take advantage of their excellent audio/visual facilities in the basement meeting room, with about 15 people attending.

Thanks to our Princeton partners and to our volunteers, especially Lenora,
one of our members, who gave the safety presentation in Spanish, and was very good at engaging the audience. Thanks also to the Hunterdon Area Resources for Transportation (HART) Transportation Management Association, who developed the base of our bilingual presentation.

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Safer Trolley Line Trail Crossing at South Mill Rd

Thursday, December 1 by JerryFoster

A new trail crossing was installed recently where the Trolley Line Trail crosses South Mill Road, including a crosswalk with high visibility markings and a pedestrian-activated rapid flashing beacon, which flashes yellow strobes when the button is pushed. Thanks to the township and county for making crossing South Mill Road safer!

A few details remain, however, and a WWBPA trustee met with township and county engineers to explain the issues, such as placing the buttons for easy accessibility and connecting the crossing to the trail on the east side of the road, which is about 65 feet further north.? We’re confident these will be addressed in the not-too-distant future.

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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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Promoting Nighttime Visibility Thanks to WW Police

Monday, November 21 by JerryFoster

WWBPA trustees and volunteers were at St. Anthony’s of Padua church in Hightstown on Sunday to promote the need for bicyclists and pedestrians to be seen at night. Thanks to a generous donation by the West Windsor Policemen’s Benevolent Association, we were able to offer lights, reflective visibility gear (from vests to simple reflective tape) and helmets for below cost. Thanks to everyone who participated, and to the PBA!

These events are important to get people who walk and/or ride their bikes to work in the dark to be more visible to motorists, and therefore safer. The event was very well attended, and more are planned. If you’d like us to come to your organization, please contact us at wwbikeped@gmail.com.

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Spanish Speakers (And Other Volunteers) Wanted!

Friday, November 11 by silvia

Help us promote nighttime visibility among “invisible” cyclists and others.

We will be at St. Anthony’s of Padua in Hightstown at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20 and at St. Paul’s in Princeton at 7 p.m. Monday Nov. 28. At each event, we will give a short presentation in Spanish (and English)? that also includes some basic “rules of the road.” We’ll then offer visibility and safety items such as reflective vests, lights and helmets for half price, funded in part by a generous donation from the West Windsor Policemen’s Benevolent Association. We need people who can help with the presentation as well as Spanish and non-Spanish speakers to help fit helmets, model vests and otherwise encourage “invisible” cyclists to be more visible to motorists at night.

Interested in helping? Email us at wwbikeped@gmail.com

Would your place of worship be interested in a safety presentation? Or have another suggestion? Email us!

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Keep Halloween in the Neighborhood

Wednesday, November 9 by JerryFoster

Halloween this year was unusual for the early snowfall and the downed branches littering the curbs along with the leaves. West Windsor was fortunate to have power, compared to many New Jersey towns, and in my neighborhood the township removed 2 trees blocking roads Saturday night, so things were pretty much back to normal for the big night on Monday.

We had a pleasant Halloween night – lots of smaller children showed up, very cute in their costumes. It’s a nice change from a few years ago, when we got mostly older teenagers – the neighborhood is turning over, young families moving in.

Our new township LED sign by the high school advertised something called “Trunk or Treat.” Apparently this involves celebrating Halloween in a parking lot, where participants decorate their cars, and their children visit each car in the lot, getting their candy from fellow travelers.

We can see where this kind of event may be attractive for those who don’t live in a neighborhood, but hope it complements instead of supplants traditional Halloween – we’d hate to miss out on a chance to build a sense of community with our neighbors.? Many communities also hold Halloween parades, to get a critical mass of people walking.? An even more innovative idea might be to have a car-free neighborhood between certain? hours on Halloween.

West Windsor is fortunate to have safe neighborhoods – we don’t have to wait for Halloween to take the opportunity to walk around and talk, or at least wave, to our neighbors .

By walking, not only will you feel healthier, you’ll help provide better neighborhood safety, acting as “eyes on the street.” With nearly ubiquitous cell phones with cameras, anyone can provide immediate assistance to law enforcement.

We live in a safe town, let’s help keep it that way – by taking a walk!

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Hawk Elementary Celebrates Walk to School Month

Saturday, October 22 by JerryFoster

Maurice Hawk Elementary School Principal Denise Mengani, Assistant Principal Patricia Buell and?the Hawk led students, their parents and WWBPA trustees for the Walk to Hawk event on October 18th, part of the International Walk to School month festivities.

We had a beautiful sunny day for the walk.? About 45 students and their parents went on the walk, which started at the West Windsor municipal center and ended at Maurice Hawk Elementary School.? WWBPA trustee Stacey Karp gave each child an “I walked to school today” sticker and everyone helped make sure all the students arrived safely at school.

We want to extend our thanks to the? West Windsor police officers who stopped traffic at several crossings so that the group could stay together.? Ms. Mengani allowed us to address the parents to we could share some of the improvements WWBPA has advocated for around town, as well as promote our upcoming events.

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A Spooky But Safe Halloween

Friday, October 14 by silvia

Don?t let the spookiness of Halloween outdo the fun. With a bit of reflective tape, that princess? crown will glow the brighter, while the pirate?s sword will be sharper with reflective material. The robot will be all the more robotic with a carapace lined with flashing lights. Capes can be trimmed with reflective tape, as can baskets for goodies. And motorists will be thankful they can see trick-or-treaters instead of shadows.

Have a scarier, shinier, and safer Halloween!

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Find a Home for Our Nighttime Visibility Poster

Tuesday, October 4 by silvia

Be safe, be bright posterWe have lots of copies of this government poster that we think makes a strong case for walkers, joggers and bicyclists to wear reflective material at night. We’ve put up a few in town and are displaying it at the farmers’ market … but where else should there be one?

Help us get them up by asking your church, synagogue, sports facility, employer, etc if one can go up and we’ll make sure we get it to you to bring in. Anywhere we can get out the safety message is a good l\ocation. We’d like to see them in places other than West Windsor too.

The poster is on the large size — 20″ across by 24″ tall.

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Everyone Needs to Be Bright at Night

Tuesday, September 27 by silvia

Cyclist with various reflective gear

photo courtesy of www.pedbikeimages.org / Diana Redwood

It?s no longer light when many of us head off or come home from work, or go jogging or walking, and it will soon be darker for many more of us. The West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance strongly urges pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists to be bright at night.

The dark coats and jackets most of us favor make it hard for motorists to see us; the Federal Highway Administration says a driver will first see someone wearing blue 55 feet away and someone in white from 180 feet ? but won?t be able to stop in time for either if he?s going 40 mph.

Even when walking in our neighborhoods, where traffic is slower, being visible helps everyone stay safe.

The WWBPA will demonstrate and sell a wide range of items at the West Windsor Farmers? Market on Sat., Oct. 1 that will make you more visible: vests, belts and briefcase straps with reflective materials, small lights to hang off the end of purses and backpacks and of course lights and reflective tape for bikes. Come see us between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Vaughn Drive commuter parking lot off Alexander Road.

You can?t be too visible.

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Bike the Sharrows

Thursday, September 22 by silvia

Sustainble Princeton invites everyone to experience the new sharrows on its “Be Green, Be Seen” mass bike and skate ride on Sunday, Oct. 2. The group will set off from Hinds Plaza (by the Princeton library) at 3 p.m. for a two-mile ride.?(“Be Green, Be Seen” will run until 5 p.m.)?Sharrows have been installed on a number of local roads, including Nassau, Harrison and Witherspoon streets. The route will cover parts of those streets plus Hamilton Avenue.l

What’s a sharrow? A shared-lane marking when it’s just not feasible to install a full bicycle lane. You can read about their success elsewhere here.

Here’s the full message from Sustainable Princeton:

Unlock those bikes and come ride on the bike sharrows!
Cyclists and skateboarders, all ages, all skill levels are invited to take part in a short ride along the newly marked sharrows along Princeton?s streets.
Bike for the environment, bike to support the BYOBag campaign or just bike for fun? but please join us to show that we love the new Sharrows and look forward to more support for healthy, sustainable, fun-loving bikers and skaters.
Remember your helmets!
The more people who attend the ride, the bigger the statement.
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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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Be Visible, Use Sidewalks and Be Safe

Friday, September 9 by silvia

As daylight hours get shorter, a letter from a friend of the WWBPA couldn’t be more timely.

She writes:
“I have been taking my husband to the station and picking him up five days a week for many years.? We travel down Alexander Road to Scott Avenue, making a right on Wallace, then a left into the station driveway.? I am on Scott Avenue four times per day.? In recent years, it has become a challenge to weave around the pedestrians who prefer to walk in the street rather than use the sidewalk.
We believe the traffic — cars AND walkers/bicyclists –?has increased significantly in recent years and, despite the pedestrian improvements such as painted walkways, the risk of a vehicle/pedestrian and/or bike?accident is growing.
Please USE THE SIDEWALK on Scott Avenue — rather than walking (or?running) on the paved street — and USE THE NEW?CROSSWALKS instead of jay-walking diagonally?across the streets to and from the station.

Follow common-sense rules of road-sharing and safety, such as “stop and look both ways before crossing” and “don’t assume the motorist sees you.” And don‘t wear all dark clothing when riding a bike at night.”

And a message from the WWBPA: One way to be more visible is to wear a reflective vest. The WWBPA sells them for just $10. Come see us at the farmers’ market.

Why might walkers on Scott Avenue prefer to walk in the road rather than on the sidewalk? Please comment with your views.


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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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Watch the Crosswalks!

Saturday, August 27 by silvia

Responding to concerns voiced by the Township Council, the West Windsor police are enforcing the new state law which protects pedestrians by making it mandatory for motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. They also want pedestrians to stay in the crosswalks.

The law say motorists are not allowed to move again until the pedestrian is more than one lane away.? (On a two-lane road, this means until the pedestrian has crossed the road.? On a four-lane road, this means until the pedestrian is in front of traffic going the other way.)

Erring motorists are receiving tickets and points.

Police are also citing pedestrians who do not stay in the crosswalk (where one is available) when crossing a road, especially pedestrians who cross two streets at once in a diagonal line.

Pedestrians also shouldn’t assume that motorists see them

Everyone–motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians–treat each other with courtesy and enhance road safety for all!

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A Bicycle and Pedestrian Path on South Post Road

Tuesday, August 2 by silvia

Construction is expected to start in late August or early September on an eight-foot-wide multi-use path along the Mercer County golf course on South Post Road from Village Road West to Conover Road. Most of the cost is covered by a grant from the NJ Department of Transportation.

The path will let kids bike safely to the ball fields at the corner of Conover Road and give rowers at the Caspersen Rowing Center a safe place to run.

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