Safer Pedestrian Crossing of Clarksville at Hawk

Monday, November 24 by JerryFoster

Hawk Clarksville 2 dark shotsWhat would you do? You’re walking at night, from the station to home north of Clarksville – up Scott Ave, through school grounds and the parking lot to the intersection of Clarksville and Hawk Drive.

There’s no marked crosswalk, but there is a streetlight. Or, you could go to the painted crosswalk at the opposite edge of school grounds, but there is no street light and no way to manually activate the blinking crosswalk lights that are set on a timer for the students.

Also, you’d then have to walk back to Hawk Drive to continue home.

What would you do? Cross under the street light without a painted crosswalk or at the painted crosswalk without light? See the picture for an approximation of the differences.

Please join us at the Twp Council meeting tonight, Monday November 24, 2014, to ask for an improved painted crossing with a streetlight, pedestrian-activated warning lights and turning on the existing speed display signs at all times, not just during school times.

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Bike Commuter Journal

Wednesday, November 12 by joegorun

I?ve been commuting to work in the Plainsboro and West Windsor area on and off for 8 years, and bikes were always a central focus of my life. Post-college, the bike was replaced with the car, shuttling from one commitment to the next. With increasing work responsibilities, I lost sight of what matters most. I started focusing on convenience over happiness and status over health. After a few years the longer car commutes, office lunches, and stress started taking a mental and physical toll. Gym memberships collected dust, and bigger pants couldn?t solve the problems any longer. Suddenly I didn?t recognize myself. A year ago I had an ?awakening? and realized it was time for a number of changes, including a commitment to consistently commute by bike no matter what.

Lifebycycle_Commuter Journal

Today, it?s going well. As it turns out, this area is actually amazing for biking to work, to the store, or just for fun. Often it?s actually EASIER than driving. You have your choice of bike lanes, bike paths, or even roads, and it?s getting even better thanks to the hard work of many people. ?More importantly, there is a growing tolerance on the roads, and most drivers are also closet bicyclists just waiting to start bike commuting as well. You can even expand your biking with a simple bus or train excursion.

My commute brings me past the beautiful fields of Stult?s Farm, down the boulevard-esque bike lanes of Southfield Road, and even through Mercer County Park, where I routinely pass dozens of deer. I?ve also rode in rain, floods, and snow, and enjoyed every minute. I take in the beautiful scenery and admire the changing seasons, all from the seat of my bike.

Riding a bike is more than just exercise or cost savings; it?s fun too. It?s the high gear to happiness!

-Robert Stasio

[email protected]

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Travel Lanes, Shoulders or Bike Lanes – Which is Best?

Friday, September 19 by JerryFoster

Cars moving up shoulder on 571Consider the following scenario – you’re stopped in traffic by a long line of cars waiting for the light – this being New Jersey, you move up the shoulder, where there’s plenty of room. Unfortunately, a car turning left through a gap in the waiting cars hits you – who gets the ticket?

Would it be any different if you were riding a bike up the shoulder? Who would get the ticket then?

What if you were riding your bike in a bike lane instead of a shoulder – now who gets the ticket?

The motorist or cyclist on the shoulder would get the ticket, since shoulders are not for traveling – the cyclist in a bike lane would “only” be injured, not ticketed, since s/he has legal right of way.

This scenario is based on a real life incident in Chatham, where a cyclist on the shoulder was hospitalized and ticketed for unsafely passing cars on the right when he crashed into a car turning left into a drugstore driveway. As the Polzo v Essex County ruling confirmed, “a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway?s shoulder.”

So cycling in the travel lane or a bike lane provides legal right of way, but what about safe operating conditions?

The NJ Supreme Court ruled that travel lanes and shoulders do not need to be maintained for safe cycling – “Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers peculiar to bicycles.” “Roadways generally are intended for and used by operators of vehicles.” “A ‘vehicle’ is defined as ‘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.’?

Bike lanes offer safe operating conditions – “A public entity?s designation of a portion of the roadway as a bicycle lane would alter the generally intended use of that part of the road and would require the public entity to maintain it in a reasonably safe manner for those purposes.”

So here’s the score:

  1. Bike Lanes – right of way and safe operating conditions
  2. Travel Lane – right of way but operating conditions sufficient for vehicles only, not bikes
  3. Shoulder – neither right of way nor safe operating conditions

The court provided NJ cyclists with another option to gain safe operating conditions for specific roadway or shoulder segments – notify the maintaining entity (state, county or municipality) that you routinely cycle on a specific road or shoulder. “Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder of Parsonage Hill Road was designated as a bicycle lane or routinely used as one.” “We need not address here the standard of care that might apply under the Torts Claims Act if a roadway?s shoulder were routinely used as a bicycle lane and the public entity responsible for the maintenance of that roadway was on notice of that use.”

Will adoption of a Complete Streets policy provide a future court sufficient evidence of intended use by cyclists? If so, cyclists would enjoy a better standard of care for travel lanes, though perhaps not as good as for bike lanes.

 

 

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2014 WW Biking and Walking Up 24%

Friday, September 12 by JerryFoster

Rite Aid Counting Location 2014Now our 4th annual survey, WWBPA volunteers counted 343 bicyclists and pedestrians at 3 locations around the train station on Wednesday September 10, 2014 between 5-8pm. Last year the count was 334, but the numbers are not directly comparable, since we counted at 5 locations last year. Comparing the same locations at the same times, biking and walking increased 24% over last year (which had decreased 18% from the year earlier). The weather cooperated this year, only 80 degrees and mostly sunny, in contrast to last year’s hot (90 degrees) and humid day.

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 2014 findings:

  1. Cranbury/Wallace/571 (Rite Aid) ? 28 bike, 113 walk
  2. Scott/Alexander (Arts Center) ? 34 bike, 106 walk, 2 others
  3. Vaughn/Alexander (bus stop) ?? 18 bike, 42 walk

Total: 343 people, 80 who bike, 261 who walk, 2 on motorized wheelchairs or skateboards

Thanks to our volunteers!

Traffic along 571 in downtown West Windsor flowed freely except from 6:00-6:04pm, likely due to 2 different trains from NYC arriving within 5 minutes of each other.

Other observations:

  • midblock crossings of 571 at Rite Aid driveway ? 8
  • male ? 243, female ? 98 (?Other? gender data not collected)
  • walkers ? 261, cyclists ? 80
  • male cyclists – 70, female cyclists – 10
  • male walkers – 173, female walkers – 88
  • At 571, 4 semi trucks, two traveling together at 7:35pm
  • At 571, 11 car honks, none directed at cyclists or pedestrians (most re left turning, a few at the 571 merge point where 2 lanes decrease to 1 southbound)
  • At 571, the vast majority of cyclists wore helmets
  • At 571, one couple relaxed in the pocket park for about 10 minutes
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Are Cyclists Riding on Shoulders At Their Own Risk?

Friday, August 29 by JerryFoster

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe NJ Supreme Court ruled in 2012 re the county?s potential liability for surface defects on the shoulder that a cyclist was riding on when she crashed and subsequently died (Polzo v Essex County). The ruling generated concern that cyclists riding on the shoulder may be treated differently by the legal system than those in a bike lane, but after reading the ruling carefully, I believe that concern is unfounded.

The court found:

1. The depression caused the tragic fatality.

2. ?The Motor Vehicle Code provides that a ?roadway? is the portion of highway generally used for vehicular travel; the ?shoulder? borders the roadway and is for emergency use; and ?vehicles? are not bicycles. Bicyclists are directed to ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. While they may be inclined to ride on the shoulder, they have no special privileges if they do.?

3. ?Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers specific to bicycles.?

The ruling is clear to this point ? cyclists riding on the road or shoulder may not expect a standard of care specific to bicycles. Cyclists may be dismayed by the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, but there is equality between the roadway and shoulder? re the standard of care. “No special privileges” does not mean “at your own risk.”

They then examined if the actual depression was a dangerous condition under the Tort Claim Act, noting “Under the TCA, a dangerous condition means a condition that creates a substantial risk of injury when such property is used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used.”

They might have stayed with the logic that cyclists riding on the shoulder have no special privileges, because the law says shoulders are not part of the roadway, and only roadways are generally intended to be used by bicycles under the law (to the extent bicycles are an intended use even though they’re not vehicles).

But no, they said:

4. ?Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder was routinely used as a bicycle lane, which might implicate a different standard of care.?

So a shoulder that is ?routinely used as a bicycle lane? might be expected to be held to a ?different standard of care,? though presumably not to the extent as to ?remove all dangers specific to bicycles.?

Since evidence of routine use may determine generally intended purpose and trigger a different standard of care, concern re a distinction between shoulders and bike lanes is unnecessary, in my not-a-lawyer view.

Perhaps the plaintiff?s lawyer should have introduced NJDOT standards for bicycle compatible shoulders as evidence of intended purpose, but in any case Essex County now has a Complete Streets policy that clarifies that bicycling is an intended purpose for county roads.

While cyclists are rightly concerned about the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, the suit was primarily about tort claims, which used the MVC only to determine intended purpose, and even finding none with regard to shoulders, ignored it in favor of a standard of evidence of routine use.

 

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Bike Commuter Journal ? The Art of Improvising

Thursday, July 31 by JerryFoster

Fireflies Chris Ecgnoto

Fireflies photo by Chris Egnoto (used with permission)

Welcome back guest blogger Don Pillsbury sharing some of his cycling incidents and a great picture?courtesy of his friend.

There are many benefits from cycling. Personally, what I have learned most from regularly riding my bike is the art of improvising. No matter how well you plan, it is inevitable, at some point; you will encounter a situation that requires you to ?make do.? Such is the time my headlight inexplicably gave out. (Fortunately it was the peak of firefly season and the iridescent insects guided my way along the D&R Canal Towpath ? it is one of my most cherished memories.)

Or riding?along and having the crank/pedal fall off. (I had read about a one-legged cyclist and decided to see what it is like.) Or like getting to the office and discovering the set of clothes you distinctly remember leaving there before hand were not to be found. (That situation took some creativity.)

You can only pack a set amount of tools, spare parts, gear, and equipment.

After that, it?s a matter of keep calm and ride on ? with creativity and humor.

Thank you Don! If you would like to write about your experience in a guest post, please email [email protected].

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Bike Commuter Journal – Bus, Bike and Back

Friday, June 6 by JerryFoster

Jennys BikePlease welcome Jenny Goodman as this week’s guest commuter, and contact [email protected] to share your experiences.

OK, after the long, long, winter, it?s going to be 60 degrees and no rain, I picked up my son?s friend and dropped them both off at school, the 606 bus leaves at 8:12, so I have 15 minutes to get my bike shorts, t-shirt, bike shoes, helmet and gloves and get over to the bus stop. You see I am somewhat of a wimp. I don?t ride when it?s cold (and this morning it?s 35 degrees), in the rain, or in the snow.

I made it. The bike goes on the front of the NJ Transit bus in a really cool, super-easy-to-maneuver bike rack. While I have a few panic attacks as we go over some wicked potholes, hoping my bike won?t get thrown off the rack and smashed by the bus, my stop comes up with everything still intact. My work is about a ? mile from the stop, so I bike over looking like a dork with my jeans tucked into my white socks.

My bike is a steel 1980 Reynolds 531 double-butted Puch that has Campanolo pedals with toe straps with over 10,000 miles on it. (Though truth be told, I don?t even tighten up the toe straps, nor have cleats anymore.) Talk about retro. The fork was also 531 but was crushed when I flipped over the hood of a car pulling out of the Hightstown McDonalds in 1993. We got it fixed and painted by Andreas Cuevas (that might mean something to somebody out there). And it has beautiful lugs.

Work is finally over and I set out on my first ride of the season, April 1. I have a great commute from Ewing to Princeton on the Princeton Pike, which has a great shoulder almost the whole way. Not too long and not too short, about 11 miles one way. The only bad part is fighting for position on the bridge over Stony Brook. Pretty hairy. Yeah, I know, there is a separate bike lane you can ride on, but between the frost heaves and the mud and gravel at the bottom of a turn coming off the bridge, I?d rather take my chances. The first ride home of the season is so pleasant. First I pass Halo Farms with its plastic herd of dairy cows. No joke, you should go see them. Through the parking lot of the Trenton?s Farmer?s Market, dodging a thousand pieces of glass, past the ?Win, Place, and Smoke? shop, then on to the open road.

I thought I would feel worse than this for the first ride of the season. A previous blogger (and neighbor of mine) says NJ is like Holland, nice and flat. Well, that?s true I guess, but not on your first ride of the season, especially up the hill into Princeton past the Battlefield Park. Coming into town is my favorite part of bike commuting – being passed by some cars in a hurry and then proceeding to pass them back while they wait in traffic at a stop sign or light. And now that Nassau Street has sharrows, I feel so legit giving myself enough room so I don?t get slammed by a car door opening up. I make it home in one piece (again). And tomorrow looks like it will be nice for another ride home.

Jenny Goodman has been bike commuting off and on (on nice days) for about 25 years. She is entitled to be a wimp, having ridden with her husband across North America, from Alaska to Montana, from Portugal to Switzerland, Maine to New Brunswick, and from NJ to Canada twice in the wind, snow, sleet, rain, blazing sun, and bugs (including a swarm of huge grasshoppers in Saskatchewan).

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – The Wimpy Way to Work (So She Says)

Friday, May 30 by JerryFoster

Kiyomi bikePlease welcome Kiyomi Camp, who also serves on the Princeton Free Wheelers bike club board, as our guest commuter this week.

When I was in high school and college, I used to ride my bike everywhere, both for transportation and for pleasure. As an adult in semirural Montgomery, New Jersey, that didn?t really seem like an option, especially after my kids were born. I lived on a 2-lane highway 4 miles from the nearest commercial area and about 8 miles from my workplace and the kids? school.

Then I went to my 30th college reunion. Seeing all the people riding bikes at the college brought back happy memories. I resolved to try riding my bike to work, at least during the summer when I worked shorter hours and didn?t have to chauffeur kids.

The route I worked out involved riding on the towpath for 3 miles then taking to the streets. At the time, I only owned a mountain bike. The first climb up Mt. Lucas on knobby tires nearly killed me, then I had to climb Cherry Hill Road! I changed my route to avoid Cherry Hill, bought slick tires, and eventually got strong enough to make it up the hills without having to stop. My route was about 9 sweaty miles. I work in a school and have access to showers so this was not a problem. My clothes and lunch fit in my trunk bag and I kept shoes and toiletries in my desk. I really enjoyed riding to work during the summers, when I could ride home before rush hour, but I?m a pretty wimpy rider and found the rush hour traffic on my road during the school year was more than I could handle.

In 2011, I moved to Hopewell, a mere 7 miles to work but on more heavily traveled roads. From Princeton Free Wheeler ride leaders Diane Hess and Andy Chen, I learned some routes through developments that minimize my time riding on The Great Road. I also make use of the ?bike lane? (really, a sidewalk) on The Great Road for the uphill portion of my ride home. My new route turned out to be rideable at rush hour so I can now ride year round although I?m still a wimp and drive if it?s icy or visibility is poor (or if I oversleep.) My ride to work starts and ends with pretty nice downhills. Of course, this means that my return trip starts and ends with some pretty serious uphills, but I can reward myself with a shower and a recovery beverage when I get home.

I acquired some different bikes and became addicted to a couple of bike blogs that extolled the pleasures of riding to work on an upright bike while wearing one?s normal clothes. Enamored of the vision of myself riding to work on a stylish bike in my dress and ballet flats, I decided to give that a try.

Unfortunately, seven miles with a couple of miles of uphill each way is not really fun on an upright bike. I concluded that I really prefer riding a road bike while wearing bike shorts. I?ve learned to bring in a bag of office outfits on my driving days so that I can commute on my unencumbered ?fast? road bike. I also built up a vintage touring bike with a Brooks saddle and Carradice bag for days when I want to look picturesque or carry my clothes and lunch.

As a wimpy rider, I like to make myself as visible as possible. My bikes sport front and rear lights that are used even in daylight, and my main commuter has reflective tape on the frame and rims. I wear a helmet, use a rear view mirror, and avoid road-colored clothing.

I don?t bike to work every day, but I?ve never had a day where I biked to work and wished that I hadn?t. I guess this means I should bike to work more often!

Thanks Kiyomi – if you’d like to share your commuting experiences, please contact [email protected].

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike and Walk to School Week is May 19-23

Friday, May 16 by JerryFoster

WW HSS Track Team Running cropBiking and walking to school is good for children and good for the community.

Walk and Bike to School Week will be celebrated this year from May 19-23, 2014. Governor Chris Christie signed a proclamation encouraging state and local governments and school districts to promote active and healthy lifestyles by walking and bicycling to school.

Safe routes to schools is a priority for the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance (WWBPA) because it benefits health and well-being of the whole community, from our youngest members to our oldest. Biking and walking to school is great for student health and academic success. Studies in Denmark and Spain have shown that biking or walking to school leads to higher levels of concentration that lasted throughout the morning hours – ?Walking and biking to school is also a great way for kids to get the physical activity needed for healthy minds. Kids who are more physically active have better academic performance. Studies are also beginning to show that exposure to nature and free outdoor play can reduce stress and relieve ADHD symptoms,? said Dr. Jennifer Rupert.

Not only is active transportation good for kids? school success, kids who get themselves around also know their neighborhood and environment better.? This study looked at kids in a high traffic neighborhood and a low traffic neighborhood and found that students who lived in the high traffic neighborhood, who were driven most places due to safety concerns, had a negative attitude about their neighborhood and could not draw a map of their street network. The children in low traffic neighborhoods had a high knowledge of their neighborhood and more positive feelings of their place. The study followed up with the adults and children in the same neighborhoods after the facilities for biking and walking were improved in the high traffic neighborhood. The children?s knowledge of their town improved once they were able to get around on their own. Previous studies had shown that adults living in high traffic neighborhoods felt more isolated from their community, too. Being able to get around outside of a car builds community and connection between neighbors.

Beyond the health and community-building benefits from walking or biking to students themselves, getting more kids and parents out of cars has congestion and air quality benefits for the whole community, especially for folks living near the schools. A traffic engineer interviewed by NPR noted that ?One of the biggest problems we have with schools in general is parents dropping off kids, buses, and kids walking, all converging in the same fifteen minute period,? says Lees.? In fact, 20 to 30 percent of morning traffic is children being driven to school, according to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.?

As Dr. Rupert points out ?think about the air quality around a school when dozens of parents sit in idling cars while their children jump out. Air pollution has contributed to childhood asthma rates doubling between 1980 and the mid-1990s. Asthma rates remain at historically high levels and cause 14 million missed school days every year. Walking and biking to school is healthy for kids, healthy for communities, and healthy for the planet.?

In New Jersey there are a number of organizations working to make biking and walking safer for students and their families. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes that safe routes to school has benefits New Jersey, ?Since 2005, $13.5 million of this grant money has helped pay for New Jersey projects, from the construction of a bridge and sidewalk system along Route 539 and Frog Pond Road in Egg Harbor, to new crosswalks and flashing school zone signs in Jersey City. In January, Gov. Chris Christie announced a new round of grants totaling $5.7 million for 25 communities, including some struggling areas such as Garfield, Jersey City and Brick, where many children don?t have access to safe places to be physically active. This is good news for our kids, for our communities and our health.?? New Jersey has a safe routes to schools organization which helps provide coordination and resources to folks wanting to organize and advocate for safe routes to schools. They run an award program to recognize schools making strides towards safer biking and walking. We also have a walking and biking resource center funded by NJDOT and run out of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers New Brunswick.

WWBPA supports biking and walking to school as a healthy, community building activity. We partner with students, parents and teachers in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district to host bikes and walks to school, biking and walking ?buses? and to advocate for safer routes to schools. Recent partnerships have included working on the Knight Trail as well as the Cranbury Rd Sidewalk and Safety Project. We know that safe routes to schools are an important part of a community active transportation network.? Want to plan something for bike and walk to school month in October? Check out this fact sheet from NJ Safe Routes to School campaign through NJ DOT. Contact us at wwbpa.org to partner with us as you plan an event at your school.

Thanks to former trustee Beth Zeitler for contributing this article, a version of which also appears on the Greater Mercer TMA blog.

 

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Bike Commuter Journal – Cycling, a Moving Experience

Friday, April 18 by JerryFoster

Blessing the Bikes NYCPlease welcome back guest commuter Don Pillsbury – if you’d like to share your commuting experiences, please email us at [email protected].

I have to admit, some cyclists hold a lofty self-image of their noble pursuit to reduce their carbon footprint. But could cycling ever be a religious experience?

Spurred by a challenge from a friend, two years ago for Lent I “gave up my car.” Truth be told, I was not “car-free” but I did make a concerted effort to rely more on the bike and less on the auto. Before hopping in the car to run an errand I developed the habit of evaluating whether the bike could be used. As a result I rode in conditions I would normally avoid. At the end of the 46 day period I pedaled 700 miles.

In the spirit of Lent, the cost savings of almost $200 were donated to a disaster relief charity. But more than the financial benefits, the experience was priceless. Time spent in the saddle had an increased focus on my faith and what it means to me. Would you believe me if I said it was a very moving experience?

Photo from “Blessing of the Bikes” at St John the Divine in NYC on April 30, 2011.

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – How Things Change, or Not

Friday, April 4 by JerryFoster

Please welcome Steve Kruse as our guest bike commuter this week ? he chairs the Princeton Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and bike commuted from Princeton to Plainsboro through 2005. Steve joins us via an article he wrote almost 17 years ago, Two Wheels To Work, which appeared in the U.S. 1 Newspaper, May 28, 1997, used here with kind permission of author and publisher.

It’s great to get a view from last century, to see what has improved, and what hasn’t. Steve’s article mentions road conditions, policies, motorists both considerate and not, and several planned improvements to the area.

Steve noted that “New Jersey does not spring to mind as an especially bicycle-friendly place.” Is that still true? Maybe, but NJ DOT adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2009, so future improvements should include accommodations for biking and walking, transit users and those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As our readers know, the state has jurisdiction over only the federal highways and interstates and a few other major arteries. Fortunately for today’s Princeton to Plainsboro bike commuters, Mercer and Middlesex counties, as well as Princeton and Plainsboro have all adopted Complete Streets policies – click here to see everyone in New Jersey who’ve adopted Complete Streets.

Significant improvements have also been made to onstreet bike lanes in West Windsor, which are beginning to form a network. Steve mentioned staying out of the “door zone” of onstreet parked cars on Harrison – Princeton’s shared lane pavement markings (“sharrows”), including on Harrison, guide cyclists (and notify motorists) to the safe lane position away from cars. Plainsboro continues to extend it’s network of paved multi-use paths. The League of American Bicyclists have designated West Windsor and Princeton Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Communities, and Princeton University earned New Jersey’s first Bicycle Friendly University award.

As you read Steve’s article, what do you notice has changed? What has not?

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Bike Commuter Journal – The Commuter Bike

Friday, March 7 by JerryFoster

bike-at-work-3This post marks the debut of a new series for our blog, based on bicycle commuting. As a longtime cyclist but a newbie bike commuter, I?ll look at the issues faced by those who want to explore bike commuting as a fun, healthy and sustainable lifestyle choice.

Let?s assume for the moment that you know why you want to bike commute, but want to know what bike is right for commuting? The great news is that any bike will do, especially for short distances over relatively flat terrain.

Some vital components necessary for commuting safety and comfort may be missing though on typical recreational bikes; such as a kickstand, fenders, bell and lights. Fortunately, reasonably priced after-market choices are readily available from your local bike shop or online.

Since I?ve enjoyed my various bikes for many years, however, I bought a new, full-featured commuter bike (pictured). The bike features a relatively light and stiff aluminum frame, fixed fenders, a light capacity rear rack, disc brakes and gearing for hills, and includes a sturdy kickstand and a bell. Most of all, I wanted the electricity-generating front hub that powers permanently mounted front and rear LED lights.

The lights are key to enhancing visibility on the road, since most motorists don?t expect cyclists, and as a commuter I don?t have the advantage of riding in a group, as on a club ride. The front light is powerful enough to see the road at night, and I won?t need to worry about battery life.

And don?t underestimate the utility of fenders?just one ride in the rain or snow and you will understand their benefit!

In the next post I?ll address some additions to the bike, but in the meantime please feel free to comment!

This post also appeared in On the Move, the blog for Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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Movie Afternoon at the Arts Center – Bicycle Dreams

Wednesday, January 29 by JerryFoster

bicycle-dreams-movie-posterPlease join us Sunday February 23 at 5:00pm for a showing of Bicycle Dreams at the West Windsor Arts Center. Admission is free for WWBPA or WWAC members, $5 otherwise.

Bicycle Dreams (2010) covers the 2005 Race Across America, described as ?having more drama in eight days than an entire Tour de France?. Considered the most challenging sporting event in the world, Race Across America is an epic 3,000 mile bike race from the Pacific to the Atlantic, with top riders finishing in under ten days. Riders cycle over 300 miles per day and sleep only a few hours a night. This award-winning film follows several riders, capturing every emotional and physical breakdown, late-night strategy session and great moments of personal triumph as they overcome searing desert heat, agonizing mountain climbs and endless stretches of open road, all while battling extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation. What starts as an adventure of a lifetime is transformed when tragedy strikes the race. As the race unfolds it?s clear that sometimes it?s not all about the bike.

Hope to see you there! The West Windsor Arts Center is at 952 Alexander Rd, at Scott Ave, an easy walk from the train station, which offers free weekend parking for Arts Center events in the West Windsor commuter lot.

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Bike Repair Class and Clinic

Thursday, January 16 by Kathy Brennan Werth

Want to learn some basic bike repair? On?Saturday, January 25, 1-3pm, we’re holding a clinic at the Twin “W” Rescue Squad building, 21 Everett Drive, near the West Windsor Police Station.

Learn bike maintenance tips such as changing and airing tires, cleaning and lubing chains, and brake and gear adjustments. Bicycles are welcomed, but not required. No sign-ups required, but RSVP?s are appreciated. Email?[email protected]?- hope to see you there!

Get more information by clicking the link:?Bike Repair Clinic Flyer.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Cost

Wednesday, December 4 by JerryFoster

NJ.COM Picture

NJ.COM Picture

To learn to love our traffic engineers, we must understand why they prioritize cost least when designing roadway improvements. Cost varies a lot – $1M / lane mile is a general rule of thumb, but the NJ Turnpike?s current expansion costs $14.7M / lane mile and Boston?s Big Dig cost $136.2M / lane mile.

Standard engineering practice is to build for more speed, which means more and wider lanes, plus expanded roadside sight distances, which may require purchasing right-of-way, etc., all adding to the cost. Also, engineers are required to forecast volume 20 years into the future and build for anticipated increases.

But other factors are at work – e.g. a 1961 bridge in Washington State cost $159M in today?s dollars, but the replacement is projected to cost $4.6B, including 2 additional lanes.

This dramatic $4B increase over inflation points to issues on the process, financial and political sides, including the revolving door between government and private industry, politicians? dependence on corporate contributions to get re-elected, government dependence on borrowing to finance road projects, even ?commonplace? corruption, according to a New York State report.

If nobody has an incentive and/or is held accountable for cost containment, neither politicians nor engineers, it?s easy to see why it?s not a priority.

We?ve finished examining how citizens prioritize safety, cost, volume and speed differently than traffic engineers, so our next installment will look at one reason engineers use to convince us that they know best – because of the standards.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Safety

Wednesday, November 27 by JerryFoster

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Not only do traffic engineers prioritize safety lower than residents, the designs that supposedly increase safety cause more death and destruction. Why? Because motorists behave differently than engineers expect.

In 2012, there were 33,561 traffic fatalities, including 4743 pedestrians and 726 cyclists.

Traffic engineers? safety improvements include paving wider lanes and shoulders, removing roadside trees, straightening tight curves, etc.? According to AASHTO standards, ?every effort should be made to use as high a design speed as practical to attain a desired degree of safety.?

Traffic engineers believe that designing for high speed will provide safety.

The crash data, however, show ?wider lanes and shoulders were associated with statistically significant increases in crash frequencies.?

Noland reports that traditional ?road ?safety improvements? actually lead to ? increases in total fatalities and injuries,? because ?this type of approach tends to ignore behavioural reactions to safety improvements?.

Dumbaugh reports that ?a behavior-based understanding of safety performance is supported by research and literature in the field of psychology, which has focused on the subject of traffic safety as a means for understanding how individuals adapt their behavior to perceived risks and hazards.?

Marohn calls the traditional approach to safety ?professional malpractice?.

Despite WWBPA recommendations, the design for Rt 571 in downtown West Windsor follows the traditional approach – 45mph design speed, another lane and wide shoulders – all in the name of bicycle and pedestrian safety.

We?ve seen that traffic engineers might improve safety by becoming better social scientists. Before following that, however, our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer will look at cost.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Speed and Volume

Wednesday, November 20 by JerryFoster

us-vmt-projectionsUnlike residents, our traffic engineers prioritize speed and volume over safety and low cost ? why? It?s how they were trained.

We?re long past the era where roads provide orders-of-magnitude improvement, e.g. from walking to motoring, but policy still encourages speeding, e.g., engineers design for 5-10mph over posted speed, so 74% of drivers on Rt 1 in Plainsboro exceeded the speed limit recently.

Going faster means getting there faster, right? Only if you?re on the mythical open road – in densely populated New Jersey, we have traffic.

Speed can work against getting there faster in traffic, since cars stay further apart – the best volume throughput is at 30-46mph. Improved signal coordination and speed harmonization allow people to get there faster even though they?re going slower, by delaying the onset of stop-and-go congestion.

Historically, traffic increased year after year, but in 2004 per capita volume (vehicle miles traveled) declined (!), followed in 2007 by a total volume decline as the recession took hold.? Though the Great Recession ended June 2009, total volume remains at recession levels, and per capita volume continues to slide.

Is it the end of ?build it and they will come?? If so, engineers will have one more reason to change their priorities. In our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer we?ll look at safety.

 

 

 

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Context Sensitive Solutions

Wednesday, October 30 by JerryFoster

Clarksville Pedestrians 2In 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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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Suburbs?

Wednesday, October 16 by JerryFoster

Windsor Rd speed limit 50Don?t we live in the suburbs? Wouldn?t it be nice if there were Complete Streets designs that could make suburban living even better – for motorists, cyclists, walkers, runners, children and seniors?

Consider the suburbs from the point of view of the traffic engineer. After all, the invention of the automobile made the suburbs available to so many people over the last half century, so traffic engineers are largely responsible for how we suburbanites live so much of our lives.

As it turns out, traffic engineers don?t see suburbs, sort of like Stephen Colbert doesn?t see race. The traffic engineering world is governed by urban or rural designs only, and what we think of as suburban is by definition urban.

What about our farms, like all along Windsor Road ? rural, right? Sorry, the region?s population, not just the adjacent properties?, determine that all our roads are urban, since we?re in an urban area as defined by the Census Bureau (generally, over 5000 people).

So the first step in learning to love your traffic engineer is to see West Windsor from their big picture point of view – urban.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer ? Collect Local Arterials.

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Is Roszel Rd a Complete Street?

Thursday, June 20 by JerryFoster

Roszel Repaved 3Roszel 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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March 14 — annual meeting; guest speaker is Charles Tennyson, head of transporation for Princeton University

April 11 — monthly meeting

May 9 — monthly meeting

June 13 — monthly meeting

July 11 — monthly meeting

Aug. 8 — monthly meeting

Sept. 12 — monthly meeting

Oct. 10 — monthly meeting

Nov. 14 — monthly meeting

Dec. 12 — monthly meeting

Become a Member/Donate

Pace Car Program

Ongoing – Register your bike with the WW Police Department for free

Volunteer Opportunities – Sign up to give back to the community

Now Accepting Applications for WWBPA Student Advisory Board

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