Proposal for a Bergen County Bicycle Master Plan, updated 06/20
Bergen Parks Master Plan
In December 2019, Bergen County’s Freeholders adopted a Parks Master Plan to “make County parks an integral part of each resident’s life, by providing easy access to the open spaces, preserving our natural areas and making outdoor recreation available to all.”1
Bergen Bicycle Master Plan
One aspect where the Parks Plan falls short is in its goal to provide “easy access,” particularly for those who don’t drive, or choose not to. While early drafts called for a network of bikeways to link Bergen’s parks, that provision didn’t make the final version.
Accordingly, the County should commit to a Bicycle Master Plan – a bike network to address a range of recreational and commuting needs.
Incorporate Local Projects
• The Northern Valley Greenway connecting Tenafly to Montvale would be a “spine” to any bike grid.2 Getting it operational should be an absolute priority.
• The Overpeck Park-to-GWB3 study offers ways to connect Leonia to NJ’s only bikeable Hudson River crossing. Adding a bikeway to Degraw Avenue would extend access to Bogota Township and the municipalities along the Hackensack River north to Mahwah, including those detailed in the Central Bergen Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.4
• Realizing cycling provisions of the River Road/Hudson River WaterFront Corridor5 would provide an alternative for tens of thousands who bus-commute to Manhattan.6
Feature “Numbered Routes”
The County Plan should feature “numbered” routes extending the breadth of the County and connecting to routes in adjoining Counties.
It is modeled on the U.S. Bicycle Route System,7 and in NJDOT’s route linking High Point to Fort May.8 Routes would include aggregate existing on-and-off road routes, low-use residential streets and industrial areas that are quiet on weekends.
Routing past park rest stations at frequent intervals will greatly enhance the network’s utility. • Routes should be published online. And paper maps should be distributed through bike shops and organizations.9 10
Such a network would facilitate day-trips by experienced cyclists and encourage newbies to venture beyond their neighborhoods and be a prerequisite to an effective bike-share system.
Create trails along utility rights of way
Negotiate with utility companies (PSE&G) to secure easements for dirt trails along its utility right-of-ways.11 When utilities are ultimately tasked to offset carbon emissions, they can book the increase in sustainable travel supported by these new bikeways.
Fund bikeways on bridges … including the GWB
The US DOT advises local transport agencies to treat biking and walking as equal to other modes and allocate up to 20% of the total cost to significantly upgrade capacity on major road and bridge construction projects.12 13 In this regard, Bergen legislators and Governor Murphy should prevail upon the Port Authority to upgrade paths across the George Washington Bridge.14 15 16 17
Resilience – Should the Hudson Rail Tunnels fail before replacements are constructed, a robust grid, bike-share and state-of-the-art-paths across the GWB could safely support 20,000 bike commuters per day.18 19 20
This happened after Superstorm Sandy, when bike trips across NY’s East River bridges surged from 13,000 to 30,000.21 This wasn’t happenstance. It was preceded by decades of planning and investment, during which the public became accustomed to cycling.22
Investing in cycling extends the life of legacy infrastructure by slowing growth in demand, and the life of its replacement by offsetting induced demand
Sustainability – New Jersey has committed to an emissions-free energy policy by 2050. With transportation representing 42% of total. The 2019 Energy Master Plan calls for creation of charging infrastructure to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles.23
For far less cost, it could invest in a robust cycling grid that would encourage people to leave their cars behind entirely. Studies show that achieving 14% bicycle/E-bike mode share world-wide could save $24 trillion between 2015 and 205024 and achieve a 10% reduction in transport emissions.25
Competitiveness – Cycling infrastructure will help attract and retain Bergen County’s millennial work force who prefer bike travel to driving and mass transit.26 27 As an indicator of tech firms’ priorities, 15 of 20 Amazon HQ2 finalists were rated “Top U.S. Cities to Bike.”28
Property Values – Proximity to bike trails increases home values 5-10%. Municipalities across the U.S. factor that into decisions to move forward on bike infrastructure (“value capture”).29
Regional Tourism – Biking and walking contributes half a billion dollars a year to NJ’s economy.30 To the extent Bergen can lure some percentage of NYC’s 800,000 cyclists,31 it would have a huge impact on tourism.
With the opening of the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, Bergen would be part of a forty mile loop during cyclists from across the region past local food stops.
Public Health – The Columbia School for Public Health found NYC’s investment in bikeways to be nine times more cost-effective as a public health intervention than vaccinating children against the flu.32
Emulate Municipalities Who’ve Invested in Bike Infrastructure
Portland, a city of two million, estimates its bike grid saves it $2.6 billion per year in reduced outlays for roads and mass transit and personal savings on car payments, insurance and gas.33 34
Los Angeles will spend $4 billion over 40 years to bolster transportation equity and bridge “transit deserts.”35
New York State committed $200 million to fund construction of the 750 mile Empire State Trail in 2017.36 That’s in addition to $400 million to create a shared use path across the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
New York City’s bike grid grew to 1250 miles and bike share to 20 million trips in 2019. Over the next decade it will spend $1.7 billion to accelerate Vision Zero.37 That’s $20 per person per year.
London has been building up its bike grid since 2001, following the inception of congestion pricing, in order to reduce car trips into the Central Business District. It now boasts a network of “bicycle superhighways” that connect its outer boroughs. In 2018 it spent $270 million on its bike grid. For 9.3 million residents, that’s $29 per capita.38
New Jersey will spend $3 million on cycling, or $0.34 per capita in 2020.39
Fund cycling equal to other modes
Early aspects of a Bicycle Master Plan can take the form of a Complete Streets program to including biking-walking improvements into regular road maintenance. For a NYC-London scale effort, it should commit to spending $20-30 per person per year.
Revenue sources include the Transportation Trust Fund,40 Transportation Climate Initiative,41 Open Space Trust Fund,42 the Clean Energy Fund,43 partnerships with developers44 and bike-share providers,45 general revenues and private donation.
Bergen is ideally positioned to benefit from bicycle infrastructure. It has recreational space, low-traffic roads and population density. Compared to other NJ counties investing in cycle infrastructure,46 47 Bergen’s proximity to the GWB and NYC will net it outsized returns from tourism and transport resilience.
Neile Weissman, 2/20, updated 6/20
The following are examples of “numbered routes” that were created using the mapping tool RidewithGPS. Access requires setting up a free account.
The routes extend into adjacent counties. This affords residents access to facilities outside the County and encourages cycle tourism within.
#1 – Fort Lee-Paterson Loop (Bergen, Passaic)https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31723671
#2 – Mahwah-to-Fort Lee (Bergen)https://ridewithgps.com/routes/24690600
#3 – Fort Lee-Nyack Loop (Bergen, Rockland)https://ridewithgps.com/routes/15399951
1 “Bergen County Parks Master Plan”, CUES at Rutgers SEBS, https://tinyurl.com/vgb3opw
2 Northern Valley Greenway, https://tinyurl.com/yd7geln9
3 “Bicycle route alternatives between the George Washington Bridge and Overpeck County Park”, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), 2019, https://tinyurl.com/wdhr48h
4 “Central Bergen Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan”, NJTPA, 2015, https://tinyurl.com/sh4vtzf
5 “Bergen: River Road/Hudson Waterfront Corridor Strategy”, NJTPA, https://tinyurl.com/tuxx9hy
6 “Latent Demand”, Complete George, https://tinyurl.com/tt49twa
7 “U.S. Bicycle Route System”, Wikipedia, https://tinyurl.com/v423ddc
8 “High Point-to-Cape May route, a tour guide for cyclists”, New Jersey Department of Transportation/RBA Group/NV5, https://tinyurl.com/udp9wgh
9 NYC Bike Map, NYC Department of Transportation, https://tinyurl.com/qm3sduk
10 “Bergen County ‘Numbered’ Routes”, Complete George, https://tinyurl.com/swr9guw
11 “Securing utility rights of way for use as bikeways”, railstotrails conservancy, https://tinyurl.com/vjhvz7r
12 “Statement on Bicycle-Pedestrian Accommodations”, USDOT, http://tinyurl.com/yccn8qmo
13 “Accommodating Bicycle-Pedestrian Travel: A Recommended Approach”, USDOT, http://tinyurl.com/ya8wmpxe
14 “NJ Governor’s Race: Phil Murphy”, The Brian Lehrer Show, 5/12/17, 17:54-19:25, https://tinyurl.com/u6xbhqk
15 “Nine Ways ‘Restore the George’ Gets it Wrong”, Complete George, September 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y43djtd8
16 “Mayor and Council”, Ibid, October 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y8mvgvs7
17 “Stakeholders in the GWB Suspender Ropes Replacement Program (who’ve called for wider paths) include the Borough of Fort Lee, Bergen County, Manhattan Community Board 12 and NYC DOT, GWB Suspender Ropes Replacement Program”, PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/y8zphkut
18 “A Preventable Crisis: The Economic and Human Costs of a Hudson River Rail Tunnel Shutdown.”, Regional Plan Association, 2/25/19, https://tinyurl.com/y3d87rad
19 “National Standards”, Complete George, August 2017, https://tinyurl.com/y7p25wlj
20 “Op-Ed: With Tunnel repairs in the offing, bikes are key to keeping us on the move”, NJ Spotlight, 7/23/18, https://tinyurl.com/ranx6a2
21 “Sandy caused a Mini Bike Boom”, Transportation Nation-WNYC, https://tinyurl.com/yalsj74u
22 “Between 2011 and 2016, the number of active adult New York cyclists grew 11.2% per year to 828,000. From 2016 to 2017, bike share trips rose from 10 to 16 million. Cycling in New York City, 2018”, NACTO-NYCDOT, p.7, https://tinyurl.com/hcu5yaz
23 “Transportation is NJ’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for roughly 42% of such pollution., Aggressive Program to Electrify NJ Transportation Ready to Launch Today”, NJ Spotlight, 1/17/20, https://tinyurl.com/rl96ean
24 “A Global High Shift Cycling Scenario: The Potential for Dramatically Increasing
Bicycle/E-bike Use in Cities Around the World, with Estimated Energy, CO2, and Cost Impacts,” Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, 11/12/15, https://tinyurl.com/rh9tda5
25 “The E-Bike Potential: Estimating the Effect of E-Bikes on Person Miles Travelled and Greenhouse Gas Emissions”, Transportation Research and Education Center, 5/19, https://tinyurl.com/wtek573
26 “Millennials took 4% more trips mass transit in 2009 than 2001; but 16% took more walking trips; and 27% more trips by bike., Millennials in Motion, Changing Travel Habits of Young Americans and the Implications for Public Policy”, USPIRG, 2014, https://tinyurl.com/y6ljnff6
27 “20-somethings don’t want to be, and can’t afford to be, in a house in the suburbs. They’re flocking back to Philadelphia, Jersey City, New Brunswick.” “We’re Losing Less Land to Development in NJ, and Slowing Loss of Natural Areas,” NJ Spotlight, 2/3/20, https://tinyurl.com/twbyfqs
28 “The 50 Best Bike Cities of 2016”, Bicycling Magazine, https://tinyurl.com/ycnsgo97
29 “Effect of Greenways on Property Values”, Complete George, https://tinyurl.com/yd2v4c54
30 “The Economic Impacts of Active Transportation in New Jersey”, USDOT-FHWA-Rutgers University, http://tinyurl.com/oednylm
31 “Cycling in the City, 5/19”, NYCDOT-NACTO, p.6, https://tinyurl.com/hcu5yaz
32 “In NYC, the one-year investment in bike lanes comes in at an exceptionally good value, costing just $1297/QALY. That’s nine times as cost-effective as flu vaccination.”, The cost-effectiveness of bike lanes in New York City”, Injury Prevention, http://tinyurl.com/jttqqrb
33 “Portland’s Green Dividend”, CEOs for Cities, 2007, https://tinyurl.com/h26lwy4
34 “The Portland Bicycle Plan call for 25% of Portlanders to commute by bike by 2035.”, PBOT, p. 22, https://tinyurl.com/wyunypu
35 “Our efforts culminated in an expenditure plan that would spend over $4 billion on walking, biking, and connecting our residents to transit stations and bus stops over 40 years., Ballot Measure Recap: What Did We Win?”, Investing in Place, 7/20/16, https://tinyurl.com/jkyze4r
36 “Empire State Trail”, Parks & Trails NY, https://tinyurl.com/z64j55m
37 “After Spike in Deaths, New York to Get 250 Miles of Protected Bike Lanes”, NY Times, 10/28/19, https://tinyurl.com/sgrn4yj
38 “London”, Complete George, https://tinyurl.com/y68n7oen
39 “Murphy Administration Announces $3 Million in FY 2020 Grants for Transit Village, Safe Streets to Transit and Bikeways Program”, InsiderNJ, 1/27/2020, https://tinyurl.com/vksnj4h
40 NJ Transportation Trust Fund Authority, https://tinyurl.com/vzewoz5
41 “Memorandum of Understanding,” Transportation and Climate Initiative, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/y65rmehq
42 “Among the trusts that will benefit are the D&R Greenway Land Trust, for acquisition of a greenway through 24 municipalities in Burlington County, Lawmakers Ink Constitutionally Mandated Increase in Open-Space Funding”, NJ Spotlight, 1/14/20, https://tinyurl.com/v2ec7hr
43 “Murphy Diverts $136M in Clean-Energy Funds to Help Balance Budget,” NJ Spotlight, 3/15/18, https://tinyurl.com/t3nedn5
44 “NJ Senate Bill 368 – Permits municipalities to require developers to make contributions for mass transit improvements.” NJ Senate, https://tinyurl.com/uzg9wu7
45 “Mobility as a Service,” Complete George, October 2018, https://tinyurl.com/y787zrtr
46 “Bicycle Master Plan”, Mercer County, 2019, https://tinyurl.com/rx8o586
47 “Walk, Bike Hike: Connecting Vibrant Communities Plan,” Somerset County, 7/19, https://tinyurl.com/y967pyvh