2022/11 – Comments regarding NJTPA Active Transportation Plan

Remarks to NJTPA regarding the Active Transportation Plan, 11/14/22

Chairman Bartlett, Director Behrend,  I’m Neile Weissman—Director of Complete George.  Also, Public Relations Director for New York Cycle Club.

Today, with respect to NJTPA’s Active Transportation Plan (“ATP”), I will highlight two measures to encourage the growth of cycling.

HHD3

Strava, Palisades Interstate Park Commission

Restore the Henry Hudson Drive to a State of Good Repair

The first item takes the form of a letter signed by a dozen cycling organizations,1 calling on the the New Jersey and New York Governors, to support of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission’s capital funding request for $3.5 million to resurface the Henry Hudson Drive (“the Drive”). 

The Drive is an eight-mile stretch of public road cresting the Palisades between Edgewater and Alpine.  It connects directly to 9W and, via the GWB, to the Hudson Greenway in Manhattan—the two most heavily biked roads in the U.S. 

The Drive is a “naturally occurring linear park” and a preeminent destination for the region’s cyclists.  However, it is frequently damaged by rock slides, and whole sections were ruined during Hurricane Ida.

Given the sums being spent to construct new bikeways—including $65 million to purchase the right-of-way for the Essex-Hudson Greenway and $200 million to complete the Empire State Trail—spending a fraction of that to restore the Drive should be a no-brainer.

Clarify Status of E-Bikes

Appended are links to posts by Bicycle Universes2 and the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Councils.3 calling upon NJ to clarify the status of E-Bikes—whose sales are outstripping that of electric cars.

Affirm Cyclists’ Status as Road Users

A second urgent need is a comprehensive review of state legislation governing bike use, including rules and safety at intersections and on delineated shoulders.

A key provision that puts cyclists at risk is a questionable decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court that directs cyclists to ride as far right on the roadway as possible, yet prohibits them from riding on the road shoulder.  The Court’s decision casts doubt on cyclists’ right to proceed safely when using the shoulder—something motorists expect cyclists to do.4 5  

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway [is required to] ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.2. 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 and not on the roadway’s shoulder.

A cyclist assumes a level of responsibility when traveling on a public roadway, which is not designed as a bike path.

Polzo v. County of Essex, New Jersey Supreme Court, 2012

This is a Hobson’s Choice with deadly ramifications.  Cyclists rely on shoulders to create separation from overtaking vehicles.  A shoulders’ width and condition, or complete lack thereof are key determinants of cyclists’ ability to complete a journey safely.

Further, cyclists’ conflicted status induces traffic engineers to neglect their safety on new construction and maintenance projects—unless roads are indicated as bikeways in bicycle master plans.

One example is the two miles of 9W between Englewood Cliffs and Tenafly.  Despite heavy bike use—at times exceeding that of cars—the road’s shoulder is never more than a foot wide.  

Screenshot 2022-11-11 at 5.58.39 PMGoogle Maps

This “at your own risk” perspective ignores clear guidance by USDOT calling on transportation agencies to regard “biking and walking equal to other modes—not an afterthought in roadway design.”6 7 

Indeed, a heat map of North Jersey, reveals a vast network of roads not designated as bikeways supporting significant bike traffic.8. For comparison, one-quarter of all New York City roads—1500 out of 6000 miles—have some level of cycling accommodation.

Heat Map North Jersey Strava

Strava

Non-motorists pay half the cost of road construction and maintenance.9  They are entitled to infrastructure which does not alienate them and enlightened legislation which balances their rights with those of motorists.

Any set of recommendations adopted by the NJTPA as part of the ATP should address the flawed Polzo decision by designating all safe and usable shoulders under its jurisdiction as de facto bicycle lanes—a move allowed under Polzo—and require newly constructed or resurfaced shoulders meeting accepted engineering standards to be explicitly designated as bicycle lanes.

Notes

1 “Support letter for PIPC’s $3.5 million request to resurface Henry Hudson Drive,” Complete George, 11/14/22, https://tinyurl.com/3pxajmz9

2 “Traffic laws affecting cyclists in New Jersey,” Bicycle Universe, viewed 11/10/22, https://tinyurl.com/wcnmmm4n

3 “What’s the Law Anyway? A Quick Guide to New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Laws,” New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council, 2012, https://tinyurl.com/24d32p6s

4 “NJ Admin. Code § 5:21-4.4 – Shoulders,” Casetext, 10/17/22, https://tinyurl.com/42p8p29x

5 “Polzo v. County of Essex, New Jersey Supreme Court, 2012,” Justia, viewed 11/14/22, https://tinyurl.com/5dv8s5b6

6 “Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations,” USDOT, 3/15/10, http://tinyurl.com/yccn8qmo

7 “Accommodating Bicycle-Pedestrian Travel: A Recommended Approach,” USDOT, viewed 11/14/22, http://tinyurl.com/ya8wmpxe

8 “Bicycle Heat Map of North Jersey,” Strava, viewed 11/14/22, https://tinyurl.com/2d88tdke

9 “Do Roads Pay for Themselves?,” U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 1/4/11, https://tinyurl.com/5dv8s5b6