Residents of West Windsor are organizing for improved walkability, with a campaign to install sidewalks on a key section of Cranbury Road in the township, near Princeton Junction rail station. As seen in the image above, this section of road (from the intersection of Millstone Road west to Princeton-Highstown Road) is dangerous for pedestrians, with no sidewalk or even shoulder along much of the way.
The campaign is spearheaded by local resident, Sarah Thompson, who moved to the area recently and wants to do something to make it easier for neighbors to get around on foot or by bike. Quoted recently in the ‘Princeton Packet’*, Ms Thompson said,
”It would be great to exercise by walking and riding a bicycle to the Princeton Junction train station without feeling like you’re taking your own life in your hands,” said Ms. Thompson. “I want to be proactive and do something about it.”
Ms Thompson has gone further by organizing a petition drive for sidewalks, and co-organizing a demonstration on June 28, which saw around 40 people, including West Windsor mayor Shin Fu-Tsueh and a couple of other local council members, gather at her home on Cranbury Road. Many members of the group walked the road, single-file, to get a feel for just how dangerous the road conditions currently are for pedestrians. Several have installed yard signs reading “Let us walk without fear.”
The story has been picked up by the local bike-ped advocacy group, ‘West Windsor Bicycle And Pedestrian Alliance’ (WWBPA). WWBPA has been extremely active in lobbying for improvements to road layouts around West Windsor, including campaigning for improvements to Canal Pointe Boulevard, the proposed Rt. 1 Jughandle project, and Route 571, which runs through an area envisaged to become a walkable town center in West Windsor, but which has been designed with much greater focus on car traffic. The group is a real credit to many forward-thinking members of the community, who are determined to move the township towards a more livable, walkable form. Not everybody is on board however, as previous sidewalk installation projects have been derailed by legal objections from certain neighbors.
There is also a question of money: previous attempts to get money from the County for sidewalk improvements along Cranbury Road have not been successful. This reflects a problem with all pedestrian infrastructure and ‘Complete Streets’ projects in the area. Funding and jurisdiction for these projects can come from any of several sources, with many different agencies capable of stalling a project by disengaging or withholding support. Resident activists have to be prepared to dig in for a long campaign to make necessary improvements. In this case, we have to applaud Ms Thompson and members of WWBPA for engaging in this campaign, which has the potential to improve the safety and quality of life for many West Windsor residents in the future.
Princeton has been expanding its sidewalk network recently. Some neighbors have welcomed new sidewalks, even though residents often have to pay for the sidewalks personally. Other neighbors have opposed sidewalks, on the grounds that they will “damage the feel of the neighborhood”. Nonetheless, sidewalks are a key feature of a walkable town, and a necessary addition to promote alternative transportation and reduce dependence on cars. Princeton’s walking and cycling infrastructure, though better than many neighboring townships, is still not fit for the 21st century. We need advocates like those in West Windsor to step up and manage the long campaigns necessary to install proper bike lanes and walking trails throughout our town. The process will be long and require patience through many unpaid municipal meetings. But the benefits will be significant for everybody living in Princeton now and in the future.
Tonight, July 22, the West Windsor Council will discuss sidewalks around the town and on Cranbury Road in particular. Details are:
- When: Monday, July 22nd, 2013, 7 PM
- Where: West Windsor Municipal Building, 271 Clarksville Road, West Windsor, NJ
* Packet online content is paywalled after 30 days- this story published Jun 24.