Last week, Princeton Council indefinitely put off making a decision about adding repurposing on-street parking to make a safe bike facility on part of Hamilton Lane. Although several Council members argued that they would potentially be open to the idea of adding the bike lane at a later date, the move calls into question Princeton’s commitment to making roads safe for all users.
In 2012, Princeton Borough and Township Council passed resolutions supporting the concept of upgrading municipal roads during re-engineering projects to make them safe for all users. This policy was enshrined in the municipal masterplan in 2013, additionally calling for facilities to be built to the ‘best available standards’. These promises have now been set aside. The Hamilton Avenue project will go ahead without making a safe bike facility on the side of the road heading out of town, and at least one Council member (Patrick Simon) is openly arguing for a deficient facility (sharrows) to be implemented. Sharrows have their place, but are unsatisfactory on a busy road, especially where there is insufficient space for cars to pass slower-moving bicyclists.
By ducking a decision on the bike lanes, five Council members flip-flopped from their previous support for the plan. Although this is being presented as a ‘compromise’ until a new Bike Circulation Masterplan is created, long-term advocates would point out that Princeton already made a Bike Masterplan in 2002, which was never implemented. Maybe this time is different, but Council didn’t support the Hamilton Avenue bike lane even when two municipal committees gave it unanimous support and a majority of speakers in the public hearing endorsed it. It is therefore questionable whether they will support making safe bike facilities in future, when decisions are taken quietly in a much less public setting.
Right now, it looks like several Council members are doing the ‘hokey-pokey’ on Complete Streets. It’s “put-your-left-leg-in, put-your-left-leg-out” as they hesitate to make it safe for people to ride safely around Princeton. Some of these Council members have been in office for years, during which time absolutely no high-quality bicycle facilities have been built in Princeton. They are falling behind on a matter where, nationwide, plenty of Dems and even Republicans are managing to get it done. Supporters should watch carefully what happens over the next 12 months to see whether what happened last week was just a fumble, or the death of Princeton’s commitment to safe streets for everybody.
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