Princeton engineers will stripe a new bike lane at Mt Lucas Road as part of upcoming engineering works to upgrade water mains and repave the road. The new bike lane is one of a number of ‘Complete Streets’-type improvements intended to make the repaved road more consistent with municipal policy to favor people walking or on bikes. The improvements are remarkable in a suburban New Jersey context, but still fall some way short of first-rate facilities on a key corridor connecting Princeton with townships to the north.Mount Lucas Road is being dug up to modernize water mains, with new, higher-gauge pipes going in. The project zone includes Mt Lucas Road between Cherry Hill Road in the south, up to the intersection with Stuart Road East in the north.
North of the intersection with Ewing Street, Mount Lucas Road will get a wider, off-road multi-use trail to accommodate cyclists and walkers. By widening this trail to 8-feet, the engineers will make it compliant with standards. An off-road trail is more suitable here, where there are limited driveways, and a relatively fast (35mph+) roadway with multiple dips and turns. Lighting is inadequate along this section, however, and there are no plans to improve street-lamps:
In the middle section of Mt Lucas Road, between Laurel Road and Ewing Street, there will be substantial improvements to the sidewalk network, with upgraded paths on either side of the street. The engineers are also proposing a new bike lane! This is very exciting, because Princeton has not striped any new bike lanes in years, and we currently have a grand total of 0.4 miles of bike lanes in the entire town. On the other hand, the bike lane is only on the southbound side of the street. There will be no bike lane for cyclists heading north. They will have access to a 6-ft off-road sidepath, which is of insufficient width, making conflicts between cyclists and walkers inevitable. There is also a risk of driveway conflicts between cyclists and people driving cars, and cyclists will have to walk their bikes across the intersection with Jefferson Road. On-street parking is preserved:
At the southern end of Mt Lucas Road, there will be a significant extension of the sidewalk around Cherry Hill road, so that walkers will be able to walk all the way around the bank to Route 206. Using the crosswalk there, they will be able to safely continue toward downtown Princeton. This is undoubtedly a big improvement to the sidewalk network. On the other hand, there are no on-road facilities for cyclists in this section, just sidepaths of sub-standard width (5′-6′). This is too bad, because cyclists on sidewalks put themselves and pedestrians in danger. With favorable facilities, Mt Lucas could also be a safe alternative for the substantial numbers of Princeton cyclists who commute north along the shoulder of dangerous Route 206 every day.
The planned improvements on Mt Lucas Road will go some way to making the area friendlier to walkers, and although the plan falls some way short of being a true ‘complete street’, it is possible to view the glass as half-full. Municipal engineers presented the plan to neighbors on March 26, and have made the plans available at the municipal website. The neighbors seemed happy with the plan, and some even asked for improved ‘European-style’ bike paths, and more traffic calming devices. At a previous neighborhood meeting, concerns over potential loss of on-street parking were raised, but the current plan places a high priority on maintaining car parking opportunities.
Got thoughts about the Mt Lucas improvements? Let us know in the comments section…