Following a meeting with neighbors, Princeton municipal officials have indicated that a proposal to add traffic calming measures on Prospect Avenue will no longer go ahead. Prospect Avenue between South Harrison Street and Riverside Drive is scheduled for repaving and drainage improvements. In line with Princeton’s stated commitment to ‘Complete Streets’, this section of the road was studied to see if improvements could be made to make it safer for all users.
The town’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommended a ‘bike boulevard’ design. ‘Bike Boulevards‘, also known as ‘neighborhood greenways’, have been used extensively in other towns, such as Berkeley, CA, and Palo Alto. They use enhanced traffic calming to slow cars and reduce cut-through traffic, with the goal of making riding bicycles in the traffic lane feel safer. PBAC has long considered ‘bike boulevards’ a useful alternative to bike lanes on streets like Prospect Avenue, where traffic volume is relatively low. Crucially, on-street parking is maintained in a ‘bike boulevard’. But despite complaining about speeding and near-miss accidents at intersections, local residents were not in favor of the traffic calming measures that the engineers had proposed. Traffic safety officer Sgt. Tom Murray also doubted whether traffic calming was appropriate.
Prospect Avenue is, as things stand, one of Princeton’s best streets for cycling. But traffic volume, at are on the high side for an effective bike boulevard, and the effective speed is 33 mph, which is also too high for many bike riders to feel comfortable sharing the lane. Some form of enhanced traffic calming is clearly needed, but Princeton has an official policy banning the use of any kind of speed bump or ‘Stop’ signs to slow cars. Prospect Avenue currently has two ‘islands’ that were installed several years go to calm traffic. But these islands, like curb extensions elsewhere in town, force cyclists into a ‘choke-point’ with cars. Volunteers on the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee instead recommended traffic calming measures with ‘cycle slips’ to allow bicyclists a safe bypass:
Princeton engineers considered the bypass idea to be too radical, and instead offered more curb extensions. The proposed ‘bulb-outs’ would have made it easier for pedestrians to cross at intersections, but the compromise design made for a fairly low-quality version of a bike boulevard. Neighbors at the meeting were pretty unanimous in rejecting the idea. It seems that, despite the town’s stated commitment to the concept of ‘Complete Streets’, the project will now go ahead without any measures to make the street friendlier to cyclists. This marks the second time this year that Princeton has rolled back on improvements for walkers and cyclists. In January, a plan for bike lanes on Hamilton Avenue was also overturned by Council. Meanwhile, the town is falling further and further behind on measures to encourage non-car transportation.