The Town of Princeton recently won a grant to make a new bicycle master plan. The plan could pave the way for improved bike facilities around the town. But in an extraordinary step, the town has advertised for an ‘On-Street Parking Advocate’ to join a key committee tasked with overseeing the creation of the new master plan. The move suggests that the town may not be serious about creating top-quality bike facilities.
As seen in the screen-grab below, a ‘call for applications’ has appeared on the municipal website, seeking a citizen volunteer to “represent on street parking interests in the creation of Princeton’s Bike Master Plan”.
Notably, no bike advocates were included on task forces that met earlier this year to discuss overnight parking harmonization or the fee structure for the Spring Street parking garage. But it seems that if a planning exercise has the potential to limit the ability of drivers to park wherever they like in Princeton, then special representation is warranted. Earlier this year, neighborhood opposition killed a proposal to add bike lanes in place of on-street parking on Hamilton Avenue in Princeton. The opposition was led by Council Member Patrick Simon, who went door to door around his neighborhood to get support for his campaign against the bike lanes. On that evidence, it would seem that on street parking interests are already pro-actively represented at the highest levels of Princeton governance.
Have a specific representative advocating for parking interests (candidates have until noon today to submit a letter of interest outlining their qualifications) might help ensure that any proposed bicycle facilities are ‘reasonable’. But Princeton currently has over 125 miles of roads, and less than half a mile of bike lanes, even though bike lanes are known to make cyclists feel more comfortable and to reduce injuries by 50%. In many instances, safe bike lanes are not added, because on-street parking is considered precious, even parking that is only infrequently used. The current situation is hardly balanced, especially in the light of Princeton’s stated commitment to ‘entice people out of their cars‘. Without a concerted effort to favor non-car transportation, the town is likely to contribute to ever-increasing regional traffic, not to mention climate change.
Of course things could be worse: in Washington DC, a church is threatening to sue over a plan to replace on-street parking with a bike lane. Apparently, they consider the plan “an unconstitutionally undue burden on people who want to pray“. We haven’t heard that one in Princeton…yet!