A map of proposed facilities for bicyclists in Princeton has been released. The draft map was drawn up by consultants funded by a grant awarded to the town by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. It proposes a network of bike lanes and other facilities that are intended to make streets safer for people on two wheels.
In recent years, the town of Princeton has struggled to achieve its stated goal of ‘Complete Streets’. In 2015, the town canceled three different plans to create safer facilities for cyclists after objections from local residents (on Hamilton Avenue, Prospect Street and Valley Road). The new plan is in part a response to the idea that placing bike facilities on any given street creates a ‘bike lane to nowhere’. By laying down a vision for a joined-up network, the plan aims for any destination in the town to be accessible by a safe bike facility.
A range of different facilities are proposed, including bike lanes, ‘bike boulevards’ and ‘shared-lane markings’ or ‘sharrows’ painted in the roadway. The locations of each of the different facilities are shown on the map above, and the consultants have released a guide showing pictures of each of the different kinds of facilities.
The plan includes a number of interesting ideas. For example, it proposes a bike trail alongside the current ‘Dinky’ train line, which would allow a safe route for cyclists to get to West Windsor. A bike trail on top of the Transco pipeline, which runs through Mountain Lakes Park and Herrentown Woods, is also proposed. But the plan is lacking in the central part of town, where most bike trips happen. Instead of safe bike facilities, the plan recommends continued use of ‘sharrow’ markings, including on key routes such as Witherspoon Street and the Hamilton-Wiggins corridor. Fewer than one in ten of 471 Princeton residents surveyed as part of the planning exercise said that ‘sharrows’ made them feel comfortable to ride on local roads. With the current plan, many who choose to ride bikes will presumably continue to ride on sidewalks – sadly the only safe place.
The current bike plan is still a ‘draft’, and will be revised subject to public comment. The plan was revealed today to the ‘Masterplan Subcommittee’ of the Princeton Planning Board, but it will also be the subject of an upcoming public meeting (we will of course keep you informed about when that will be happening). Although everybody likes the idea of making it easy for people to choose healthy and sustainable transport options, it requires real bravery to create safe bike facilities in Princeton. Local roads are often quite narrow and many people insist that almost all available space should be dedicated for driving and parking cars. But to enable people to safely choose to use a bike, and to prevent unnecessary deaths and serious injuries, it is worthwhile to make a safe bike plan now.