On Thursday, March 16, the Princeton Planning Board will hold a work session to discuss a ‘bike master plan’. The plan has been under development for several years, and is intended to create a safe network of routes to allow people on bikes to safely get around the town. If the Planning Board likes the approved plan, it will be added to the Circulation Element of the community Master Plan, which guides planning on transportation. Several key details are missing from the plan, however, which makes it hard to understand in its current form.
In 2013, Princeton moved to a ‘Complete Streets’ framework for transportation, which aims to make every road safe for all users. In principle, that means that roads should be safe not just for car drivers, but also for pedestrians and people on bikes. When it came to specific road projects, it was not clear how this objective ought to be achieved. For example, bike lanes were proposed for the blocks of Hamilton Avenue between North Harrison Street and Cedar Lane. Council initially backed the bike lanes, but changed their minds after neighbors said it might make on-street parking harder. (see previous post: “Princeton Quietly Cancels Hamilton Avenue Bike Lane Plan“. Proposals for safer bike facilities were also shot down on Prospect Avenue at around the same time.
To prevent the construction of ‘bike lanes to nowhere’, and to provide clarity for future engineering projects, the town successfully applied for a grant from NJDOT to fund a bike study. There was a public meeting in November 2015, and the consultants subsequently produced a lengthy report in May 2016, which detailed what kinds of bike facilities should be built, and where. That report has now been edited by the town’s Planning Department into the form that will be considered by the Planning Board. The version that will be discussed by the Planning Board is available at this link (also archived here and here).
The latest version of the bike master plan involves a number of proposed changes to the text of the Circulation Element, but the commitment remains to “develop a bicycle network that is safe continuous, connected, convenient, complete and comfortable.” The map of proposed bike facilities, however, provides no indication as to how this goal will be achieved. A number of roads are indicated as ‘existing bicycle network’, but these include roads such as Wiggins St, which the consultants identified as being suitable only for confident and enthusiastic cyclists. Wiggins St has painted ‘sharrow’ markings, but fewer than one in 10 Princeton residents surveyed thinks that sharrows are sufficient for safe cycling.
For the roads in Princeton that are suggested to be part of the ‘proposed bicycle network’, there is no indication as to what bike facilities are suitable. Are we talking about separated bikeways, painted bike lanes, or more sharrows? The materials circulated so far offer no clues. For the plan to be a useful guide for future projects, that question will have to be addressed, otherwise this bike plan like the one commissioned by the town in 2002, will have no lasting value.