Newark to Build New Jersey’s First Protected Bike Lane
Bicycling has grown steadily in popularity over the past decade across the country, both as a form of recreation and, more often, transportation. One sign of this shift in New Jersey has been the appearance of bicycle advocacy groups including the Brick City Bike Collective, the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, to help push for the rights of bicyclists and pedestrians. Infrastructure to accommodate this new interest in bikes, however, has been slower to develop.
That is starting to change, albeit slowly. The state, several towns and at least one county have already adopted “Complete Streets” policies that call for the accommodation of all users, not just motorists, when designing new and retrofitted roads. Now, the City of Newark is working on what will be the state’s first protected bike lane. The lane, which will run on Mt. Prospect Avenue in the city’s Forest Hill District between Branch Brook Park and the Heller Parkway, is part of a larger effort that will include new sidewalks, flower planters, trash receptacles, trees, traffic signals, and benches along the stretch. The project is being done with the help of Sam Schwartz Engineering, and is funded by the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2011.
The bike lane is an innovative and exciting development for Newark, and should inspire more cities to construct their own protected bike lanes. Yet the fact that this project is so noteworthy indicates how far we have to go in making our streets safe and inviting for everyone. Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations should be the norm, not the exception, when designing our roads, and should be as an integral component of every project’s budget, not a special add-on paid for by supplemental funds. The state Department of Transportation’s Complete Streets policy goes a long way toward making this a reality, but it applies only to state roads, which make up a small percentage of the all the roads in the state. It is up to counties and municipalities, like Newark, to adopt Complete Streets policies of their own, and make sure that projects like these are routine, not remarkable.