Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Princeton Council Set To Make Decision On New Hamilton Avenue Bike Lanes



In Princeton, we might be about to get bike lanes on one of our local roads. After discussions with municipal engineers earlier this year, Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycling Advisory Committee (PBAC) unanimously recommended that bidirectional bike lanes should be striped on Hamilton Avenue between North Harrison Street and Snowden Lane (as seen in image above). At their September meeting, the Princeton Traffic and Transportation committee also voted to support the addition of bike lanes on this section of Hamilton Avenue. The bike lanes will now be considered by Princeton Council, who will have to vote to approve the project.

PBAC advises Council and municipal officials on how best to implement Princeton's 'Complete Streets' policy. 'Complete Streets' means designing roads with all potential users in mind. As roads are resurfaced, or sewer lines upgraded, we have an opportunity to add Complete Streets-type improvements at the same time. This particular section of Hamilton is due to be resurfaced, which is why we are talking about it now (other sections of Hamilton Avenue are not part of the proposal). Currently, there are no specific design elements on these blocks for people riding bicycles. PBAC considered several potential improvements for cyclists, including 'shared-lane arrows' (also known as sharrows), an off-street multi-use sidepath, and bike lanes. As with any Complete Streets design recommendation, our advice to add bike lanes was based on the specific street context, considering factors such as traffic speed and volume, emergency vehicle and bus movements, topography, and neighboring land uses.

Based on the specific context at these blocks of Hamilton, we consider bike lanes to be the best fit. Bike lanes would provide dedicated space for cyclists away from motorized traffic. Whereas young cyclists under adult supervision might still prefer to ride on the sidewalk, experience in other towns shows that bike lanes offer a safe and attractive facility to people who cycle for their daily business. Dedicated lanes also reduce dangers associated with sidewalk cycling, notably the possibility of cyclists running into walkers, or becoming involved with accidents involving cars at driveways and intersections. Bike lanes on Hamilton will ultimately connect with other cycling facilities on other streets, chosen in each case to best fit the available space and traffic conditions, so that cyclists are more able to travel safely around the entire town. 

Some cyclists find bike lanes to be of limited usefulness, and other cyclists would argue that bike lanes ought to have physical separation from the rest of the roadway (as opposed to a simple white line). We considered these positions, but find that painted lanes are likely to provide an appropriate balance of increased safety. Our decision to recommend painted bike lanes at this project site does not mean that we would recommend lanes at every other site. 'Complete Streets' means choosing the most appropriate design for any particular road. Adding bike lanes at Hamilton Avenue will also present several challenges relating to enforcement and yard waste pickup, but these questions are likely to be resolvable.

A key consideration regarding bike lanes was the effect on street parking. On-street parking is currently allowed on the south side of Hamilton Avenue in the proposed project zone. To accommodate bike lanes, this parking would have to be removed. That's not something that we as a committee take lightly, but on these particular blocks of Hamilton east of Harrison, the on-street parking is not heavily used. Most homes have large driveways, and- unlike in other parts of the downtown- there are not many businesses that draw customers in cars. A small number of people, however, and potentially some landscaping vehicles, would have to park on one of the adjoining streets if bike lanes are added on Hamilton. Princeton Council members will decide if that burden outweighs the advantage of new bike lanes when the proposal comes before them some time in the coming months. 

If you want more details or information, you can get in touch with us at the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycling Advisory Committee by emailing pjpbac@gmail.com. Or why not come join the committee members and other neighbors for the annual 'Ride of the Falling Leaves', on Oct 19?

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