Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New Hamilton Avenue Striping Explained

Hamilton Avenue between North Harrison Street and Snowden Lane was recently restriped after being dug up for a municipal engineering project. Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee and Traffic & Transportation Committee members provided input into the new striping scheme, to try to make the road safer for all users in line with the town's "Complete Streets" policy. The final result is shown in the picture above. The new roadway has two striped shoulders. These are not bike lanes, although volunteers on PBAC and the T&T committee originally recommended bike lanes on this street. Hamilton Avenue is only 30-ft wide, and adding bike lanes would have required removing on-street parking or widening the road. Many local residents argued that on-street parking was essential, and Council chose not to pursue on-street bike lanes at this time

The striping pattern selected is shown in the diagram below: (empty spaces show public right-of-way that is not currently being used for a transportation function)

There are two 10-ft travel lanes, which meet standards for school buses and ambulances. On the south side of the road (right-hand side above), there is a striped 7-ft on-street parking lane. On the north side of the road (left-hand side above), there is a 3-ft shoulder. Neither of the shoulders is a bike lane. The 7-ft shoulder is intended for parked cars, whereas the 3-ft shoulder does not meet minimum width standards for a bike lane. Instead, the travel lanes are marked with 'shared-use arrows' ('sharrows'), which are intended to alert drivers to the possible presence of people on bikes, and demonstrate the safest lane position for people riding in mixed traffic. The striped shoulders make narrower travel lanes than what existed previously, which should have a traffic-calming effect, potentially making cycling in mixed traffic feel more comfortable. On-street parking, snow removal and brush pick-up are not affected by the new striping pattern.

This design was the outcome of much public comment and discussion. The new cycle facility is good enough for confident cyclists, but may not be appealing to casual or risk-averse riders, who are typically nervous about riding with cars and trucks. These riders may choose to ride on the sidewalks instead. Sidewalk cycling often happened before, and is technically permitted by law, but it is not really safe for cyclists or pedestrians. Princeton is currently starting work on a town-wide Bicycle Circulation Masterplan, which will guide the types of cycle facilities that are added in future on local streets. Like Hamilton Avenue, many streets in Princeton are quite narrow, and street space is subject to demands from many different users. The new striping pattern on Hamilton offers one potential approach to making streets safer for all users, but what is chosen on other streets will be dependent on public comment during the upcoming planning process.

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