As an interested local citizen and member of the 'Complete Streets' committee, I forwarded the comments below (which are strictly my own opinions and not representative of the committee!). I see the plan as a useful start, but not enough to make most normal people feel truly safe getting around town by bike. Feel free to read my thoughts, but more importantly check out the draft plan yourself!! It's important to have a good discussion about the plan because it is likely to guide policy in town for many years.
- Sam Bunting
Comments from Sam Bunting on Draft Princeton Bike Plan, August 30, 2016.
Having read the full 120 pages (and appendices) of the draft Bicycle Masterplan, I am impressed at the effort. On the other hand, I am unenthusiastic about the plan, because it is incompatible with the clearly-stated goals of the community Circulation Element.
For example, the current exercise could be seen as an attempt to address this Master Plan requirement:
“Implement a network of Bicycle routes for easy access to neighborhoods, recreational areas, schools and shopping areas” (page 44 of the Community Master Plan)
Furthermore, in line with the concept of ‘Complete Streets’, the Circulation Element calls for:
“a community-wide bicycle system that addresses all levels of bicycle riding ability” (page 56 of the Community Master Plan)
The draft Bicycle Plan does not provide a network that allows easy access to downtown locations, and it does not reasonably address all levels of bicycle riding ability. Instead, the plan envisages a network that will remain disjointed, and which will include low-quality bicycle facilities at key sections.
To take just one example, the Hamilton-Wiggins corridor was identified through mapping of ‘desire lines’ (Figure 2.3, Page 27) as one of the most important routes for cycling in Princeton. Despite this, the draft plan envisages ‘enhanced sharrows’ as a bike facility on this corridor. ‘Enhanced sharrows’ are not mentioned in the MUTCD or any current guidebook, but the bigger issue is that the 470 participants in the survey described in Chapter 2 expresseded almost no enthusiasm for sharrows. Over 70% of survey respondents said that they do not feel comfortable riding on roads with sharrows (graph on right-hand side of page 23). The draft plan therefore calls for a treatment on this key route that is unsuitable for a large majority of local bike riders. It is incompatible with the Circulation Element.
It is easy to find other examples of sub-standard facilities. Lower Witherspoon Street, which was also a key ‘desire line’ for local cyclists, is also targeted for ‘enhanced sharrows’. On Nassau Street, there are a few blocks of high-quality separated bike lanes, but anyone trying to ride east toward Whole Earth Market will have to ‘share the road’ with some of the busiest traffic in town. This is impossible for all but highly-enthusiastic cyclists. Most people will face key routes where easy, direct cycling will continue to be impossible.
Clearly, the consultants have operated under a number of constraints, but it seems that they have too often prioritized level of service for people who are driving and parking cars over the safe use of bicycles. This is not consistent with the Circulation Element, which aims to “Reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles by providing viable alternatives for people to get to work, shop or recreate” (page 44 of the Community Master Plan).
With a number of improvements, particularly upgrading the planned facilities in central areas where most bike trips happen, the draft bike plan could be made to be consistent with the spirit of the Circulation Element. The opportunities for the town would be very advantageous. First, we could avoid a number of deaths and serious injuries that will inevitably occur over the coming years if the half-baked infrastructure choices in the draft bike plan are implemented. Second, we could return sidewalks to pedestrians and dog-walkers, instead of making sidewalks the only place where the majority of people feel comfortable cycling. And finally, we could make Princeton a truly bike-friendly community, reaping the health and sustainability benefits that would come from a population that is able to easily and safely choose to get around by bike.