Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 50
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
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Shared Bike Paths and Traffic Concerns Come Under Scrutiny

Dilshanie Perera

Borough Council considered local traffic concerns at their meeting last week as members of the Traffic and Transportation Committee as well as the Princeton Joint Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee detailed their recommendations for municipal approval.

Bicycle Committee Chair Yan Bennett noted that the recently created group had examined the traffic situation in the Borough and Township, analyzing cyclist safety, as well as the condition of existing bike facilities.

The committee suggests that in order to improve safety conditions for bicyclists and motorists alike “sharrows,” or shared lane markings, be placed on a number of designated Borough roadways where a dedicated bike lane cannot be placed.

Ms. Bennett explained that the sharrows are traffic control devices that protect cyclists and make drivers of motor vehicles more alert to the cyclists. When queried about the presence of bike signs alongside the road, she pointed out that, as number of studies indicate, “The signage on the roadway is more visible to drivers and is perceived more.”

The sharrows “help cyclists position themselves laterally on the road,” Ms. Bennett added, noting that bikes riding too close to the curb of the road could encourage unsafe behavior.

When it was pointed out that using the sharrows configuration, bikes would have the same priority as cars on the road, and that perhaps they should be limited to only a few locations, Ms. Bennett noted that “sufficient repetition” of the roadway signage was necessary for drivers to properly understand what it means.

Chair Anton Lahnston of the Traffic and Transportation Committee further emphasized the point, noting that “it is important that the sharrows be considered with consistency.”

The Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee Survey was conducted a year ago.

“The whole concept” of the online survey, according to committee member Murali Balasubramanian, was assessing the perception of traffic and safety issues anonymously. Over 800 responses were received.

Observing that the group found that education and enforcement were two major factors affecting traffic in the community, Mr. Balasubramanian noted that automobiles running red lights, cellphone use while driving, double parking, and cyclists failing to use lights at night were all concerns.

The overall themes that most residents were concerned about were a lack of convenient public transportation options within the community, the need for increased enforcement and education, and pedestrian and bicyclist safety, with the most frequently reported concern being that “Princeton residents suffer the ill effects of congestion and traffic,” Mr. Lahnston said. “Should that concern you? We think it should.”

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