May is National Bike Month and Princeton residents will be seeing a lot of “Be Green and Be Seen” posters around town advertising a Community Walk/Bike Rally at the Hinds Plaza this Saturday, May 10, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The highly motivated group of Princetonians who are urging the community to adopt alternative and healthier modes of transport are led by the Princeton Township Sidewalk and Bikeway Advisory Committee (SBAC) in conjunction with Princeton University’s Office of Sustainability and Sustainable Princeton. Supporters of the event — which the organizers hope will promote more walking and biking in Princeton as well as safer conditions for green forms of transportation — include the Whole Earth Center, the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance, Princeton High School’s Environmental Action Club, the PHS Bicycle Club, and the Princeton School Garden Cooperative.
Saturday’s Rally will feature bike safety workshops by Borough and Township Police, and bike maintenance from the PHS Bicycle Club.
SBAC Chair Janet Heroux described the “zero budget rally” as an opportunity for Princeton residents who already walk and bike to come together and show support for simple changes that could turn the town of Princeton into a truly walkable community.
Although the SBAC has been around for some 15 years, Ms. Heroux believes that the time is ripe for Princeton to take steps toward a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.
“This is a college town with a population that is amenable to walking and biking and besides, there are compelling health reasons,” said Ms. Heroux, the author of public health reports for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
As a volunteer citizen adviser, Ms. Heroux is armed with data from a survey in support of her contention that Princeton is ready to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. In October 2005, the SBAC conducted a survey through the Princeton Regional Schools about how students travel to and from school.
“About 30 percent of the district’s elementary and middle school children walk or bike to school,” said Ms. Heroux. “Princeton parents believe that walking and biking help children to be healthy, independent, and responsible while at the same time being better for the environment.”
The survey identified several barriers to walking and bicycling which, if they were to be addressed, could increase the numbers of children walking or biking to school. For those children who were within walking or cycling distance, the major barriers were found to be lack of sidewalks, motorists going too fast, and too few crossing guards.
According to Ms. Heroux, “Local government officials can make design decisions on behalf of safe walking and biking to school and the school system and PTO can educate about safety and encourage kids and parents to consider more walking and biking to school.”
“Together with the SBAC, I have focused on new bikeways in the Township to facilitate safety in cycling and hopefully to encourage increased usage,” commented Township Committeeman Chad Goerner, liaison to the Sidewalk and Bikeways Advisory Committee. “We have also recognized the need to prioritize our infrastructure projects to incorporate safer routes to school and encourage biking and walking as critical alternatives to driving.”
One outcome that Ms. Heroux would like to see from the rally would be for SBAC to form an alliance with the Borough of Princeton. “What I hope to emerge would be a Borough/Township working group on cycling and walking issues,” she said. “It would be great to see a network of safe cycling and walking routes from local schools to the library,” she said. “Bikers and walkers need to be able to bike and walk in safety.”
“Mayor Marchand has been extraordinarily supportive of this effort and Saturday’s rally” said Ms. Heroux. “Judith Wilson, too, deserves credit for spreading the word to the children and their parents in Princeton’s schools, a really important constituent when it comes to biking and walking.”
SBAC meets on the third Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in Meeting Room A at the Princeton Township Municipal Building. Besides Ms. Heroux, other members of the committee are Audrey Chen, David Atkin, David Egger, and Fred Goldstein.
Fran McManus was looking for ways in which local businesses could contribute to the biking movement in Princeton when she came up with the idea of more bike racks.
Marketing director with Whole Earth Natural Grocery, Ms. McManus contacted local businesses who have already contributed $1,500. In addition to Whole Earth Center, money has come from The Bent Spoon Artisan Ice Cream, PNC Bank, Princeton Bike Tours, The Original Soup Man, and PTV Sciences. Another $500 has been pledged and the money will be used to buy and install three new racks (one ribbon rack that holds nine bikes and several inverted-U-shaped racks that hold two bikes each) for installation on Nassau and Witherspoon streets.
“It is great to see businesses take the lead in promoting biking in town,” said Ms. McManus, who would like to see National Bike Month become an annual celebration in Princeton. Throughout the month of May, Whole Earth rewards shoppers who bike to the store by giving them $1 off each purchase of $15 or more or clicking their Pedal Power card, which gives them $10 off bike accessories at Kopp’s Cycles.
The store’s Random Acts of Community program randomly rewards one bicyclist each week with gift certificates as a thank you for leaving their car at home. Last year, Whole Earth gave four cyclists $25 to Whole Earth, $25 to Witherspoon Bread, $5 to Small World, and a free ice cream at The Bent Spoon.
In recognition of May 10, as Fair Trade Day, the store is working with Ten Thousand Villages to participate in the world’s largest Fair Trade Coffee Break. “Customers who ride their bike to our store on May 10 will get a free Fair Trade coffee and we’ll be encouraging them to then bike up to the rally,” said Ms. McManus.
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