October 14, 2020

Bike Boulevards Bring Opportunities For Bikers of All Ages and Abilities

By Donald Gilpin

In promoting cycling as the best way to get around town, Democratic mayoral candidate Mark Freda hosted Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) Chair Lisa Serieyssol on October 8 on Facebook Live.  The discussion focused on the Princeton Bike Boulevards, a network of roads and paths that connects the community and creates a greenway with a variety of cycling loops around town.

Freda noted that he had taken part in a tour on the bike boulevards a few weeks ago. “It was a ten-mile ride,” he said. “I was a little worried whether I’d do OK, but I did and it was a very pleasant experience.”

Emphasizing the increased need for bike and pedestrian infrastructure in town, particularly in the seven months since the start of the pandemic, Serieyssol noted that the boulevards were designed to go around the whole town, connecting different neighborhoods without the necessity of traveling on main streets. “These are low stress, low speed, low volume roads for the most part,” she said, “mostly going through residential areas with trails or side paths in some places.”

There are many different loops ranging from a 16-mile fitness loop around the perimeter of town to the 4.5-mile town and gown loop in the center of town.  Maps are available at Kopp’s and Jay’s bike shops and online at the municipal website at princetonnj.gov.

Serieyssol added that the boulevards are still a work in progress, with more signs and pavement markings coming soon to help guide cyclists.

She noted that getting children to school and home safely has been a priority, with PBAC working in partnership with the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association and with parents and school officials on the Safe Routes to Schools program.  In the age of COVID, bicycles could be an important alternative to school buses, she suggested.

“The school district has been getting feedback from parents about whether they will use the school bus system,” she said. “With COVID restrictions buses are reducing the number of passengers they can transport, and, if not a bus the kids will either be driven or walk or bike. To reduce the amount of traffic and backup that might happen with individual families driving kids to school, these bike routes are one of the solutions that families are looking at.”

Freda described biking as “a great alternative, especially if you’re concerned with putting your child on the bus. You’re outside in the fresh air. It’s healthy. It’s a great idea.”

Serieyssol emphasized  educational as well as health benefits. “If you’re active for 15 or 20 minutes walking or biking or maybe even on your scooter, your brain is actually functioning at a higher capacity,” she said. “You expend energy, and when you arrive at school you’ll be ready to sit down and learn. You’ll be more efficient.”  She recommended that parents help their children plan their trips to school and elsewhere, riding with them the first time to ensure safety and awareness of traffic.

In commenting earlier this year on the Safe Routes to Schools program, Princeton Council President David Cohen noted, “The kids love the independence of it.  They love the environmentalism of it. This generation gets it.”

In reflecting on possible long-term effects of the pandemic, Cohen added, “I hope people who have been getting out on their bicycles will realize that they not only feel better but enjoy getting around that way. I hope this will accelerate a trend that has already been happening.”

On her newly printed Princeton Bicycle Map, Serieyssol charted for Facebook Live watchers her loop of about 10 miles past most of the schools and around town. The route went out Rollingmead and Littlebrook, crossing Route 27 with great caution to connect with the beginning of Prospect Street, leading all the way back to Washington Road and Princeton University.

Cyclists find their own way through the University campus — no bike boulevards there — to College Road near McCarter Theatre, a “bike and pedestrian road,” where there is a lane for traffic and wider avenues for bikes and pedestrians, then  past the graduate college to Springdale, Battle Road, Olden Lane, through Marquand Park to cross Stockton Street and take an off-street trail down to Edgerstoune, past the Hun School on a trail through to Rosedale Road and Johnson Park School, then on what’s known as the Johnson Trolley Trail back to Elm Road, down Mountain Avenue, across Bayard Lane to Community Park, then back to the area of the middle school, the high school, and the center of town.

“We think this map and these trails will be very useful to a lot of people,” said Serieyssol, pointing out that many other routes are available with connections to the Lawrence-Hopewell Trail, the canal path, West Windsor routes, and more. 

The approach of cooler days did not discourage Freda.  “You can pretty much do biking year round here,” he said. “We don’t have winters the way we used to. There are plenty of chilly days, but not snow the way we used to, and once you get on your bike on cold days you get warmed up quickly. It’s not a big deal.”

At a special Princeton Council meeting on transportation on October 19 at 7 p.m., the PBAC will make a presentation on Vision Zero, a policy that prioritizes the safety of all road users. At his next Facebook Live session at 2 p.m. on October 22, Freda will talk with recently retired Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter.