December 30, 2020

Taking a Look at Princeton as Most Bike-Friendly Town in New Jersey

To the Editor:

I read the League of American Bicyclists awarded Princeton a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community [“Princeton’s Cycling Status Rises, Most Bike-Friendly Town in the State,” page 1, December 16]. Seems many in town have worked tirelessly to make our town safer to ride a bike. Rewarding this work is more than justified. Still, I thought I’d take a look at the so-called most bike-friendly town in New Jersey.

I found no bike lanes to safely travel to the downtown, the shopping center, or the schools. In fact, I found that riding into town is dangerous and congested, and that riding out of town yields a sigh of relief, that less awarded communities around us seem to care more about safety for all users. It may be that these communities are less dense and naturally more bike friendly, but lanes from these communities end at Princeton’s gates. We occasionally make efforts to install a bike lane where it is needed, but argue it down in public meetings.

Perhaps we harbor the delusion: we truly are bicycle friendly. After all, the League has awarded us. We have lofty declarations in our circulation plans aspiring to complete streets, thoughtful consideration for all users. We have bike paths, bicycle friendly signage, designated routes, bicycle parking, and maps to guide us.

So impressive, yet so lacking. Our declarations are ignored. So-called bike paths are not maintained, wandering, and more suited for walking. Signage such as sharrows on our streets, dare us to mingle with heavy traffic. Designated routes loop, dart, and circumvent. We have maps to guide us around our town, yet the road through to bike-parking facilities can be treacherous.

Enter the status quo: unaddressed issues and problematic details are hidden beneath a veil of good intentions.

If we are honest with ourselves, we might admit to the dangers within our system, and find justification for taking steps towards getting more folks out of their cars and onto their bikes. It would mean creating safe routes to the center of our town, the library, our schools, and the shopping center; partly by installing more bike lanes. It could also mean a focus on a more traffic-friendly parking system to get cars off the streets more quickly, perhaps by employing solutions such as varied meter pricing. It could mean a further deterrence of speeding motorists from unnerving quiet users, by strict and universal enforcement of speed limits. It certainly would mean a focus on details such as maintenance of existing facilities and keeping the sides of our roadways free of debris. Essentially, we would make our facilities safer for all users, in more of a structural manner.

My definition of bike-friendliness may be different from that of the League of American Bicyclists. Regardless, my fervent hope for all of us that care about dealing with climate change, reducing traffic congestion, and improving the health and well-being of our community, is we find that making our streets physically safer is part of the solution, and worth our while.

Ron Lessard
Birch Avenue