November 2, 2022

Wondering About Princeton’s Plan for Bicycles and Scooters — and Pedestrians

To the Editor:

Princeton prides itself as being forward-thinking with a strong sense of community. A town like Princeton should be expected to encourage and protect transportation diversity, but it consistently fails at the latter. Bicycle and (the growing number of) scooter riders have little protection on our major thoroughfares. Our busy cross streets, like Witherspoon, Hamilton-Wiggins, Nassau, and Harrison, along with several narrow residential streets, accommodate riders only by painting BLVD on the streets.

Most local riders are students and young families. With the volume and speed of auto traffic on these roads, it is natural that riders avoid the risk and turn to sidewalks, few of which are designated for use by bicycles, and I can only assume this extends to scooters. Allowing bicycles and scooters on busy, often narrow sidewalks poses serious risks for pedestrians. Forcing them to busy streets without designated bike lanes poses serious risks for the riders. 

Nassau Street is a special case. For many years there were signs, albeit small ones, explicitly barring riders from the sidewalks, at least on the business side of the street. Princeton appears not to invest in safety officers to enforce “downtown” rules, so even on busy weekends, adherence to this ban has been spotty. Especially with the rapid growth in motorized scooters on campus, sidewalk competition between riders and pedestrians is now common throughout the downtown.  It is now rare to walk Nassau Street and not witness bicycles and scooters weaving in and out of groups of pedestrians.

What are Princeton’s policy and plans for these issues as the town, rightly, encourages transportation diversity and is, in fact, witnessing a real growth in bicycle and scooter use? How do we calm auto traffic and add safe lanes on our streets for bicycles and scooters? How can we protect pedestrians on town sidewalks? Can Princeton’s governing bodies clarify, monitor, and manage the rights and safety of all groups, balancing mobility with safety?

Stuart Kerachsky
Moore Street