May 17, 2023

National Bike Month Continues, Bike to Work Day is May 19

By Donald Gilpin

It’s officially National Bike Month, with a May 4, 2023 proclamation by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy highlighting the importance of walking and biking in New Jersey and celebrating such initiatives as the Safe Passing Law and Safe Routes to School Program.

“This is a great time to celebrate the joys of walking and biking and the victories we’ve won in New Jersey so far,” states a press release from the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition. “Remember to mark your calendar for Friday, May 19 — National Bike to Work Day!”

Princeton is a Bike-Friendly Community with silver status designation from the League of American Bicyclists, and one of the town’s great biking advocates is Community Park second grade teacher Adam Blejwas.

Every day Blejwas and his daughter, who is in fourth grade, ride together from their home in the Riverside area across town to Community Park Elementary School, a trip of about a mile and a half. And in following up on an idea from a student in his second grade class, Blejwas on Fridays leads a “bike bus,” a group of riders all riding their bikes to school.

“A light bulb went on for me and I decided to invite the whole second grade,” he said. “Then I decided to invite the whole school to join in. Now on nice days there are as many as 50 to 70 riding with us every Friday. We pick up people as we go.”

He insisted, “There’s no significance or value to this, except that it’s a fun way to get to school. It’s all about having fun.”

For those who want to “get on the bus” on Fridays, Blejwas offered the following schedule: “7:50 a.m. depart from Blejwas’ home in the Littlebrook neighborhood, about 7:53 we cross Harrison, about 7:57 we pass Princeton High School, turn right, then left on Guyot where we greet Cynthia the crossing guard who is always nice to us, then get on the Guyot bike path along the stream and come out of the woods by Conte’s Pizza, then on to Witherspoon Street and across to Community Park Elementary School at about 8:05.”

Another manifestation of Princeton’s affinity for bikes took place last Saturday, May 13, in the Princeton Municipal Building parking lot at the annual Wheels Rodeo event sponsored by the Princeton Police Department (PPD). About 60 kids attended, according to PPD Sergeant Dan Federico, who added, “It’s important to understand bike safety and to be able to ride safely on the street with other vehicles. Princeton is a bike-friendly community where lots of kids ride bikes.”

A road course was set up for the event with stop signs and yield signs, as the riders were given the opportunity to practice weaving in and out of obstacles. Princeton Human Services provided hamburgers and hot dogs, the Princeton PBA Local No. 130 donated two bicycles and two scooters to lucky raffle winners, and the Princeton Recreation Department donated a pool membership to the Community Park Pool.

Sustainable Princeton (SP) has consistently highlighted the importance of bicycling to the Princeton community and its future. “Choosing to take a bus, ride a bike, or walk rather than drive a car, is an act of hope for our future,” SP noted in a May 15 statement. “The ability to choose how you move is a privilege, and even if you are car-dependent you can still play a crucial role in helping make the road safe for cyclists. Everyone plays a role in making our community safe and keeping it that way for future generations of Princetonians.”

The SP statement went on, “In addition to being a fun and more affordable/accesible way of transportation for many Princetonians, biking plays a key role in helping our community reach Princeton’s Climate Action Plan goals. To truly reduce our community’s greenhouse gas emissions, we need to reduce overall miles traveled by vehicles, and that includes electric vehicles. As a community-based nonprofit, we make a point to promote carbon-free commuting at our annual eCommuter Fest, and we’ve enjoyed partnering with the Princeton Pedestrian Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) and others to offer bike valet parking at community events.”

Princeton Councilman David Cohen, the Council liaison to the PBAC, noted that the improvements currently underway to the Witherspoon Street corridor include a range of traffic-calming measures to slow cars and make cycling less stressful. He also mentioned possibilities of additional corridors, notably Nassau and Harrison streets, looking to make improvements in both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Princeton University, Cohen added, has presented a proposal for improvements to Washington Road, with a stretch of separated bike lanes.

Cohen emphasized the importance of the town’s Master Plan overhaul in determining priorities for further bicycle improvements in infrastructure in coming years. “Residents who are invested in making bicycling in Princeton even better should keep an eye out for opportunities to engage,” he wrote in an email. “Signing up at the Master Plan engagement hub is the best way to make sure to keep informed.”

Citing the increase in cyclists and bike-related initiatives throughout the country, the League of American Bicyclists website has celebrated all the ways people bike during the month. As the website states, “Whether you’re riding for fun, fitness, or with family, or taking essential trips to work or shop, you are part of our movement for safer streets, connected communities, a healthier planet, and happier people.”