Monday, January 31, 2011

Town Approves Phase 1 of Bike Network

Town Approves Phase I of Bike Network

The Maplewood Bike Network with ultimately connect Millburn, Maplewood and South Orange — as well as neighborhoods, parks and commercial districts within the town.

Someday when all this snow melts, Maplewood will begin work on a bicycle network that will ultimately connect the town to its neighbors — and itself.

The Maplewood Bike Network — planned by Mark W. Gordon, principal of Urbana Consulting, LLC, in conjunction with the Township Engineering Department and the Maplewood Transportation Committee Bike Subcommittee — was presented to the Township Committee by Gordon on Jan. 4. The presentation was the culmination of more than a year of planning that included meetings with property owners and stakeholders along portions of the path, coordination with the town engineer, and a public meeting in June 2010.

The network is a combination of bike paths, using off-road paths in parks and other areas, andbike routes, using the shoulders of existing roads in town. It has several goals — to improve bike safety, reduce air pollution and improve citizen health — which dovetail nicely with many of Maplewood's green initiatives. The shared use bike routes in the network cover portions of 40 streets in town.

Although the Committee members had some comments and adjustments for the overall network, the Township Committee gave approval for construction of its first phase — a modest expanse connecting the western edge of Maplewood Village with Millburn that is estimated to cost $9,000. Those funds were approved at the Jan. 18 Township Committee meeting.

But first Gordon took the Township Committee members through a presentation of the overall network. Gordon explained how the network was based on corridors adopted in the town's Master Plan. He explained how the network avoided — wherever possible — the use of large, busy streets in favor of smaller, safer and less traveled streets. Federal and state guidelines were used to ensure that even these smaller streets met minimum requirements for widths, traffic volume and speeds needed to safely allow for bike paths.

Although it might seem that finding such streets would be difficult, Gordon said no: "Maplewood is blessed with a number of streets" that meet these requirements. In short, according to Gordon, the town is moving at the right speed and has "good shoulders."

Gordon also wanted to assure Township Committee members that proposed bike routes would not require a substantial loss of parking spots. "We are not proposing parking restrictions — with a few minor exceptions."

In the long-term, Gordon wanted to encourage the introduction of the "woonerf" — a Dutch term that loosely translates as "living street." In practical terms, it's a street were cars and bicycles yield to pedestrians and all three share the roadway equally. "The ambiguity of the situation makes people in cars slow down." Gordon suggested that Highland Place would be the ideal street for introducing this concept to Maplewood.

The network proposal also suggested included changing angled parking in town to "back in" parking — making it safer for cyclists because drivers exiting the spaces would be better able to see them.

Although Gordon and town engineers (first acting engineer Robert Bratt and now Town Engineer Tom Malavsi) have been working with property owners and stakeholders on the network bike path portions that connect with Waterlands park in South Orange, the first phase of the project proffered for implementation was the area connecting with Millburn's Glen Avenue. Why? According to Gordon, this part of the root is easy, cheap and connects with just-completed bike route work in Millburn on Glen Avenue.

This portion of the network — which starts at Maplewood Avenue and Lenox and travels along the train tracks to Cottage Court and then to Ridgewood Road and on to Glen Avenue — involves only Township property and little repaving.

When it came time for Township Committee members to comment, Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta wanted to know what the criteria were for selecting some streets over others. Jerry Ryan felt that it would be useful for the Committee members to see the plan broken into a series of phases beyond Phase I. Mayor Vic DeLuca asked to see a greater emphasis on connecting assets within the town, such as linking Springfield Avenue and Maplewood Village. "I see this as an opportunity for economic development," said DeLuca.

Gordon called this a "good suggestion."

Township Engineer Tom Malavasi wanted Township Committee members to know that the designation of certain streets as bike routes would not preclude the use of other streets for cycling. Malavasi also felt that much of the network could be implemented inexpensively over time as streets are repaved and re-striped. Gordon noted that he was working to identify outside sources for funding the network where possible.

Ultimately, DeLuca suggested that the town resolve to "accept" the report, rather than approve it, and authorize Phase I. "Then we can review it going forward," said DeLuca, "but at least we can get off the dime."

Members of the Maplewood Transportation Committee Bike Subcommittee include Rich Wener (Chair),Vicki Arlein, Charlie Bibbins, Ed Bolden, Ian Flamm, Jonathan Poor, Fred Profeta, Sharon Roerty, Kirk Sohr, Rob McCoy and Dirk Olin.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bike Summit Success & Other SOMbike News

  • The weather outside may have been discouraging, but we had a great turnout for the bike summit we sponsored Tuesday night at the Baird Center - about two dozen cycling advocates came, representing groups from Jersey City, Newark, Montclair, West Windsor, Maplewood & South Orange. We will be planning rides together, joining in advocacy efforts, and sharing information. A very productive event!
  • Join us to celebrate Tom Reingold's 50th Birthday this Sunday, 1/23/11 with a birthday ride, 9 AM, meet-up at his house - 32 Plymouth. Ice cream cake will follow. Check if in doubt about the weather. rsvp:
  • Next SOMbike meeting: Tuesday, February, 1st, 7:30 PM: RSVP for more details:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

BIKE SUMMIT TONIGHT, Tuesday, 1/18/11

Welcoming Jersey City, Newark, West Windsor, Millburn, Montclair, South Orange, & Maplewood cyclists on this icy, wet evening, with visions of nice weather riding ahead of us...

Place: The Baird Center, 5 Mead St., South Orange, 07079 (Conference Room)
Time: 730-9:30 PM
Date: 1/18/11

Refreshments will be served.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Drizzling. Slushy. Let's try for next Sunday, 1/9

Meet-up: The Baird, 5 Mead St., South Orange
Time: Noon
Destination: Coffee/Hot Chocolate
Route: TBA