Hamilton Avenue and What it Might Take to Make Our Streets More Comfortable for People to Cycle
Fitzgerald: The rich are different from you and me
Hemingway: Yes, they have more money
Around the country there is growing recognition of the pleasures and practicalities of biking. Travelers return to the United States noting how bikes have been woven into the daily fabric of our European contemporaries and wondering why we can’t do the same here.
Sophisticated, well-traveled, and idealistic, Princetonians have no doubt wondered at bike trails and bike traffic lights in Amsterdam; children transported in cargo bikes in Copenhagen in clouds of bike commuters; bike share systems in Paris and Lyon, and dedicated bike lanes carved into networks of sidewalks and bus lanes in those places; and the simple ubiquity of bikes in Munich and Freiburg.
Support for bikes in Europe is not just an urban phenomenon. Small towns with narrow streets, such as Cambridge (England), Assen, or Lund, find ways to make space for cyclists, and bike racks at village commuter rail stations are filled.
And yet, as admiring as we may be, there is still a sense that something fundamentally and ineffably different about Europe explains why bike ridership and infrastructure is so much more widespread and normal there, and why bike-supportive infrastructure is so difficult to find space for here.
The bike issue of the day in Princeton is whether – when the town repaves part of Hamilton Avenue in the coming year – the new roadway should include bike lanes in both directions between Harrison Street and Snowden Lane. Related to that is the question of whether on-street parking – which is currently forbidden on the north side only – will be forbidden on both sides on this segment of the road in future.
The Municipal Council will hear public comment on February 24th about whether a new ordinance supporting bike lanes and forbidding all on-street parking should be adopted, and a neighborhood meeting will be held prior to that on February 18th.
The arrangement proposed for Hamilton Avenue is not unusual in Europe, in communities large and small, but in Princeton – as in many American settings – the approach is controversial (despite its existence for over a decade as a recommendation in Princeton’s Carmalt 2002 plan, page 40).
Residents of the affected blocks of Hamilton have a number of objections to the ordinance as proposed, most of which can be encompassed by the statement that “the benefits to bike riders won’t be worth the parking impacts to residents.”
The fact that the bike lanes proposed for Hamilton are not part of a broader connected network of programmed bike improvements – as opposed to a list of suggested possibilities, which is what the Carmalt plan is – is a weakness of the current proposal, and a legitimate source of irritation to Hamilton Avenue residents.
Without a broader commitment to connecting bike lanes on Hamilton with similar bike-supporting improvements on Rollingmead, Snowden, and on Hamilton in to town (they don’t have to all be separated lanes, just a connected series of place-appropriate improvements), there’s a risk that the bike lanes as proposed for Hamilton would be merely symbolic for bike riders and would generate either real impacts for residents or end up just being disregarded and unenforced – a big negative for bicyclists, since cynicism about bike improvements would just make bike advocacy harder.
On the other hand, requiring a funded program of bike improvements town-wide as a sine qua non for any particular improvement for bikes would pose a real burden that could delay progress on bike infrastructure in Princeton indefinitely.
Improvements for bikes, though cheap compared to many other transportation investments, are most cost-effectively provided at a time when streets are being improved anyway. This is the case with Hamilton, which is badly in need of repair, and which is scheduled for a resurfacing in the coming year.
Delaying bike improvements on Hamilton means missing this cycle of regular maintenance and, while it wouldn’t preclude future bike improvements on Hamilton, it would certainly delay and reduce the options for future improvements, and potentially make them more expensive.
We need to have lots of bicyclists before we can document the benefits of bike investments; but people won’t bike in numbers necessary to motivate improvements until they feel comfortable on our streets and until there are networks for bikes, not just disconnected segments.
We need to have a comprehensive program of action before we can make any specific improvement, but we can’t get a system-wide program until there’s a broad enough consensus to commit the needed funding.
How do we get out of this chicken-or-egg situation to make progress on the bike-ability of our town? I actually don’t know. One reason I don’t know is that I fundamentally don’t understand why the issue can be so inflammable.
Is it because people who are stressed by the busy-ness of their lives can’t imagine why public space would be prioritized for others to travel in a slower way? Are people on bikes perceived to be judging people in cars? Do some drivers wish they were biking but can’t find a way to make that practical? Whatever it is, it seems that something bigger is going on beyond just cars and bikes, something emotional about how we and others are living their lives.
As regards Hamilton, while I recognize and sympathize with some of the objections of bike lane opponents, on balance I agree with the saying that “a journey begins with one step.” The municipal circulation element states clearly that a goal for in-town transportation is to “promote and encourage pedestrian/bicycle mobility.” (page 44) I think the lanes proposed on Hamilton are a reasonable first step – AND I think it’s time for the municipal council to clarify what this goal statement means in practice, so that individual potential improvements aren’t sequentially opposed and rejected because there’s no town-wide program.
To the larger philosophical and emotional questions, I am left to agree with Hemingway for the moment: the Europeans are different from us because they have more bike infrastructure.
Note: the exchange between Fitzgerald and Hemingway is actually apocryphal, but etched in myth … not unlike the trope about bad relations between cars and cyclists.
I am in favor of bike lanes, but as a resident with on-street parking, I believe the residents have a very valid objection about losing the parking. One reason we have this issue is because Princeton only allows on-street parking for the street on which someone lives. Pretty much every other town or city (certainly the 5 I’ve lived in) have area sectors, and residents can park on any street in that sector.
If Princeton adopted this approach, it would allow the creation of bike lanes without reducing the ability to park on the street. The parking would simply be around the corner (usually). My belief is that a move to this model would solve many of the arguments about development and bike lanes vs. parking (which is a problem).
I dislike bike lanes as they tend to enforce the mindset that bicyclists aren’t entitled to use *any* road, as cars are. And I say this as someone who regularly bikes around Princeton: no need for ’em.
What do people who live along these streets, now without on-street parking, do when they have guests, i.e. too many to park in their driveway? A meeting of your volunteer group, a dinner party, holiday potluck…? And, does the change affect property values?
I live on N Harrison right near Hamilton, and we have the situation that is being proposed here–no on-street parking and a sort of bike lane. But the bike lane is terrible–it’s just an occasional graphic of a bike, with no line delineating it, and drivers ignore it. Traffic often goes 60 mph or so (in the 25mph zone) and I would never ride a bike on-street in front of my house. Despite the hazards of cars in driveways, I would choose the sidewalk instead.
I think the same situation would be true on Hamilton. Traffic goes too fast, and I would rather just ride on the sidewalk.
As for parking on side streets, that is not so bad. People have to park about 3 houses away–or maybe a block. I can still have a party. No, it isn’t as convenient as parking right in front of the house, but residents would survive this inconvenience.
However. I am not sure it is worth doing unless a better bike lane is provided. It should be marked by a white line, and it should be illegal for cars to enter that zone even if no bicycle is present. Otherwise, it’s all a sham anyway. Like on Harrison St. Most bike riders on Harrison choose the sidewalk, and I don’t blame them.
As my name indicates, I am an extreme distance bicyclist.
The first step in all Complete Streets considerations, per NJDOT (link above), is to review the Master Plan. The Hamilton segment is not in the currently approved Princeton Master Plan as either a current or future “in the pipeline” bicycle route. The Ordinance is overruling the Master Plan and without any supporting rationale, data, or due process. Taking away on street parking for an occasional bicyclist just does not make any sense. The Council has an objective of building a true Bike Master Plan in 2015. What is the urgency to bypass that disciplined process with a flawed Ordinance?
The Step 1 requirement of Complete Streets was NOT done for the Ordinance.
The second step is to review the local context. Since there will be no neighborhood meeting prior to the expected vote on Feb 24, the Mayor and Council will not have requested true neighborhood feedback to understand the local context. There needs to be a balancing for all, including the people, many seniors, who are very long time residents of the neighborhood. (The Feb 18 meeting is a Town Meeting and not a neighborhood meeting.) Neighborhood meetings were held for the Mt Lucas and Prospect projects. Don’t the Hamilton residents deserve the same respect?
The Ordinance was introduced on Jan 12 without any notification to the directly impacted residents or neighborhood meetings that there was any consideration of the removal of parking in favor of bike lanes.
Another aspect of local context is that the side streets of Stanley, Levitt, Harriet, fisher, Erdman, and TeeAr, are all part of the student artery to the high and middle schools to arrive at the protected crosswalk at Harrison and Fisher. Most of those side streets have no sidewalks, and moving any additional parking to those locations will increase the danger to the students and further put at risk their ability to have a Safe Route To Schools.
On street parking has a known traffic “calming” effect, and without the on street parking, the excessive speeds on the Hamilton segment will only get worse, putting everyone at greater risk.
There have been no known bicycle accidents on the segment for the past 35+ years, the last five years confirmed by police reports. It is simply not a high use or high risk segment for bicyclists. For much higher volume streets like Wiggins, shared lanes are used; and IF the upcoming 2015 Bike Master Plan says that the Hamilton segment should be a bike route, then it would be straightforward to mark the segment to also have shared lanes.
The Step 2 requirement of Complete Streets was NOT done for the Ordinance.
Taking away parking endangers students on their way to/from school and all who use Hamilton and the side streets, and for what benefit, NONE, especially when compared to having shared lanes for the occasional bicyclist. Exactly what problem is the Ordinance attempting to solve for this segment of Hamilton? The draconian step of taking away the parking and endangering all Princetonians simply has no rational justification for this segment of Hamilton Ave.
Complete Streets requires a “comprehensive, integrated, and connected” plan, and the Ordinance to build a “Bikepath to Nowhere” grossly fails on all three requirements. The existing disciplined processes must be allowed to perform due diligence, fact checking, and due process; and for that reason, at this time, the Ordinance MUST be voted down.
The bike lane plan was conceived based on Princeton’s Masterplan commitment to Complete Streets. Consistent with the language in the Masterplan, the Traffic and Transportation committee carefully considered design alternatives based on the context of the street. This was presented at the neighborhood meeting last June. As several neighbors did not appreciate the scope of the meeting, a second meeting has been scheduled to get resident input.
The level of scrutiny and consultation for this plan has therefore gone above and beyond what is typical for a municipal engineering project. The lanes will not form a joined-up network by themselves but are intended to be a first step to building a joined-up, high-quality network. Clearly some people do not value this, or think the costs are too great, but it is consistent with the town Masterplan, and consistent with making it safe for a wide range of people to choose to get around town by bicycle.
This segment of Hamilton Ave has never been on the approved Master Plan as a current or future bike route. Moreover, the Bike Master Plan is due to be completed in 2015 and thus does not yet exist. When the 2015 Bike Master Plan is developed, the occasional bike usage on this segment could be considered. As described in the above post, this plan does not comply with Complete Streets.
It is simply incorrect to state that there was a neighborhood meeting on this plan. So too, stating that “several neighbors did not appreciate the scope of the meeting” is misleading at best. The meeting was noticed as Request for Utility and Sump Pump Information and mentioned resurfacing of the roadway. Not one word was included about the possible loss of parking. All neighbors had no notice that parking would even be discussed or that any PBAC members would attend the June 24, 2014 meeting. According to PBAC’s June 26, 2014 minutes, the engineers were supposed to continue to seek feedback from Hamilton Ave neighbors and schedule a follow-up meeting in August 2014. However, no efforts were made to seek feedback from the affected residents nor was any neighborhood meeting held before the Ordinance was introduced by Council on Jan 12, 2015. The Feb 18 public meeting now set for only 6 days before the Feb 24, 2015 vote on the Ordinance has been scheduled only because the Jan 26, 2015 meeting (when the vote was to have been taken) was cancelled due to the storm.
Thus, any asserted scrutiny and consultation about this plan has taken place without engaging any of the affected residents who will have to live with its detrimental effects every day if it is enacted. I certainly hope that this plan was not created in a way that is typical for a municipal engineering project.
It makes no sense to install two bike lanes on one isolated road segment with only occasional bicyclists with the hope that connecting segments will eventually be treated in the same way. Due consideration must be given to integrated planning and decisions as to bike accommodations in the rest of the town. Significantly, this piecemeal approach actually creates more safety risks for residents (increased car speeds with no traffic calming parked cars), pedestrians (walking in the middle of the adjoining side streets without sidewalks and with displaced Hamilton Ave cars), and students (biking or walking on the same side streets without sidewalks).
The repeated claims that the plan is consistent with Complete Streets and the Master Plan and is safer for everyone are simply false. Repeating these claims over and over does not make them true.
Council should consider neighborhood input and actual facts and vote against this ill conceived Ordinance.
Just to clarify, the nearest parking outside our driveway is on Franklin–but there is nearly always room there. Hamilton residents would have the same issue–visitors might need to park on side streets. The upside of that is, that you have a prettier view out the front windows and yard. Cars parked really aren’t that attractive.
Still, I am against the proposed change unless it’s a REAL bike lane, with its own white line, and not those useless graphics with no line. That is just a sham.
So, are the streets of Princeton supposed to be safe thoroughfares for all road and footpath users or private parking lot extensions for some residents’ soirées and entertainments? Are we really discussing the need to conveniently park your friend’s Beemer while they sip cocktails chez vous? Shouldn’t an enlightened community be working towards Safe Routes To School and Work and a sustainable and healthy local environment, or what? I thought Princeton was supposed to be investing in “Complete Streets” for everyone, not maintaining parking lots for a privileged few.
By privileged few, I think you are referring to people who cannot afford houses with large enough lots for parking for themselves or their guests.
This viewpoint has come up often in previous discussions about parking in Princeton. I find it remarkable how those whose wealth means they don’t don’t have to think about these questions make it sound like the less advantaged are using the system.
I am told that historically, all residents could park cars on the public streets without restrictions but that Princeton took this right away about 30 years ago because the mayor thought parked cars were unattractive. The people who park cars on the street are people who can’t easily afford parking or owning a driveway.
The idea that the “beauty” of empty streets or bike lanes is more important than the needs of the common folk is elitist. If Princeton really cares about the middle and lower class, it would find ways to allow everyone to coexist. Why shouldn’t people in the middle class be allowed to have guests over to their houses, even if that involves temporarily using the public road? It’s what community is about. It’s consistent with the spirit of bike lanes. I hope we can work together to find a solution that allows us to live together in a harmonious way.
Nat says “the exchange between Fitzgerald and Hemingway is actually apocryphal”. However the epistolary exchange between those two famous expats circa 1925 is certainly well documented. To learn more, search using their names as keywords, along with the word “macho”. So should we be telling our kids “just get on your bike and ride into town – it just takes some gutsy fearlessness” or should we instead act to improve at least some vital roads, per Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School policies ?
Commenter Pat Palmer is an example, and there are many others, of a local resident who resides on a busy artery and consequently does not enjoy free (or any) curbside parking. She mentions “a sort of bike lane (which) is terrible–it’s just an occasional graphic of a bike”. She’s referring to the share-the-roadway “sharrows” symbols along Harrison (her street), which are supposed to bridge the gaps between safer on-street bike facilities.
The former Princeton Borough had a Bicycle Plan whereby bicyclists were supposed to co-exist alongside the pedestrians and dog walkers on the sidewalk network. While it’s okay for children to use the sidewalks, it’s not okay to expect teenagers and grown-up bike users to get around town by sidewalk riding. The borough policy was from a bygone era, but what replaces it, and if not starting now, then when ? Thanks for posting your thoughts on this, Nat.
PS readers can pick up their free bike map at several places around town: Whole Earth Center, Kopp’s, Jay’s, public library, U-Store visitors center, McCaffery’s, Record Exchange. Send an email to Princeton PBAC if you have any feedback/corrections.
Bonus slideshow: Photos of Famous Authors and their Bicycles (Hemingway on p.3):
The main problem the Hamilton Avenue residents have is lack of notice and lack of consideration for their opinion. We found out about the proposed changes to the street from the local newspaper – this is hardly the right process to follow. Bike lanes are lovely, paved streets are wonderful, but community (and in particular, those who actually live on Hamilton Avenue) need to be involved. This was not the case.
Bike lanes are a great idea, and “Complete streets” are a great idea, too, but what would bike lanes between Snowden and Harrison accomplish? There needs to be a plan for Princeton – approved by the community. Other than that, there seems to be little point in making bike lanes that run for four blocks and then disappear.
Yes, on street parking is important for a number of residents on the street, not because we occasionally have guest who need to park somewhere, but also because a number of people on the street will have guests and helpers who need to park close – can’t walk a long distance.
And you have to consider people on side streets who will face increased parking – many have small children. Stanley Avenue leads to Pott’s Park – this where residents with small children go regularly – more traffic on those side streets will not make walking and biking! with small children safer.
You deserve parking on both sides of the street in your part of Hamilton Ave…you need it for visitors, service vehicles, and more.
The lack of notice to the neighborhood for the Hamilton proposal is really bizarre. I am all for bike lanes all over Princeton, and for questioning parking “needs” in favor of more bike and pedestrian “friendliness”. However, I am aware of many much more minor (in terms of expense, logistics) and non-controversial pedestrian and bike use improvement requests by residents that have been made to the town gov, things as simple as modifications to existing curb cuts, better signage and paint, signalling adjustments at traffic lights, “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” signs, etc, etc, that have been ignored by council or deferred to bureaucratic obstacles (follow ups with committee, then engineering, etc, etc) that the average citizen with life responsibilities struggles to keep up with. Why is this particular proposal, which doesn’t seem to have been generated by a consensus of neighborhood residents, or even by local pedestrian/bike activists on the table now when its so difficult to get so many simpler, specifically requested, bike/pedestrian things done in this town? What was the genesis for this particular proposal, and why has it gotten such fast track and wholesale support from council?
Several of the questions you ask are answered at the ‘frequently asked questions’ at the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee webpage at this link: https://pjpbac.blogspot.com/2015/01/hamilton-avenue-bike-lane-proposal.html
This project is one of several that are taking place to implement Princeton’s “Complete Streets” policy that was passed in 2012 and incorporated into the community Masterplan in 2013. The neighbors received letters last June that engineering would be taking place. There was a public meeting at that time where several neighbors commented on the bike lane proposal. Some residents clearly did not realize that the engineering could impact on-street parking, but the letter that was sent out was the standard municipal form letter. There was never any attempt to deceive residents, and there is now going to be a second public meeting for neighbors to have their say.
With regard to the other, smaller projects that could be done, many are being advanced, but the reason why things often go through lots of committees is because pretty much any change to the built environment in Princeton arouses strong and often conflicting opinions.
Yes, but there was no mention of bike lanes, nor removal of on street parking in that letter – I remember that letter and we responded to it as well. The letter said that the street would be repaved and in that stretch Hamilton Avenue is really badly beat up – so I am not surprised the meeting was lightly attended – who would object to a repaving?
if the letter said anything about proposed changes I am sure the neighbors would have attended in numbers. I am going to both meetings in February.
In this context, I don’t agree with ….. “With regard to the other, smaller projects that could be done, many are
being advanced, but the reason why things often go through lots of
committees is because pretty much any change to the built environment in
Princeton arouses strong and often conflicting opinions.”
As just one example, posting the mid-street signs that say “State Law stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” (see the ones that apparently had no trouble getting approved on the new Alexander Street) have been requested by many residents for many streets. I know that citizens have gone to council and engineering to get these on Birch Avenue and Witherspoon street. Always push back from town government, but its not residents just the town government. There were no opposing “strong and conflicting opinions” about such signage. These signs are both pedestrian and car friendly and have not been controversial nor opposed by anyone. Curb outs like what’s on Jefferson Rd have been proposed for other neighborhoods, and there is push back. Curb cuts proposals are ignored or die if residents are not able to take up extensive lobbying efforts to push through committee after committee and council members even when expressing interest drop the ball. These and similar inexpensive and non controversial pedestrian and bike improvements are proposed with no action.
So how does a proposal for a major “improvement” and significant change on Hamilton get fast tracked without even resident engagement and backing? Has there been a town survey (like the police surveys) to determine what bike and pedestrian improvements residents could and would use and support? How did this one rise to the top of the list?
I’m not against the bike lanes at all, and believe we need in some cases to push the issue forward and prioritize bike and pedestrian use over parking, but I still just find it curious how this particular project has received such priority and fast tracking.
The ‘Stop for pedestrians’ signs are a good example. I have advocated for these myself, but there is opposition because (1) the signs are hit by trucks and snow-plows shockingly frequently. Public Works often has to replace the signs every couple of weeks. (2) It is felt that if they are used in many locations, their impact will be lost. As such, their use is currently restricted to a few downtown locations, and new signs are subject to extensive deliberation. This is frustrating for advocates like you and me, but it is the way that Princeton government runs. (If you are interested, I can also explain why curb ‘bulb-outs’ and curbcuts are controversial.)
The current bike lane proposal has gone through several committees already, has been the subject of a meeting with residents (with another to follow next week), and has been a matter of consultation with municipal staff, the fire department and PFARS. The planning has been a consequence of Princeton’s commitment to ‘Complete Streets’, which was adopted in 2012. The specific plan on Hamilton has been under discussion for over a year. If you look to the municipal engineering department website, you can find documents detailing the plans that date back to last June. The plan has certainly not been ‘fast-tracked’, in fact, a decision has been put off repeatedly since last summer.
The original proposal to take out parking on Hamilton to make safe space for people on bikes dates back to the Carmalt Bike Plan of 2002. It has really been a very slow track to a vote in Council, although clearly some people would like it to be put off even further.
The so-called “bike lane” on Harrison St is simply a joke. It consists of occasional bicycle graphics which vehicles regularly drive over, and there is no white line delineating an area where vehicles should not stray. If this is what is proposed for Hamilton, it is a sham designed so accomplish nothing just so that officials can pat themselves on the back for having done something for cyclists (which they won’t have). Further, the lack of parked cars encourages more speeding on Harrison St, and will also do on Hamilton. Any so-called “bike lane” MUST be deliniated by a clear line, or better yet, a barrier, or it is nearly useless and thus would not, IMO, be worth removing parking for residents. Here is a proper bike lane: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=702524149779652&fref=nf or here: https://www.google.com/search?q=bicycle+lane&rls=%7Bmoz:distributionID%7D:%7Bmoz:locale%7D:%7Bmoz:official%7D&tbm=isch&imgil=-2nGi8wMdPWEGM%253A%253BLRbAvsPh-cvWgM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.planetizen.com%25252Fnode%25252F33877&source=iu&pf=m&fir=-2nGi8wMdPWEGM%253A%252CLRbAvsPh-cvWgM%252C_&usg=__juF6GPKYEiQ151JhoiQXorYkrks%3D&biw=1199&bih=681&ved=0CCsQyjc&ei=8S3hVOvgApLjggTU4oOICg#imgdii=_&imgrc=-2nGi8wMdPWEGM%253A%3BLRbAvsPh-cvWgM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.planetizen.com%252Ffiles%252Fu405%252FBicycle_Lane_1.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.planetizen.com%252Fnode%252F33877%3B350%3B263
What we have does not even have the white line marking out the lane.
Pat, Harrison Street has ‘sharrows’, not a bike lane. With sharrows, cyclists are supposed to ride along the painted arrows, mixed in with regular car traffic. It’s not a good solution for busy streets, where it is hard for drivers to pass cyclists. Also, many people don’t know what the painted sharrow means. The proposal for Hamilton is for a proper bike lane, marked with a white line. These would separate people on bicycles from regular car and truck traffic, meaning a better experience for everybody. If the proposed bike lanes are not implemented, the default will probably be more painted sharrows. Council has traditionally favored sharrows, because they are easy and cheap to do. But they aren’t very effective when added on busy streets with below-standard lane widths.
Thank you. I am pleased to learn this. The sharrows really are useless to everyone. Now feeling somewhat less put out by the proposal–but wondering why it does not include Hamilton from Harrison on into town; that is where we really could use a bike lane, and there is plenty of room for it.
It’s because the engineers are only resurfacing this section right now. Complete Streets improvements are typically added at the same time as resurfacing. The engineers resurface several roads each year. Parts of Hamilton Ave, Mt Lucas Drive and Prospect Ave are in line for improvements in this calendar year. The other sections of Hamilton Ave will most likely be discussed when they are due for resurfacing. This means that for a few years, we will have unconnected sections of network, but if the process receives sustained support, they will gradually join to form joined-up facilities. It would be nice if it could go faster, but bike facilities have historically not been a priority, and as we have seen with this project on Hamilton Ave, not everybody is in favor of them.
Thanks again for the clarification. I am now in support of the bike lane on Hamilton, with deep sympathy to neighbors for losing their convenient parking (if it happens).
I disagree that the sharrows are “useless”. I bike commute from Princeton to Lawrenceville 3-5 days a week (yes in the winter and at night) and have been doing so for over 15 years (to Hopewell and South Brunswick in the past). I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about the sharrows when they were proposed. However, the change in the respect and clearance that drivers now give me and other bikers on roads with sharrows is dramatic. At times in the past I would ride on the sidewalks to avoid angry drivers practically intentionally trying to get as close to me as possible or beeping their horns and yes, even yelling out their windows at me to get off the road. Since the sparrows have been installed, I have had not had one bad interaction with a car. All drivers know that I, as a biker, have the right to be on the road as that’s what the sharrows indicate. I strongly support the sharrows throughout Princeton (and by the way, some are due for repainting as they are faded).
Thanks for posting about this, Rob. I had also had many bad interactions on Harrison St in the past, and so have kept to the sidewalks. I haven’t even tried since the sharrows appeared, because I see vehicles on them, but you’ve given me some hope. Very helpful discussion going on there.
I have one last concern…I tried to read most of the below, hope it hasn’t been addressed yet. If parking is removed from Hamilton, I think the wider expanse of the street may tempt and empower drivers to speed more. This currently happens on Valley and Harrison. All 3 streets are thru-streets; people are commuting to their jobs along these streets, and they speed horribly on Harrison (and often on Valley–but police seem to do a better job of enforcement for Valley). Removing parked cars on Hamilton may well open Hamilton up as a temptation to speeders. This is speculation, of course, but based on my experience, it is worth considering.
It seems a little odd, but parked cars serve as a weird kind of traffic calming.
Pat, the traffic calming question is a good one. parked cars have a traffic calming effect, as do bike lanes, because they narrow the effective width of the roadway for motorized vehicles. On the other hand, the traffic calming effects of parked cars currently are quite limited, because the on-street parking is not much used. Typically, only a couple of cars are parked on the road at any given time. As such, if bike lanes are added, we expect that to have a greater traffic calming effect than the current level of on-street parking. The difference in lane width with bike lanes would be quite substantial. In most of the project zone, 30 ft of laneway is available to cars, which facilitates fast driving. Under the proposal, total laneway would shrink to 20ft. This is sufficient for emergency vehicles (we consulted on this) but is expected to reduce effective speeds of cars. For sure, some people will still speed, but there is speeding now too despite the on-street parking.
This has been a good discussion. I was once in a bicycle accident which I did not report. It was on Harrison St. I was riding on the sidewalk near dusk, and a woman came barreling out of the shopping center (where the gas station is) and hit my bicycle. I jumped off just a second before she hit the bicycle, so I fell and was scraped up but not hurt too badly, considering. We did not call police. Technically she was totally in the wrong; she didn’t have lights on and ran a stop sign, and she came out from behind a hedge without looking.
This brought home to me that riding on sidewalks is (in its way) just as hazardous as riding on the street. I had a light and reflectors, was being careful, and still got hit. The woman was hysterical; I think she learned something also.
I love bicycling, and with real bike lanes, I am more likely to use the streets and actually cycle around town rather than drive, and given all the discussion we’ve had here, I’ve come around to favoring the proposal. But I know it will cause some hardship for residents there and so I feel for them, if it passes.
What we need are bike paths and public transportation. In Europe, people do not need to own a car, because there are bike paths, trains, and buses. Streets are narrow, there is no space for parking and when people own a car and park, they just do it, half way on the sidewalk if they want. Rio de Janeiro has bike paths, it is wonderful to be able to use them to get t the beach without using public transportation or cars that by the way, are smaller like the European. The problem is deeper…is lack of public transportation, is huge SUVs, is the life style, people living to work, instead of working for a living, people stressed out and not enjoying life.
I do not live in Hamilton, but my humble opinion is that with outrageous property taxes that people pay in Princeton, and their parking taken away? In the name of bike lanes that apparently are not connected to anything because there is no plan?
Somebody says that there was conflict of interest from Councilan Patrick Simon’s art because he lives in the neighborhood. Well, I would say that there is conflict of interest from the bike riders, the sustainable organizations, and so forth, because they love their bikes and the outdoors…I don’t ride a bike because there are no bike paths and cars do not respect the speed limits, they always go 5 miles or more over, they are always rushing while texting. If the police doesn’t give tickets to all those car drivers that are speeding while on their phones, or do not enforce the bike riders who do not respect the red lights, the stop signs, the no turns, then I will patiently wait for bike paths not bike lanes.
With two sidewalks on Hamilton running into town, there’s ample room to completely dedicate one (1) sidewalk to walkers and one (1) sidewalk (on) to bikers. If dedicated for these specific uses, we would have SAFE paths all the way into our town center. This suggestion doesn’t deprive homeowners of needed on-street parking, doesn’t deprive walkers, and doesn’t deprive bikers. It keeps the roadway clear for autos. This safe solution is not perfect, but would satisfy everyone’s needs. When I bike into town directly on the roadway, I dream of my own path on the empty sidewalk… and pray.
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