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Hamilton Avenue Bike Lane Proposal Tabled by Princeton Council

bike lanes PrincetonA proposal to eliminate parking on both sides of Hamilton Avenue in order to make room for bike lanes has been put on hold until the town comes up with a master plan for biking.

The Princeton Council voted unanimously Monday night to table an ordinance that would eliminate on-street parking on the stretch of Hamilton Avenue from Harrison Street to Snowden Lane and replace the parking with bike lanes when the road is repaved next month.

A bike lane will be added on the side of the street heading into Princeton where parking already is not allowed, leaving the existing parking on the other side. Sharrows could be added to that side of the street. The council can still revisit the issue of adding another bike lane and removing the parking in the future.

The council heard public comment and discussed the issue for almost three hours.

Bike advocates called on officials to approve the ordinance as a step toward making Princeton a more bicycle-friendly town. They said the bike lanes would improve safety for cyclists and encourage biking.

Opponents complained that they were not given enough advance notice about the proposal, said the removal of parking would be a hardship, and asked what the town’s bigger plan is for cycling and how the Hamilton proposal fits into a larger plan.

Councilman Lance Liverman proposed tabling the ordinance.

“It is never easy to make a decision and then go to McCaffreys and some people will say hi to you and some will not. I love to bike. All my friends bike, but there are a lot of factors involved in this, setting precedent,” Liverman said. “If we don’t do it, some people say we will be a laughable community. I can truly say we are serious about protecting everyone though…I’d like to propose to table it until we have a bike master plan completed, and  have heard input from lot people, and people are notified in a fair way.”

Councilman Patrick Simon has been an opponent of the bike lane proposal, saying it would be a hardship for some residents who depend on the parking, including a couple who uses a handicapped space on the street. He pushed for more input from the public about the ordinance and larger plans for a bicycling network throughout town.

Biking advocate Bainy Suri questioned whether Simon was allowed to vote on this issue since he lives around the corner from Hamilton Avenue. Trishka Cecil, the lawyer for the governing body, said there was no conflict because Simon does not live on the street.

The Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee unanimously endorsed the plan to remove parking and add two bike lanes last fall after considering five options, including sharrows. Princeton area bicycling advocates spoke in favor of the bike lanes at the meeting, and a few parents also said the lanes would make it safer for their children to bike to school.

Mercer County Freeholder Andrew Koontz called the plan to add bike lanes a historic opportunity.

“You’re really being asked to choose this evening what is the greatest public good in this particular case. What is more valuable to public, to have parking on Hamilton Avenue or to have safety for cyclists?”

Koontz said not all of street parking is created equal. Metered street parking is the most valuable parking for the town because it generates revenue. Downtown parking is beneficial to merchants and visitors to Princeton.

David Cohen said that the council should not be myopic about the bike lanes on Hamilton Avenue.

“This is a community-wide issue. It can’t be focused on as a neighborhood by neighborhood thing. You’re talking about the public right of way…It was not intended to be obstructed by private rights being claimed by residents of the street. Just because they have always had it does not mean it is an intrinsic right.”

Dan Rappaport and other speakers said many cyclists do not feel safe biking on the streets in Princeton. “The streets are unsafe to pedal on, but the sidewalks are not made for biking either,” he said.

Hamilton Avenue residents voiced opposition to the proposal and said 98 percent of the residents on the street oppose the removal of the parking. The residents said they were not properly notified about the proposal when the town notified residents about paving. The town did not hold a neighborhood meeting until last week.

William Jones, who lives on Hamilton Avenue and bikes or walks to work every day, said there was a procedural failure regarding notifying residents.

“There should be a plan for the whole town,” he said. “I don’t think installing bike lanes along a small section of road way is a good way of doing things.”

George Cohen, who lives on Hawthorne Avenue, said parked cars act as a calming measure on Hamilton Avenue and slow traffic down. “If you take away that parking, I think you’re making it more unsafe,” he said.

Residents said the three accidents along the stretch of Hamilton Avenue over the last five years have been at intersections, and that the bike lanes would not solve the issue of crossing or turning at intersections.

Welmoet Van Kammen, a Hamilton Avenue resident, said while biking is in her blood and bones as a Dutch native, the ordinance should be tabled.

 

“It’s not really a plan that will add much safety…The intersection of Harrison Street and Hamilton Avenue is dangerous. What effect will bike lanes have on that? Table the ordinance, reconsider things, and come up with a better plan.”

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Bike Princeton

    It is what it is, Complete Parking Lots, not Complete Streets, approved by the old order of conservative councillors masquerading in liberal clothes. There seems little point in wasting time hoping for change from the majority of the current set of elected officials.

  • you’re making it up

    “Nassau St is the poster child for Context Sensitive Design ”
    If Nassau Street, which is unsafe for cars, bike and pedestrians, is your example of what we should be aiming for, then I think that tells us everything. Complete Streets is supposed to make streets safe for all users. The decision on Tuesday night means that sharrows will be used as a substitute for a safe bicycle facility, which is specifically discouraged by the most current design guides. However, Council did not say that they found sharrows to be an acceptable long-term Complete Streets solution. The majority said to use them as an interim measure until a new bike circulation masterplan is created.

  • CompleteStreetsAdvocate

    For anyone interested in understanding policies, there is some good reading in the links below on NJDOT Complete Streets and NJDOT Context Sensitive Design. You really don’t have to read much because the statements that balance is key to successful implementations show up immediately in both the first paragraph of the Complete Streets Introduction, and the first paragraph of Context Sensitive Design. (direct quotes are provided below). Thoughtful planning and rational decision making are ALWAYS about balancing and Complete Streets and Context Sensitive Design are no different.

    http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/eng/completestreets/pdf/cspolicydevelopmentguide2012.pdf

    The NJDOT Complete Streets Introduction is quite clear “adopting a Complete Streets policy does not mean that every street should have sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit. Instead, design is driven by local context and demand; there is no universal, prescriptive design. The needs of local users naturally vary from an urban arterial, to a suburban residential street, to a rural byway, and hence, while the underlying goal of balancing the needs of all users remains, the implementation of a Complete Street should vary accordingly.”
    The forgotten fact is that the residents use the streets far more than any other individual user, and we are very concerned about our own pedestrian safety that was completely ignored in the Ordinance. The risks to our safety created by the Ordinance were far greater than any highly speculative benefit from two standalone, disconnected, bike lanes on a perfectly safe segment.

    Complete Streets requires a “comprehensive, integrated, connected” plan. Any thoughtful comprehensive plan considers and balances interests. The “context” of the neighborhood is a significant consideration, as is pedestrian safety. An integrated and connected plan reflects the disciplines of the Master Plan and the upcoming Bike Master Plan. The segment is not designated as either a current or a future bike route in the currently approved Master Plan and there is also no current or future plan to have comparable bike lanes on the remainder of Hamilton/Wiggins/Paul Robeson. It is neither integrated nor connected.

    Since those requirements were clearly not met by the Ordinance, tabling the Ordinance
    was a victory for the Complete Streets policy. It does work.

    Complete Streets policy has as a foundation Context Sensitive Design http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/eng/CSD/ , which NJDOT incorporated in 1999.
    Again, balancing is key: “CSD involves a commitment to a process that encourages
    transportation officials to collaborate with community stakeholders so the design
    of the project reflects the goals of the people who live, work and travel in the area. Such collaboration results in creative and safe transportation solutions.” To me, that is the right way to do Community planning, collaboratively.

    On the above CSD link, Nassau St is the poster child for Context Sensitive Design demonstrating the value of our local transportation planners collaborating with the people who live, work, and travel in the area. It is a sad statement that collaboration was the choice for the Prospect and Mt Lucas residents but NOT for the Hamilton residents.
    Instead, the Hamilton residents were blindsided by the introduction of the Ordinance, and to date, there has been no explanation provided of why they were treated so very differently.

    Thankfully though, the local “processes” do work and on Feb 24, rational leadership and decision making prevailed when the Ordinance was unanimously tabled, a victory for
    Complete Streets and Context Sensitive Design. By their action, the Council did demonstrate “a commitment to a process that encourages transportation officials to collaborate with community stakeholders “, and that is a very good thing for the entire Community.

  • PBAC_08540

    Hey “CompleteStreetsAdvocate”,

    Do you actually reside anywhere near Princeton ? Do you vote and/or pay taxes here ? Just wondering. Thanks for chiming in with the double-speak examples, though. I’m not aware of any local everyday bicyclist who shares your viewpoint.

    The other question being, do you really need to change your handle all the time – do you think you’re fooling anybody ? Two weeks ago, you were “Nearly 100K Biking Miles” but today you’ve squirmed into a completely different balaclava.

    http://planetprinceton.com/2015/02/09/hamilton-avenue-princeton-bike-lane/#comment-1852767375

  • you’re making it up

    The Complete Streets policy doesn’t say anything about balancing interests. It says to make streets safe for all users subject to relevant engineering guidelines. Maybe Council wants to make the safety of vulnerable road users subordinate to the perceived needs of local residents, but that is not what Complete Streets says. To characterize this as a victory for Complete Streets has it exactly backwards.

  • CompleteStreetsAdvocate

    The vote to table was a victory for the Complete Streets policy because, as required, it reflects a proper balance of the interests of pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, residents, and Community.

    The plan to put in a bike lane, though, is quite troubling.

    The Princeton Master Plan does not designate the Hamilton segment to be either a current or future bike route, so no plan is in place and the vote bypassed the Master Planning process. A Bike Master Plan is being developed in 2015. What is the compelling reason that the Council must suddenly presuppose those disciplined results and make an ad hoc decision for a single stand alone street segment? It just does not make sense.

    The Master Plan also designates that the car lanes for such a road should be 12 ft wide. Taking 5 ft from the existing dual car lanes and making it into a bike lane, now has set the car lanes at a extremely dangerous 9 ft wide. There is simply NOT space on the road for a safe bike lane to standards, which is the exact reason that two way sharrows are on the rest of Hamilton and Wiggins, which have significantly higher traffic volumes. In 2010, PBAC recommended two way sharrows on the entire Hamilton/Wiggins/Paul Robeson, a recommendation that was supported by Sustainable Princeton in 2011. Why suddenly are bike lanes the only viable solution?

    Putting a bike lane on the segment bypasses the Master Plan, is inconsistent with the rest of Hamilton/Wiggins, and results in unnecessarily dangerous below standard car lane widths. I fail to see that as a safe or prudent “compromise”.

  • JustSaying

    Part of living in a community is compromise. It great to hear that the bike lane was already in the works — that part was never part of the news stories on this issue. It was always presented as two bike lanes or none.

    Having lived in cities where there was a single bike lane shared by bikers in both directions, I think that could work fine, especially in a small town like Princeton. If the new single bike lane works well, it will set a precedent for other bike lanes (single or double) elsewhere.

  • SFB

    The bike lane on the north side was already planned and did not require council approval. By trying to take credit for that lane, the council members are showing a certain shamelessness. They know that it wasn’t their role to approve that lane- it was their role to judge on the parking ordinance. It is the great skill of a politician to answer a different question to the one they were asked and make it seem like a meaningful response. There are enough of us in this town who are not fooled however. The councillors have flip-flopped on their own policy, which is to make streets safe for all users during road engineering projects. And now they expect us to stand back and applaud? You’d have to laugh if it wasn’t so bad.

  • JustSaying

    why we can’t give credit ….

  • JustSaying

    There isn’t a bike lane there currently, so it is something new. I’m not sure why we give credit when the council does something positive.

    Is there any precedent to suggest the question about conflict of interest was justified? It’s hard to interpret this as a collegial inquiry.

  • SFB

    Council have nothing to do with making a lane on one side of the road. The space for that lane already exists, hence that question was not part of the proposed ordinance. If you’re willing to give them credit for that, you must be willing to give them credit when the sky is blue and the sun shines. On the matter in hand, they didn’t compromise. They just said ‘no’. Will they revisit it in the future? Who knows? In the meantime, there is no safe facility for cycling, so people will continue to ride on the sidewalk. As for Pat Simon, he had quietly referred himself to the municipal attorny for a judgement on conflict of interest, so he clearly agreed that the local residents query was entirely legitimate. If you had been at the meeting, you might have seen that the query was made in a collegiate spirit to protect Mr Simon’s reputation, and hardly with the ill will that you erroneously imply.

  • SFB

    Council didn’t vote against bikes. They voted against their own policy. Despite a stated commitment to using best practice to advance transport choices, they once again refused to do something that might create any percieved inconvenience to people driving cars. If you plan for cars, you get cars. That is what Princeton keeps doing. It’s hardly a ‘middle ground’, because Council has done nothing to create bike facilities. The space for one potential bike lane was there anyway. The only ‘compromise’ is the possibility of maybe, possibly, implementing their own policy on ‘Complete Streets’ at some indefinite point in the future. It’s “mañana, mañana” on bike facilties, but full speed ahead on that nice tax increase. Bike-friendly communties build safe facilties, Princeton Council only offers warm words.

  • JustSaying

    I hope eliminating cars is not the issue. Cars will continue to pour into town seven days a week regardless of the vote, just as they do in NYC. And what is wrong with parking spaces in town? Where else are people who can’t bike supposed to park?

    Having lived and biked in several cities, the idea that its safer to bike there than in Princeton shows that a realistic perspective has been lost in this discussion. Princeton is relatively safe for biking.

    The council didn’t vote against bikes. They found a middle ground. There is going to be a bike lane on Hamilton.

  • Sad

    Sadly, it seems as if it has already made that decision. The council, the University – and it seems many in the town – oppose any sort of planning that would negatively impact cars and drivers. As a result, Hamilton/Wiggins will remain unsafe for bikes and pedestrians, cars will continue to pour into town seven days a week, and most of the town will become a parking lot. It’s sad that biking is easier and safer in a congested city like New York than in small town like Princeton.

  • SpokesMan

    Princeton has to decide if it’s to become a real community with a sound network for pedestrians, cyclists and safe routes to school, or just remain a parking lot for cars. The single bike lane is going to lead to safety and perception issues by users and drivers. Not so much a compromise but an escalation of the unsatisfactory situation there.

    Princeton had a chance to show it was capable of moving forward even with a flawed scheme such as this.

    I don’t think it is ever going to now without a fundamental rethink about what sort of town it wants to be.

  • Bike Princeton

    It seems last night’s “vote” was more or less taken BEFORE the public hearing. The PCDO clearly do not want bike lanes in our town at this time. All of us should ask ourselves why we waste our time advocating for improvements in this excuse for a liberal town.

  • JustSaying

    Congrats to the council. Having a bike lane on one side of the road for short-term, while the long-term plan is worked out seems like a great compromise.

    I am saddened that a supporter of the bike lanes sought to suppress Pat Simon’s vote. We should be able to be respective of differences without resorting to such ridiculous tactics. The same rationale would suggest that the biking members of the council not be allowed to vote as they would use the bike lanes.

  • chris

    ok, it means we will not get a bike lane before 10 years! A missed opportunity!

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