On Nov. 2, the Princeton Planning Board will hold a hearing on a new transportation plan for the Municipality of Princeton. It includes, for the first time, a comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan.
Assuming the hearing doesn’t unearth anything new and disruptive, the Princeton Planning Board will formally adopt the proposed “circulation element” – the part of the municipality’s master plan that includes roadway, bike and pedestrian plans for Princeton.
While the plan is a step forward, adopting the bike plan does not guarantee progress. The planning board adopts plans, but the mayor and council must still fund bike and pedestrian investments in the annual budget.
To keep making progress on bike and pedestrian priorities, the mayor and council need to: a) regularly fund stand-alone projects; b) create a process to include bike and pedestrian improvements in new road and municipal construction projects; and c) regularly measure plan progress in terms of projects built and in terms of resulting biking and walking activity.
Princeton residents who want to express their opinions on the new circulation element and bike master plan can attend the hearing and voice their thoughts on the plan and on measures to make and track plan progress.
The draft resolution that the planning board will take up is online here.
What Is the Bike and Pedestrian Plan?
The bike and pedestrian plan is part of the “circulation element” of Princeton’s master plan. The circulation element describes the existing transportation network and identifies improvements that are desired to meet goals, including for cars, buses, trains, trucks, bicycles, and pedestrians.
The bike and pedestrian plan is included in a few different ways.
The circulation element describes big picture transportation goals for Princeton (including a complete streets policy), and makes specific recommended improvements for all types of travel.
Specific to cycling, there are a number of high-priority projects recommended here, including bike path extensions from the Institute for Advanced Study to the Market Fair Shopping Center; from Witherspoon Street to Community Park along the Guyot Avenue bike path; and from Terhune Road through Gulick Park to River Road. There are also recommendations to include bike lanes on roads such as Cherry Valley Road and North Harrison Street.
The draft circulation element document can be read here.
Maps B1 and B2, and Appendix B2
Map B1 presents a list of recommended biking improvements in the center of Princeton, in map form. The map includes a legend that describes each category of improvement that is shown on the map.
Map B2 presents a list of recommended biking improvements in outlying neighborhoods of Princeton, in map form. The map includes a legend that describes each category of improvement that is shown on the map.
Appendix B2 provides a written description of each improvement depicted on Maps B1 and B2.
The draft maps and appendix can be viewed here.
Why the Bike Plan is a Good Thing
Several recent road resurfacing projects offered opportunities to create new bike lanes. Bike lanes weren’t created, though, because the roads weren’t part of an agreed-on biking network.
Also, in the absence of agreed-on plans for how designs for bike lanes would be balanced against factors like on-street parking and the width of lanes for car traffic, existing conditions prevailed.
The bike plan may not provide the detailed designs that will be needed for any on-street bike improvement to get approved, but it does provide a formal vision for a municipality-wide biking network. Since this is the first time that has occurred in Princeton, that is very important.
Now that there’s an actual list of planned projects, the nitty-gritty work of prioritizing, funding, and designing projects can begin.
A Big Opportunity–Princeton University
Princeton University’s new campus plan includes at least one new residential college and an expanded engineering school, among other things. The net effect of these projects will be a reduction of on-campus parking. It will be harder to drive to campus and bike commuting will probably grow.
If, as expected, the university begins to charge for parking; pays staff not to use on-campus parking; and provides incentives for staff to arrive on campus other than by auto, then it makes sense the university would also be a strong supporter of streets that are safer and more convenient for cycling.
The university’s Zagster bike-share program is already making it easier to get from campus to town and back, which should be a benefit to local businesses without adding to traffic and parking demand.
The university’s planned bike and pedestrian bridge across Carnegie Lake would be another major improvement to biking in Princeton. With connections to bike lanes on Canal Pointe Boulevard and a bridge across US 1 at the Dinky rail bridge, the functionality of the local bike network would be vastly increased, to the benefit of Princeton University as well as local residents and businesses.