When Ted Semegran retired in 2000, he hadn’t picked up a bike since he was a kid. Attracted to the idea of long, structured rides as a way to stay healthy and social, he hopped on a cycle, joined the Bergen County Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey in 2001, and never looked back.
The club organizes rides that range between 30 and 70 miles and may take up to six hours. Each hour burns around 600 calories.
That’s a lot of cake.
“That’s exactly right. You can eat as much as you want,” Semegran said. “It’s a great sport when you retire because of the social aspect, and it’s excellent for someone who’s older because you get a lot of cardiovascular activity without the stress of running.”
He has instead chosen to run with the cause of cyclist safety and became the club’s legislative action officer in 2002. He works with governmental organizations or agencies to implement bike lanes and road markings.
“The attitude is, if you’re not a car, get off the road.” – Ted Semegran
“One of the reasons I focused on the road was because it is continuous and is owned by the county,” Semegran explained. “Not also to mention the location.”
He approached the Hudson County freeholders in 2006 with his proposal. Now it is about to come to fruition.
Next week River Road will have a five-foot, freshly paved and painted bike lane that will run from Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen to Bulls Ferry Road in Weehawken, as confirmed by County Spokesperson Jim Kennelly Wednesday.
Why the need for advocacy
There is a bit of prejudice against bicycles when it comes to sharing the road with motorized vehicles.
“It’s hard for a lot of people to believe that a bike is a vehicle,” Semegran explained. “They think we shouldn’t be riding on the same road as a car when there are sidewalks. The attitude is, if you’re not a car, get off the road.”
But many main roads don’t have sidewalks, and many people who commute to other parts of New Jersey either prefer not to use cars and carry the expense of commuter parking, or don’t have cars at all.
“With the [Weehawken] ferry being a commuter hub, I felt this would be an ideal thing for people in Bergen and Hudson Counties to simply bike there,” he explained. “And once you put in bike lanes, it draws a crowd as more and more people use it.”
Semegran met with the freeholders for a second time in 2009 and the former county engineer was enthusiastic.
“When I first described my idea they were very positive about it, but I didn’t get a timeframe,” he said. “Now that it will finally be finished, I applaud the Hudson County freeholders for their vision and enthusiasm.”
Safety precautions and future plans
There are three ways to ensure cycling safety, Semegran explained. One option is a bike lane, which requires over four feet of road space to accommodate. Some roads simply aren’t wide enough, but in those instances there are other safety measures that can be taken.
The first is to mark the shoulder of a road (which requires between three and four feet of space) with cycling symbols that alert drivers that they are sharing their space with bikers. For shoulderless roads, “sharrow markings” can be put down for the same purpose, but the markings must be at least three feet from cars parked on either side of the street.
Hoboken is a prime example of the successful implementation of sharrow markings, Semegran said, as are the roads in New York City.
“It doesn’t solve the problem like a bike lane does, but it helps delineate the fact that you have cyclists using the road too,” he added.
Semegran has other major projects underway. For instance, he has advocated for road markings in Bergen County on the steep hill that leads from Fort Lee, past the Palisades Park and into Edgewater.
He is also working toward legislation for a three-foot rule in New Jersey that has already been passed in 20 other states. The legislation would require that all vehicles stay three feet away from any cyclist on the road when they pass.
In the meantime, however, the River Road bike lane should be fully functional by next week. For more information on Semegran’s bike club, visit btcnj.com.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org