Just about two months after launching the bicycle sharing program Citi Bike Jersey City, local officials see the need to develop a program for bicycle safety.
In October, some City Council members raised concerns about the higher potential for accidents. Not only are there more bicycles on the streets, but many of those riding bicycles do not seem to know the rules of the road, and many riding private bicycles seem to lack proper safety equipment, especially at night.
Ward F Councilwoman Diane Coleman said some people are riding around in the dark without lights or reflectors, and this could result in a serious accident, both to the bicyclist who might be struck by a car, or to motorists who veer out of the way to avoid hitting a bicycle.
While the Citi Bikes vehicles have numerous safety features such as lights and reflectors, many privately-owned bicycles do not. Since riders in general appear unaware of basic rules, the city considers this a problem it needs to rectify.
Gregory P. Kardell, a resident of Jersey City, said he was concerned about cyclists obeying rules.
“Unfortunately the initial network didn’t have the vision of where bicycles would want to travel.” – Brian Platt
“I appreciate the need for and purpose of bicycle lanes, as they should serve to better regulate traffic safety for cyclist, driver, and pedestrian alike. Coupled with Jersey City's launch as a participant in the Citi Bike Program earlier this summer, the volume of bicycle use has dramatically increased during this time,” he said.
“Unfortunately, what I am all too often seeing is the ironic non-use of the lanes and increased bicycle traffic on our city sidewalks, which creates a hazard for our pedestrians, particularly the elderly,” Kardell said. “Admittedly, I am not familiar with any law(s) on the books regarding the operation of bicycles on Jersey City streets, but I feel after the city took the ambitious and progressive step, which translates to financial investment, to create bicycle lanes in conjunction with joining the Citi Bike Program, there should be better regulation to protect the safety of cyclist, driver, and pedestrian alike.”
Osborne responded by pointing out “it is already illegal to bike on sidewalks. Obviously the less safe the roads are for bicyclists, the more likely they are to use sidewalks. The total lack of [bike lanes] before is why people have some bad habits. I believe the city was going to do an education campaign to help people learn in conjunction with Citi Bike roll out.”
Bike lanes will be completed in the future
Kardell also pointed out that the grid work of bicycle lanes is incomplete. Osborne said she was also concerned with the loss of bicycle lanes when repairs are done to the streets and the streets are repaved.
Osborne pointed out that contractors making repairs to a street must restore it to its original condition. This includes re-striping for bike lanes.
“Candice is correct regarding paving of streets. What you are seeing now is repaving to fix the temporary cover up of new gas line installations in the streets, and thanks to Candice's new law, PSE&G must repave many of these roads curb to curb,” said Brian Platt, director of the Department of Public Works. “This is currently costing taxpayers nothing, and when the roads are resurfaced, the bike lanes are restored at no cost.”
Platt said that the city is aware that the initial network of bike lanes was incomplete at best.
“We are working on securing grant funding to improve and expand this network,” he said. “Unfortunately the initial network didn't have the vision of where bicycles would want to travel. However, we have partnered with our local biking civic group, BikeJC to help us better understand the needs here.”
He added, “We are hoping to make some progress with a better bike network in the spring, which will help reduce the unwanted bike travel on sidewalks or in other places. We are not alone in this challenge. Any city with a bike share program faces this problem as well.”
Completion of the bike lane network will also be tied into the upcoming bicycle awareness campaign involving the rules and better bike lane mapping. Platt said the city has made a digital map of bike lanes and bike share stations that can be found at http://data.jerseycitynj.gov/showcase/citi-b.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.