A majority of the Hoboken city council sent a message Wednesday night, May 3rd, which they are more interested in micromanaging parking enforcement than addressing more pressing concerns. Curb extensions, often called “bump outs”, are fundamentally a method of enforcing existing laws at intersections, and an important tool in ensuring public safety. When installed, travel and parking lanes remain the same and the traffic pattern is unchanged, but dangerous and illegal stopping that contributes to traffic jams is inhibited.
Curb extensions are the same as deploying a traffic cop to an intersection 24/7 without the payroll overhead. Building enforcement of these laws directly into the road design is the most effective way to give us the safety benefits the rules are intended to provide. The presentation of the Newark Street project earlier that evening from Kimley–Horn elaborated on these safety benefits of better visibility and shorter crossing distances. The engineers explained how turning radii of large vehicles were taken into account when designing each corner and those relevant stakeholders such as the fire department had signed off on the plan.
The council members all nodded in agreement and thankfully voted unanimously to support the overall proposal. And yet, council members DeFusco, Russo, Cunningham, Mello, Fisher, and Ramos apparently feel it necessary to add a redundant approval step so they can reengineer safety measures as they see fit. The resolution to request council approval for the actual installation of curb extensions says to the public that the council members are more interested in playing urban planner than allowing the safety features of already approved plans to go forward. There are over two hundred intersections in Hoboken.
Is it really worth the council’s time and more importantly the public’s to second guess the engineering of each one? Some on the council seem to think so. The size and placement of a curb extension whether it’s best raised or only painted, or use of another method such as flex posts, should be determined by facts and expertise. The council doesn’t tell Hoboken PD how to do its job, why does it feel the need to meddle with this particular form of law enforcement? If the council members feel they have been left out of the design process of certain city projects that use curb extensions, there are already ample opportunities to discuss the particulars of intersection treatment at the various workshops and input sessions each plan undergoes over many months.
Their presence at these meetings would certainly be welcome. Council members Bhalla, Doyle, and Giattino recognized the importance of expedient installation of safety measures. Perhaps, one day, the rest of the Hoboken city council will realize that everyone is a pedestrian at one point or another, and stop playing political games with our safety and wellbeing.
Bike Hoboken, Alec Perkins, Peter Kim, Jonathan Otto, Alexander Gillette, Chris Adair and Ronald Bautista