The streets we’ve chosen

Dear Editor:

The streets we have are the streets we’ve chosen. I got to experience a consequence of those choices first hand in June when a driver rear ended me as I was stopped at a stop sign on my bike, in plain view of two Hoboken PD officers no less. The lack of protected bike lanes and other traffic calming measures in Hoboken creates the potential for these mistakes to keep happening. Paint and signs and enforcement are not enough. Fortunately, despite the paving involved, street designs aren’t fixed in stone for eternity.

The City has recognized this and has put forward a proven solution from similar cities around the world and can even be seen next door, in Jersey City: protected bike lanes. Disappointingly, there was vocal objection at Thursday’s community meeting from many of those able to attend. The prime argument against the proposed design was that protected lanes will cause congestion, never mind the data showing they in fact have the opposite effect [1]. More importantly, there was dismissal by some of the notion that we have to make a choice between safety and convenience.

But it’s all about choice.

People are choosing to use cars because that’s what we’ve built for. The current congestion and crashes that happen are because of policy choices that encourage car use in what is supposed to be such a walkable city. Unfortunately, we often don’t see the consequences of those choices until it is too late for someone. Not just in terms of direct crashes, but the indirect effects in health and environment.

Hudson County has the second highest incidence of childhood asthma due to traffic fumes in the nation [2], higher than even LA. Car tires are a leading source of microplastic in coastal waterways [3]. Students who transfer to schools downwind of major roads see reduced academic performance and higher absenteeism [4]. These are the consequences we are choosing.

I moved here eight years ago because I wanted to finally live car free as best I could. On the occasions I do find myself driving in Hoboken, it’s a bit nerve wracking. But it should be stressful. I am choosing to operate three thousand pounds of heavy machinery in one of the densest cities in the country, choosing to put everyone around me at risk for my own benefit. We need to recognize the consequences to choices we make, and start making better ones.

1. https://www.phillymag.com/news/2018/03/13/congestion-protected-bike-lanes/
2. https://www.citylab.com/environment/2019/04/mapping-where-traffic-air-pollution-hurts-children-most/587170/
3. https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2019/10/03/car-tire-dust-microbeads-ocean-pollution-microplastics/
4. https://www.nber.org/papers/w25489

Alec Perkins