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Cycling advocates call for bike lanes in West New York

While the town is planning for angled parking, it is also open to conversation on the project

Advocates present plans for bike lanes on Boulevard East to the West New York Board of Commissioners at its Jan 12 meeting.

As West New York undergoes a number of parking infrastructure projects, including the shift to angled parking spaces on Bergenline Avenue and Boulevard East, bike advocates have asked the town to consider bike lanes on the road as an alternative.

Ryan Emge of Bike Weehawken complimented the town’s parking plans, but pointed to bike lanes as a safer alternative to the initiative to convert parallel parking spaces into angled parking.

“That would be a fantastic addition for safety for your town with health benefits and economic opportunities for everyone,” Emge said. “This will open entirely new way for people in Hudson County to commute and help people, especially in lower income individuals, across the community.”

‘Safer, cleaner alternative’

Emge cited an ordinance the commissioners passed in 2021 codifying electric bike and scooter safety regulations, underscoring that it has been a dangerous year for cyclists and pedestrians. He said that studies have shown that bike lanes make things safer, while angled parking causes more crashes.

“The most vulnerable groups that are commuting should be given priority and agency to move around safely and we know that there’s a number of families in your neighborhood that do use bicycles that can also benefit from this,” Emge said. “If we get it wrong, we will be locked into these infrastructure investments for decades to come,” he said. “I invite you to start more conversations together. Let’s start small and help build up West New York together.”

Emmanuelle Morgen spoke on behalf of Bike Hoboken and Bike Hudson County, stressing the interconnectedness of the towns and the importance of bike infrastructure.

“We’re here with Bike North Bergen and Bike Jersey City and Bike Union City to ask you to please be a part of our bike network,” Morgen said. “Since the start of the pandemic I’ve been able to actually get rid of my car. I’m not suggesting anyone else do this, but I rely on bike transportation now exclusively, and I think that there are a lot of other people who potentially would choose that option if they had safe streets to do it with.”

She continued: “I have a doctor in North Bergen who I see regularly and I pass through West New York and I always make a point of stopping either at Washington Park or at one of the parks. One of the things that would be so crucial for people traveling in any form that’s not by car is to have a multi-use bike lane. They’re perfect for for bikes, e-bikes, motorized wheelchairs for kids, and we would really love to see the rest of the county connected in this way.”

Angled parking due to “induced demand?”

Johan Andrade of Bike North Bergen, a resident in Hudson County for over 30 years, regularly uses his bike for work.

“I’ve used a bicycle as a way to get to my job in Jersey City several times and using Boulevard East is a critical part of my commute to get there,” Andrade said. “Having a bike lane that safely gets me and other commuters to the waterfront path that goes south to Hoboken and Jersey City will be absolutely amazing for Hudson County. I just want to emphasize that Guttenberg, Union City, and Hoboken are some of the most dense towns in the U.S. We should emphasize ways to reduce car usage to other forms of micro mobility, like cycling or scooters.”

He said dedicated bike lines are key to safety for cyclists: “2021 has been one of the deadliest years for pedestrians and cyclists across New Jersey,” Andrade said. “These were people, our neighbors or delivery workers or family or friends. Many decades of research have shown that streets design with safe bike infrastructure make our roads safer for all users, including people who drive. On the other hand, studies have shown higher crash rates when angle parking is used versus parallel parking.”

Tony Borelli of Bike Jersey City said that the plans for angled parking were driven by “induced demand.”

“You’re trying to help car owners park by creating more space,” Borelli said. “That is totally logical. It just doesn’t work. When you do that in dense cities where there’s already a lot of cars, and there’s a lot of cars in the neighboring cities, people come in and take those spaces. It’s like when you expand a road in cities, you just get a wider traffic jam. You’re not going to help people for any length of time by creating more parking. You’re just inviting more cars, and more traffic, and more parking problems by trying to solve them.”

He said the putting angled parking on Boulevard East and Bergenline is not ideal for the future, which he says will see an increase in the demand for bike lanes.

“Putting in protected bike lanes is far preferable,” Borelli said. “You would be giving people a way to get around. When you look around at what’s happening, Weehawken just got together to put their first on-street bike lane down like a couple of weeks ago. It’s clear that the tide is turning in Hudson County and in these very dense communities. Bike facilities are going to be much more in-demand. This is not a project that you should decide based on parking problems now.”

Town open to conversation

While the town did not make any indications it would change course regarding its plans for angled parking, Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez thanked residents for voicing their concerns and vowed to have more conversations in the future.

“Thank you to all who are participating and attending this, our first meeting of the of the year, and I especially want to thank all those who have organized not only to present their initiatives, but more than anything with an overall concern for green efforts in our city,” Rodriguez said.

“We are trying to be as conscious when it comes to making West New York a greener and safer community. I trust that while you don’t live in West New York, if you’re biking here, shopping here, enjoying our Boulevard, that is something that is important to you as well. We have a Green Committee that has been established for quite some time now, which is what we would like to put you in touch with.”

Rodriguez pointed those who spoke out toward the town’s Green Committee, led by Rosemarie Suarez, which he said has been at the forefront of green efforts in West New York.

“We are now a state recognized in terms of sustainable New Jersey, as is our school district,” Rodriguez said. “We all know and understand that the greener a community is, the better. I look forward to speaking with you guys in the future and Rosemarie’s communication information will be shared soon enough.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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