Bike advocates continue their quest for a protected bike lane on Boulevard East from the Lincoln Tunnel in Weehawken, through West New York and Guttenberg, culminating at Braddock Park in North Bergen. However, they continue to face pushback from local officials as the proposal conflicts with plans underway to install angled parking on Boulevard East in a number of municipalities.
Boulevard East has been designated a “High Crash Corridor,” with federal funds allocated and a design earmarked for a protected bike lane on it. But even though Boulevard East is a county road, local officials still get a say, and they are objecting over the loss of parking.
Cycling enthusiast and Weehawken resident Cara Nasello has addressed the Weehawken Township Council at its past two meetings in February calling for a protected bicycle lane that would run through the township along Boulevard East. The protected bike lane would go on the eastern side of Boulevard East with parking remaining on the western side of Boulevard East. In response to the calls for the protected bike lane in Weehawken, Mayor Richard Turner said that it was not possible without losing a large number of on-street parking spaces.
“I don’t have children myself, but I talked to a number of my neighbors, and they all would like a protected lane that would be safer for their children to ride on,” Nasello said. “What would be great about the bike lane is that it would help connect our parks.”
The protected bike lane would run along Boulevard East connecting parks starting with Hamilton Park and the Old Glory Park in Weehawken, and Donnelly Memorial Park and Patricia McEldowney Field in West New York, before reaching Braddock Park in North Bergen.
“Green space is very limited along the cliff,” Nasello said. “There’s not a lot of open space and this would be a great way to create a scenic route on the Boulevard… It’s a good activity for a child, or even somebody a little bit older.”
According to Nasello, it can also encourage people to use bikes to commute.
“My partner bikes to work,” Nasello said. “He goes bike riding to Lincoln Harbor. From there, the traffic is really fast and it helps reduce congestion… You’re going to have more people that will feel like they can bike to work.”
Nasello also claimed the protected bike lane would help preserve the Palisades.
“Weehawken has done an amazing job conserving the cliffs,” Nasello said. “You guys just bought a property to prevent development on the cliff in our town, and I think that’s all fantastic. But I think putting angled parking on Boulevard East, you’re essentially creating a parking lot instead of a scenic route that people can bicycle on, enjoy the history of the road. Rather than that, let’s create something for the people.”
Mayor Turner rejects proposal
In response, Turner said the protected bike lane would result in a loss of on-street parking which would be unacceptable.
“We would all like to have bike lanes,” Turner said. “But the the problem is, we will lose so many parking spaces.”
According to Turner, 275 parking spaces would be lost with the installation of the protected bike lane on eastern side of Boulevard East. He said part of the problem is the extension of curbs at intersections exacerbating the loss of spaces.
“At the minimum, if we put an exclusive bike lane, we will lose a minimum of 275 parking spaces from the Speedway up,” Turner said. “We’re subtracting spaces based off what the county would do with the intersections on the West side and the intersections on the East side. When the county talks about their intersections, they require no parking within 25 feet, that would be a new requirement. If the intersection and the bus stops have to go from 50 feet to 100 feet, we lose another 80 to 85 spaces. That’s the county count of parking spaces, so the neighborhood would lose 275 parking spaces. While we would love to have bike lanes, our infrastructure doesn’t permit it… There’s no place for the residents to park. That’s the problem.”
Nasello countered that parking would not be lost to the degree that Turner asserted.
“A protected bike lane on the northbound side does not remove any parking in that section,” Nasello said. “It would be great for people coming down to Lincoln Harbor by bicycle.”
Turner noted that was near Lincoln Tunnel, making that a difficult area.
“I appreciate that, but there’s no way,” Turner said. “That’s a very difficult area to close lanes down.”
According to Nasello, limited parking spaces would be lost to the protected bike lane in Weehawken, citing the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. Turner disagreed, maintaining that over 200 parking spaces would need to be nixed and added that removing the parking would force people to park elsewhere overnight.
“If you start forcing 275 regular residents into the inner neighborhoods, you’re going to have problems,” Turner said.
He added that Weehawken is in the “oldest, densest area of the country with a very old infrastructure. It’s very hard to accommodate everything. People want more parking spaces than we have.”
Emanuelle Morgen of Bike Hudson County also asked Turner to support the protected bike lane, later clarifying to the Hudson Reporter that Weehawken would actually lose 101 spaces per the NJTPA plan. At the meeting, Turner again argued that Weehawken would lose hundreds of parking spaces, losing at least 87 spaces on the west side and 175 on the east side of Boulevard East.
Nasello persists bike advocacy
The debate continued at the next meeting on Feb. 23, when Nasello again asked the council to consider the protected bike lane on Boulevard East and other transportation safety concerns. She said that she and other Weehawken bike advocates had taken a community ride on Monday, Feb. 21 around the area, gathering petitions of those in favor of the protected bike lane. The petition asks the council to pass a resolution supporting the “complete street” design featuring the protected bike lane.
In response to Nasello asking if to meet with the council and neighbors over the bike lanes, Turner said it was a “non-starter” and reiterated that the township cant give up the hundreds of parking spaces. Nasello again argued that less than Turner’s claim of 275 parking spaces would be lost.
“I do not believe that,” Turner said. He added that it would be too complicated and “too much” to install bike lines with the intersections on Boulevard East.
Nasello concluded: “It seems that we in Weehawken take parking our cars on public streets over the health and safety of human beings and animals.”
Turner disagreed, stating that’s not what he said. He clarified that he and the council are concerned about traffic safety, but when it comes to Boulevard East, parking takes priority over bike lanes.
Nasello agreed to disagree on the issue but asked about meeting with the council regarding other initiatives, such as a three way stop sign at the intersection of Hudson Place and Highwood Avenue. Turner instructed her to email the details to his office.
Throughout the exchanges between Turner and Nasello, it was hard to hear at times due to an echo over Zoom. Nasello said she would be at the next meeting in person to continue discussions and told Turner that he would be hearing from other bike advocates.
The Weehawken Township Council will meet next on March 9 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall at 400 Park Avenue. There is also a virtual option to watch via Zoom. For more information, go to weehawken-nj.us.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.