Bloomfield Avenue Needs A “Road Diet” To Reduce Crashes, Stress

bus

If driving or trying to cross Bloomfield Avenue raises your stress level, you’re not alone.

“I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands whenever I try to make a left turn because cars are flying down the road so quickly,” said Montclair resident Sybil Eng. “I just don’t feel safe on Bloomfield Avenue at all – whether I’m biking, walking or driving.”

A recent study found that a “road diet” on Bloomfield Avenue could reduce crashes by nearly 20 percent over a four-year period, prevent injuries and preserve millions of dollars of household income. A “road diet” is a common term used to describe a reduction in the number of travel lanes or roadway width in order to improve safety for all road users including those who drive, walk or cycle. Modifications would also dramatically reduce stress for commuters, shoppers and patrons of local services.

These findings are just a few among many put forth by researchers from the New Jersey Health Impact Collaborative (NJHIC) during a recent assessment of the impacts of a Complete Corridor Plan for Bloomfield Avenue in Essex County. The team, based out of Rutgers University with funding from Partners for Health Foundation, completed a Health Impact Assessment of the busy roadway in order to assess the health impacts (positive or negative) of implementing a road diet along portions of Bloomfield Avenue. This study was done in coordination with the Bloomfield Avenue Complete Corridor Plan, a local demonstration project of Together North Jersey.

For the purposes of this study, the team analyzed potential impacts of removing one lane of motor vehicle traffic along the four-lane Bloomfield Avenue and reconfiguring the remaining lanes to better accommodate pedestrians, transit riders, cyclists, or other users.

bus 2

The assessment included a comprehensive analysis of pedestrian and bicycle crashes within the study area. Based on a recent report by the Federal Highway Administration , road diets result in a crash reduction rate of approximately 19 percent in urban areas. The team applied this reduction rate to Bloomfield Ave, yielding a predicted result of 163 fewer pedestrian and bicycle crashes, 57 injuries prevented over four years, and an annual savings of $2-6 million in preserved household income due to safety improvements and reduced healthcare costs.

Another finding pointed to a clear connection between road conditions and stress levels. Constant stops and starts, motorists turning onto and off Bloomfield Ave at non-signalized points and aggressive driving created high levels of stress for drivers, as well as other users.

“We heard from over a thousand residents in the area and found that community members are very frustrated with driving, walking and bicycling along Bloomfield Avenue.” said Kathy Smith, Program Director at Partners for Health. “As we point out in the study, this kind of chronic stress, rooted in fears about traffic safety, can lead to development and exacerbation of health problems such as anxiety, depression, hypertension, headaches and heart disease.”

The full report, which includes additional results and corresponding recommendations, can be found on njhic.rutgers.edu.

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, Bloomfield Avenue is a mess, pretty much from Caldwell to Newark, with some hot spots in between. I think the biggest stressors are people, including truck drivers, who double park. Police need to do a better job in ticketing the offenders. Bloomfield Avenue isn’t that wide to begin with (and no, I don’t think reducing the number of travel lanes would make things better) so taking up a space while selfishly double parking is just rude and inconsiderate.

    Drivers and pedestrians need to be more respectful of one another. Of course, if you are driving and see a pedestrian, you need to stop but pedestrians should stop darting out into traffic between crosswalks.

  2. Reducing the number of lanes will solve some problems, but make others significantly worse. Side streets near Bloomfield Ave would see a big bump in traffic.

  3. You know what else would help, at least in Montclair? The township not allowing hotels and other new high rise residential buildings to be built along the corridor. I’ve lived here for almost a decade, and am seriously considering moving for the first time. I know every town needs rateables and such, but these new projects are only going to make things much, much worse on Bloomfield.

  4. I was thinking that same thing about Bloomfield sadie. If it is such a problem road why are we cramming as much next to it as possible? My other thought was in 36 years living here I’ve never ever seen or even heard of anyone getting a speeding or moving violations ticket on Bloomfield Ave.

    The problem with trucks that Miss M mentioned is due to businesses not having accessible loading/unloading areas. The keep talking about a Foodtown going in to the new building in Bloomfield – but I can’t figure out where a tractor trailer would be able to pull up to deliver groceries to the store. Those stores get at least 1 big rig truck a day.

  5. The study is great and I can only hope that at least some of the recommendations it makes are at least considered. Bloomfield Avenue is a truly desperate and depressing place to be if you are a cyclist, pedestrian, people watcher, or basically anything other than a driver. The fact that the main st of our town, the street where there is supposed to be the most civic life and congregation of people, is centered around four lanes of bumper to bumper cars traveling over 40 mph is one of the main reasons why it is an underachieving thoroughfare.

    Going down to three lanes and increasing side walk widths and maybe a center median would go so far towards making Bloomfield Ave a wonderful place to be. There is no doubt in my mind that the reason why so many storefronts are empty and others struggle is because it is just not a pleasant experience to sit/stand/or walk or god forbid cross that street. It is humorous but also sad that some restaurants on the Bloomfield try to offer al fresco seating in such an auto-centric environment. I have tried numerous times to support their ambitious seating efforts, like outside Trend, but just staring out at a two lanes of parallel parked cars and four lanes of honking speeding traffic, fumes, noise, dust, it is just not a nice place to be…and that is the number one reason why places on the main drag get less foot traffic than those on the side streets. Just last month a young girl was nearly killed when she was plowed backward into the toy store on Bloomfield by someone trying to parallel park…every month someone is struck on Bloomfield…please Montclair…make these changes…it will be amazing!

  6. A road diet wouldn’t negatively affect traffic flow if current traffic is lower than 20,000 vehicles per 24-hour period. Anyone know what the actual # is?

  7. It’s over 30,000 vehicles in total.

    The report appendix has traffic data. Bicycles were counted in the dozens during peak hours.

    The short answer is we can’t lose any thru-lanes of traffic which means that on-street parking is the space going on a diet. Parking deck cost/space is $25K. Montclair Bloomfield has about 250-300 on street spaces.

  8. As counterintuitive as it may sound, 3 lanes may be able to move traffic faster than 4 lanes. Currently, the center lanes also act as the left turn lane at most intersections. When one car stops to make a left turn, that entire lane comes to a halt. The right lane is the “express lane,” but also has to stop when someone backs into a parking space. If we get the left-turning cars into a left-turn pocket, more cars will be able to get through, and there might be extra space for a bus pocket or bike lane or something.

  9. Mrs Martta writes: “pedestrians should stop darting out into traffic between crosswalks.” Unfortunately the current street design encourages it. As this technical report recommends mid-block crossings are needed if blocks are greater than 600 ft long.
    https://nacto.org/docs/usdg/guidelines_for_installation_marked_crosswalks_dougald.pdf
    Between Glenridge and Willow is more like 800 feet. Park to Fullerton is like 600 feet. Synchronized mid-block lights could help.

  10. spork,

    Yes, there is some validity to what you say…but, only in the present state…not the desired future state. Left turning vehicles are the current problem. The future problem, even if the overall goal we desire is only partially achieved, is right-turning traffic backing up due to increased pedestrian crossings of side streets. Currently, the study found 852 pedestrian crossings of just Bloomfield Ave during peak PM hour at Six Corners. Avg. pedestrian crossing rate is 3.5’/sec…or about 11 seconds to cross a side street.

    Increased pedestrian crossing could degrade vehicle throughput by almost 30% during peak PM periods at these natural choke-point intersections. As it is, parking is not allowed within 30′ of any intersection. Put in the medians, but on-street parking and bulb-out have to go away if we want to reallocate space to the other users.

  11. Seems the simplest start (and with no added statutes or ordinance) would be to strictly enforce NO DOUBLE PARKING)..IMO one of the worst barriers to safety and flow of traffic.

  12. Bloomfield Ave needs dedicated green turn arrows at least for Park St & Bloomfield Ave, Willow, and numerous other lights. Traffic backs up because you’ll have to wait until the end of the light to let 1-2 cars turn.

  13. Bloomfield is also revamping the whole Six Points intersection at Bloomfield and Broad to make it more pedestrian friendly.

  14. Please please a thousand times please do NOT narrow this roadway. The traffic EVERYWHERE is a problem–we drive too much, there’s not enough enforcement, it’s a suburb with limited town-to-town public transport–but narrowing this road would just lead to more traffic backed up into Montclair Center and W. Orange/Verona–down to the HORRIBLE intersection of Mount Pleasant/23/Bfield. How does Verona feel about this? What would it be like for pedestrians to navigate Montclair Center amongst even more traffic?

  15. Hi, my name is Leigh Ann Von Hagen and I worked on this project through the New Jersey Health Impact Collaborative. We are happy to see that the people in Montclair, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Verona area are interested in ways to create a healthy, economically vibrant Bloomfield Ave. We are also impressed with the level of dialogue from the community. We encourage you to stay engaged in the issues and talk to your local officials about improving the Bloomfield corridor for all users.

  16. Motorists parking in “bus only” loading zones is also a problem. That causes the bus to load from the right traffic lane. At points like Fullerton / Bloomfield or Park / Bloomfield, there’s a cork in traffic. The new pedestrian bump outs, esp the one at Park east bound, mandates buses stop in the traffic lane.

    Sending the meter maids out after people illegally parking in the bus zones could improve the situation and raise some money.

  17. Bloomfield Avenue desperately needs some LEFT turn signals for traffic, although how to balance traffic on both sides could be tricky. It’d be easy to make some of those intersections inner lanes as “left turn only” but it could cause further jamming of traffic. I’m not opposed to one lane in each direction with a green median (i.e. trees/flowers/bushes.)

    Some of the longer blocks could use those “pedestrian crossing” flashing signals.

  18. Strict enforcement of the stop for pedestrians law would definitely help. As would enforcement of the no double parking rule. And, creation of “loading zone only” times of the day for some current parking spaces.

  19. One thing is clear: we can’t pave our way out of this. More roads simply means more cars. Spending a month or two strictly enforcing parking rules would go a long ways toward reducing delays caused by one person deciding their convenience is more important than the rest of the town getting to their destination on time.

  20. Ms. Von Hagen,

    I’m a Montclair resident and I would like to call your study team’s attention to Table 9 (pg 7) in the Appendix. I think you have bad data that invalidates your 2019 traffic projections for the Valley Rd & Bloomfield intersection. The Township Planning Department can probably show you where it is wrong.

  21. In my unprofessional opinion, having dedicated left turn signals that are not just a two second green arrow but which are green and red arrow, would help a lot. I think it would eliminate a lot of driver aggression because (a) turners know they will actually get to turn, and (b) the opposing straightaway traffic won’t have to play chicken with the turners because they will be at the red arrow. Of course, this would only work if the pedestrians wait for the sign to walk because I see frequently in Newark that when the arrow is green but the ‘red hand’ is up, people cross anyway and the turners never get a chance… and end up blocking the intersection.

    Having just visited my home town in SoCal recently I realized how very nice it is to have a left arrow. You don’t have to wonder whether or not that driver speeding toward you is going to stop on the yellow/red so that you can make the left. A lot of lane reconfiguration would have to be done however… but if parking were eliminated within a certain distance from each corner, the thru lanes could shift right to allow for a left turn lane.

    Also, I think the intersection of Park/Bloomfield would be a perfect place to try out the type of system where all lights go red and all the pedestrians cross at the same time (forgot what that’s called). I’ve seen it in action in VA Beach and it’s pretty great. Everyone knows they’ll get their chance without taking their life in their hands … may take a little longer but eliminates a lot of frustration on everyone’s part.

    I honestly believe if the roads were more efficient, drivers would calm down a bit and make life more pleasant for everyone. Of course, that might also be just me with my Pollyanna hat on.

    Parking enforcement in general would help a lot too. Curbs are painted yellow for a reason (sightlines, or turning clearance) but people seem to disregard them, making for a dangerous situation for both peds and drivers. And don’t forget the new town-wide two-foot (minimum) driveway setback rule…!

    my 2 centz

  22. Good comments, Kay.

    One additional data point on California pedestrians is that they are ticketed for crossing against the hand, crossing in the middle of the block, and many other walking violations. You can always tell New Yorkers in LA, they cross on the red, and are often ticketed.

Comments are closed.