Bike&Walk Montclair Expresses Concerns About Montclair Police Bicycle/Skateboard Safety Initiative

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Montclair Police Department is trying a two-phase approach to enhance awareness of bicycle safety, with the commencement of a new Bicycle/Skateboard Safety Initiative, again in collaboration with its main partner/coordinator of the project, Tracey Diamond, of Tracey Diamond Design.

Bike&Walk Montclair has responded with its concerns about the initiative. Paul Mickiewicz, Bike&Walk Montclair Board Member and Bike Education Committee Chair, writes:

The new Montclair Police Bicycle/Skateboard Safety Initiative: Warning Summons and Reward Program is undoubtedly well intentioned. Bike&Walk Montclair advocates for policies, programs, and street designs that support SAFE biking and walking.

Rewards and incentives are a positive step and are one of the “E’s”,(encouragement), however, the the evidence around unintended negative consequences of helmet laws is very compelling. It is admittedly easier to focus on helmets for people on bikes, skateboards and scooters than addressing the real threat to our safety, large, fast moving vehicles.

Bike&Walk Montclair is concerned about any strategies that might discourage those forms of active transportation. We understand that this initiative is about more than just getting people to wear helmets. We agree that whether you are “driving” a bike, skate board or car, managing driver behavior through education and enforcement are two very important “E’s” to helping keep people safe on the street. Understanding and following traffic law, (particularly speed), help to make all moving parts more predictable and safer. But let us be clear, the focus of Bike&Walk Montclair’s efforts to keep the most vulnerable road users safe is more about the biggest “E”, engineering!

Adopting and implementing the Montclair SAFE Complete Streets Plan, which has been stalled at the Planning Board for 3 years, is where our efforts and resources should be directed. Let’s focus more on positive interactions between the police and the most vulnerable road users, (particularly young teens), while directing the enforcement on those that create the greatest risk and are the least vulnerable.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Huh?

    To undercut a clearly a positive program to push another, secondary objective is a no-win tactic. To imply we should accept unsafe practices by a significant sub-set of users so as to not discourage overall growth in bicycle/skateboard usage is just wrong. To suggest unsafe car drivers are the cause of most bike and skateboard head injuries is without basis in fact. But, to have the Bike Education Committee Chair come out and say roadway engineering is the most important objective is terribly misguided. Education is and will always be the most important “driver” of safety. Not enforcement. Not engineering. Even if the Safe Streets plan was implemented, it would not change the statistics that most bike & skateboard head injuries are NOT the result of conflicts with vehicles. I believe the main cause is user error.

    Education goes only so far. Roadway engineering is an important component and I believe will significantly decrease conflicts for those improved streets. Maybe the Safe Streets plan will achieve its premise that such a network will funnel bicyclists to choose those streets. And the “most vulnerable” tend, if not are taught, to use the sidewalks because drivers make bad choices. Mistakes happen. The risk/reward proposition for a parent is obvious.

    Having multi-modal roadways with various users going 2 mph, 5mph, 15mph, and 25-35 mph, with groups going with traffic, another going against traffic, and another crossing traffic will ensure this.

    In short, the Bike/Walk argument here is analogous to saying car seatbelts and airbags are of secondary importance to designing better roadways. As I said, huh?

  2. As far as your stalled Complete Streets Plan, I think many agree it is not ready. Most will agree it is seriously stalled.

    I read it and found the lack of awareness, inconsistencies, and mitigation of the detriments created. The very first example of Street Types & their treatment was emblematic and diminished my perceived objectiveness of the plan. Full disclosure, I live on the street used for the example and intimately know its characteristics and capacities. The plan didn’t appreciate these components.

    The CS Plan reminded me of the 2012, first draft of the Master Plan rewrite. We expended our grant funding to get an inadequate product. It was visually attractive. It wildly overreached. Its organization and presentation made for a challenging read. It was dense with unnecessary detail and short on pragmatism.

    I see two choices:

    1. Rewrite the CS Plan using the Master Plan revision process as a template to achieve its approval. This will take a minimum of 15-18 months to reach an approvable document due to the muni election.

    2. Reposition the CS Plan as an instruction manual of sorts. Similar to how the Township treated its Parking Study. The key feature being non-binding. No attempt that the work reflects a consensus. A presentation of fact, analysis, recommendations, priorities, alternatives, etc. Lose the appendices. Put them in a separate document. Few care about appendices. Let the Township cherry-picked what they want and when.

    That could be done by late Winter; in enough time to consider projects in the 2020 municipal budget.

  3. This reply is not about whether bike education is important – it is – and Bike&Walk Montclair has been a leader in bike education for 17 years. This reply is not about whether helmets help prevent brain injuries in a crash – they do – and Bike&Walk Montclair requires helmets on all its rides. This reply is not about the fact that Montclair Township have both the parking study and the Complete Streets implementation plan with solutions to try – sitting on shelves. This reply is about how this initiative – well intentioned and we agree incentives are good! – can create scapegoats out of non-helmet wearing folks. I saw it quickly in the comments when the initiative was first announced. Paul talks about the E’s. We need all E’s for a balanced and courteous system – Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, & Evaluation. Regarding helmets, some studies have shown that drivers drive closer to cyclists wearing helmets than to those not wearing helmets. There are many facets to street safety – and one important one is that if we continue to design, operate, and maintain our streets for cars only, “safety” will always be an issue. As long as our streets are “dangerous by design,” there will always be danger. Yes, ride right, wear a helmet – but please put more energy in demanding Complete Streets than in reprimanding people riding bikes. https://thenib.com/why-am-i-scared-to-ride-a-bike

  4. {

    “Regarding helmets, some studies have shown that drivers drive closer to cyclists wearing helmets than to those not wearing helmets.” – bikepedlt

    Just WOW, OMG and exactly what were you thinking when you wrote this!

    I’m going to make a guess and assume you feel the same way about vaccination requirements.

    Just wow!

  5. Haha Frank! That’s hilarious! And distracting from the point. We’re all entitled to opinions. Google the helmet debate and you’ll find lots of opinions on both sides. I’m not taking a side on the helmet debate. As a parent, I encourage my kid to wear hers, personally, I choose to as well. For me, it makes sense because drivers can be aggressive, distracted, novice, or speedy. Our street design allows for that and while enforcement helps in the moment, people’s behavior confirms to the environment. In this post, BWM is seeking to provide additional lenses through which see these issues and, while urging courteous riding/driving and personal safety (our 17 year history is testament to our focus on that), to caution against scapegoating people on foot and on bike (or skateboard) as the solution when the real issue is street design and car culture. I watched that begin to happen when this initiative was launched in the comments on social media. It is time to acknowledge when well intentioned efforts like this are addressing a small piece of a bigger problem that is fixable if we choose to prioritize it.

  6. Well, it was a pretty funny study.

    I recognize and am inclined towards some of what you say. I think Complete Streets “branding” puts you behind from line 1. Furthermore, the designs and promotion is just killing whatever chances you have. Don’t listen, but how many years can Bike/Walk Mtc stick with the same playbook, including blaming others for the issues within the organization.

    This is not the first project that has been shelved. The Bloomfield Avenue corridor initiative is another. Bloomfield Avenue is actually planned to go further way from CS. Shall I go on?

    Your B/W-M’s approach is flawed. Don’t accept this, but are you considering other approaches? Likely not. Organizations tend to fight change. Yours is no different.

    Here’s some free advice. Think small. Start small.
    The Township os redesigning the Church Street circle and connecting streets. The money is allocated. It shouldn’t take a lot more $, per the draft CS plan, to implement CS demo project. Fight to give everyone a GOOD wow (instead of blaming the Police Dept).

    Convert Church Street, from SPARK to South Mountain, to a Complete Streets!

    B/W-M won’t do. I can hear the excuses now.
    I can guarantee it.

  7. And BTW, the Council is prioritizing public art displays on your Complete Streets over bikes and pedestrians!

    Public Art In The Public Right of Way!

    Betcha B/W-M didn’t know that! Stick with that playbook.

  8. We fully agree on starting small. Your examples are great. Public art is great. And our police – and Tracy Diamond- are fab. Happy to listen to ideas about our playbook. I also believe that our work and push for complete streets has brought awareness to low cost short term projects like those you reference. We are all about that. Quick build pilots are the first step in permanent infrastructure change. I do hope you and the readers are hearing the point about scapegoating teens or others not wearing helmets and how quickly the blame game starts and diverts attention from the problem of street design and car culture. We are very much in support of our police and positive reinforcement. And as Paul and our board said in the post, it’s easier to focus on helmets for people on bikes, skateboards and scooters than addressing the real threat to our safety, large, fast moving vehicles. We caution the level of excitement and blame this initiative brings. I know we’re not Copenhagen, but Copenhagen wasn’t Copenhagen until they decided to prioritize people over their cars.

  9. Sorry, not requiring bike helmets is an absolute dealbreaker. For B/W-M to not take this position is like PeTA advocating violence. Your choice, but don’t expect my support.

    I see from your website that you have a Brain Injury Specialist on your Board of Directors.
    If she can’t convince the Board of the necessity of helmets, how can possibly think you can advance CS? More basically, how can you advocate for biking? Are you saying there are inherent dangers and risks and it is up to the riders to decide what is right for them?…but, hey, redesign the roads to be safer?

    Would you state for the record what is B/W-M’s stance on mandatory helmets for all?

  10. Never mind. I knew pretty quickly that B/W-M does not support helmets being mandatory.

    It doesn’t matter. Your plan is already out of date. You’re re-fighting the last war. The world has moved on.

    Yes, my Church Street idea is a really excellent idea, but not because of bicycles as they decline in use.

    In 10 years, the idea of bicycle lanes will be a chuckle. Just look at the trends.

  11. It’s just is another idea that will not happen. It would require additional expertise & design skills the existing design contractor and Township don’t have. I would be happy if they just blocked-out the space for your bike lanes and called it a day. Typically, we can’t help ourselves and order-out for “stupid” with a side of “better than before”.

    We want something so very, very badly, we get stupid and myopic. Then comes the unspoken guilt of knowing we screw it up real good. We act defensive. We rationalize. Then we just dig ourselves deeper with more servings of stupid. As you can see, I’m talking about Gateway 1’s many gifts, moving counter-clockwise around the block starting on Valley, to Bloomfield, to Orange and ending @ Church. It a parade of stupid. But, it’s our stupid, only we can call it stupid, and it’s better than… Never mind, I’m trying to cut back on the sides. Let’s just say the money seems good, now.

    And you want bike lanes?

Comments are closed.