Montclair SAFE (Streets are for Everyone) Complete Streets Implementation Plan was funded in 2016, with a grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The plan provides a blueprint for a range of options to develop Montclair’s streets and walkways into a safe, inviting network for all users and forms of transportation.
According to Bike&Walk Montclair, since its completion over two years ago, that plan has sat on a shelf, unused, and critical decisions are being made about the development of the town, without this guidance.
Bike&Walk Montclair currently has a petition for residents, and those who visit Montclair, to sign asking the Town Council to adopt the Montclair SAFE Plan.
The petition can be found on the Bike&Walk Montclair website along with a page of explaining the Plan.
On Monday night, Bike & Walk Montclair president Deborah Kagan gave this statement at a Montclair Town Council conference meeting:
Since 2017 there have been 119 crashes and 3 deaths on our streets. 36 crashes so far this year, even with a major increase in enforcement. Data and research show the most impactful and direct way to make streets safer for ALL users is through changes in street design. We constantly hear from residents who had close calls and don’t feel safe crossing major streets in town and many who bike to destinations in town or would bike if they felt safer on our streets. In addition to the critical safety issues we are experiencing increasing parking and traffic problem. These issues all raise the need for updated views on our street designs and mobility including safe and accessible alternative transportation options.
The Master Plan of 2015 identified the need for a pedestrian and cyclist network to enhance safety and access. In response to that need The Montclair SAFE Complete Streets Implementation Plan was created. The Plan does not dictate any specific design solutions but offers a menu of options to guide decisions on how a street can be rebuilt ensuring that Montclair’s streets are designed to encourage safe driving, bicycling and walking and to enhance mobility for users of all ages, abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.
Adopting it as a roadmap and reference document signals our planning and engineering departments that it is the intent of the town be proactive and to implement the SAFE Plan recommendations in line with our complete streets policy.
So just to review the current history of this the Plan was presented to this Town Council in February 2017 and The Council requested the Planning Board review it. Janice Talley presented the Plan to the Planning Board which raised questions about the plan but did not take any actions. After waiting for further action from the Planning Board I requested a response from the Board, which then asked the Master Plan sub-committee to review the Plan. The sub-committee met last April and recommended the Plan be adopted with some changes. They recommended a short list of priority streets to begin and specified that funding for bike infrastructure should be from grants only. This too was discussed but not approved and instead, members of the planning board once again asked the sub-
committee to review it. Since that time the sub-committee has not met and I have been told no sub-committee meeting is scheduled.
We believe the SAFE Plan can be adopted to the Master Plan as is without a priority list or exceptions as it is intended to be an overall plan. Then our Planning and Engineering departments with input from MPD and review by the Council could begin a process to identify the streets and options that would be a priority to start based on streets identified in the plan, streets with the most pressing safety issues, and practical implementation criteria. We could also choose to engage consultants to assist us in identifying a phase 1 of implementation and begin with a couple of low-cost pilot projects. The selection process should also specify opportunities for input from the Pedestrian Safety Committee, pedestrian biking advocates and community residents. The need for inclusion of our town residents in this process was also identified by the Planning Board.
It has been over 20 months since this first came to the Council and has been stalled in the Planning Board ever since. It is time for the Town Council to take action. We have the means to change our streetscapes and make them safer and more accessible for everyone. We need the political will to be proactive and implement these changes with meaningful actions.
Bike&Walk Montclair is eager to help move this process forward and we look forward to the adoption of the Plan as part of our Master Plan and to working with the Township further on making Montclair a safer more equitable, sustainable and livable place to live work and play.
During the Montclair Town Council Meeting, Montclair Planning Board members were having their own meeting downstairs Monday evening. Planning Board members Martin Schwartz and Carole Willis offered Baristanet this joint response after reading Kagan’s presentation:
“The Planning Board is always very concerned with pedestrian safety and we incorporate that into all impacted site reviews. So the safety recommendations from the Safe Streets Plan were really not the issue. No one is delaying here. There is just basic policy disagreement. While board members are very supportive of biking as an environmentally friendly transportation mode, some clearly took issue with Bike-Walk’s proposed push to insert bike lanes throughout the township, since it would create a major reduction in still needed parking. Also, at our last April 29, 2019 meeting, when the organization last appeared, a number of board members believed that most major streets here were just not wide enough and therefore unsafe to accommodate adding bike lanes. It was suggested that this special interest group provide more data to prove their case. To show stronger proof of wider user demand to substantiate the long term anticipated costs. The Board has yet to receive those revisions.”