Citing Long Delay, Bike&Walk Montclair Urges Montclair Council To Adopt Montclair SAFE Plan

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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.
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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.”

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27 COMMENTS

  1. The Master Plan does need to be updated to better address our vision & goals for bicycle, pedestrian, scooter & ADA mobility. The fundamental problem is this Montclair SAFE Plan report is not appropriate for adoption into the Master Plan Land Use & Circulation Element. It is a unwieldy, 171 page, bicycle-centric study (vs the Master Plan’s 179 pages) that would need to go on a serious diet and reformatted to fit the MP’s organization and format. It is just not readable and lacks consistent actionable guidance. I disagree with what the SAFE Plan considers successful implementation, e.g South Park St. Its two major intersections (@ Church & @ Bloomfield) are poorly designed for pedestrians. The roadway is too narrow for meaningful bicycle safety measures. SPARK aside, the SAFE Plan ignores Bloomfield Ave. You can’t have a MP Township-wide strategy and ignore Bloomfield Ave.

    I liken the Montclair SAFE Plan to the Montclair Parking Study. Both are currently on the shelf waiting for a home. The Master Plan is not the appropriate home for either study, or studies in general. The Planning Board’s Master Plan offers a home for the vision, needs, goals, strategies, best-practices and recommendations. The Council & administration offer a potential home for application, implementation, etc.
    A way to look at the distinction is to treat the administration as an applicant before the Planning Board and the PB weighing whether their application is consistent with the Master Plan.

    So, take the two studies and separate out the parts which are for the applicant and which are the parts for the Master Plan.

  2. You’ve got this one right Rubacky. These Bike Walk people want to make bikes equal here in street allocation space to cars. It’s wrong. “Equity” is the catchword they use.

    They put out a survey to 2700 people and only got back 170 pushing for bike lanes everywhere. Hello? Who do you think responded? Bike Walk supporters. That’s not enough demand shown for bike lanes on every single street. The Planning Board was right to question the biking aspects of the report — both for implementation feasibility and expense. Not just pass it on blindly.

    There is just not enough documentation that biking provides all the benefits being claimed. And to use NYC as the model to justify need and user demand after more lanes were added there makes no sense. Many people don’t have cars in NYC with an excellent public transportation system behind that to support. Not so for suburban Montclair. Cars remain our primary mode of transport — be they electric, zip or urber driven.

    So sure. Add some bike lanes on wider streets, or those routes with less car use where it makes sense. Doesn’t t kill too much parking. Smart. But bike lanes modifying the look of every street here that covers the whole the township as they advocate…not needed, too costly and not particularly attractive to look at.

  3. Yes, a basic disconnect within the Montclair SAFE Plan (MSP) conflating Recreational Usage with Alternative Mobility Usage. This distinction is significant in order to compare the benefits and detriments.

    For instance, on my street, the overwhelming bike use is recreational. The MSP proposes eliminating on-street parking in the Mountainside Park neighborhood to install a bike lane. It is effectively eliminating parking for the park’s intensive recreational use to facilitate a much less intensive recreational street use.

    Under the Alternative Mobility model (people opting bicycles, etc. over cars), the working premise for eliminating on-street parking would be an expectation of an offset in parking demand. If 50 people choose to bike to work (vs ride sharing or self-driving) then the effect of losing 25-50 parking spaces shouldn’t be significant.

    OK, all open to argument. So, I agree some test cases (let’s call them ‘proof-of-concept’ or demonstration cases) should be developed based on the projected primary model – the Recreational User and the Alternative Mobility. Unfortunately, many of our key N/S & E/W roadways are County roads which, without their cooperation, will limit the Alternative Mobility test choices and what the results really tell us.

    It also would be a better approach to first have proof-of-concept experience and then figure out how we want what we learn to be reflected in the long-range purpose of the Master Plan. I’ll even support the use of my street as a test even though I don’t recommend it.

  4. Note I didn’t use the ‘pilot’ case terminology because, by definition, a pilot is a limited roll-out of a program that has been tested and approved. We are currently not even close to that definition.

  5. Going East – West (like Bloomfield Avenue does) Montclair is a ski slope. The grade conditions are not bicycle friendly. They should have kept the trolleys.

  6. So do we keep letting people get hurt and killed by cars? That’s what’s happening right now. You have a community of people who walk and ride. The community WANTS a place to walk and ride. Montclair is a community where there are children riding bikes everywhere.

    And yet we won’t provide them a safe place to ride? What is the answer YOU offer?

  7. Frankgg love the idea of the trolley. Who doesn’t love public transportation instead of automobiles. However, I want to point out, however, that MANY Montclair residents bike and walk the “ski slope” daily.

    And I love your poetic description as a “ski slope”! Lol

  8. Finally, I’ve read the Montclair SAFE plan and the responses to it broadly misrepresent the plan. I encourage people reading the article to see the plan for themselves. I’ve put a link to it below. You will notice that there is absolutely no “push” to put bike lanes everywhere as was inaccurately stated above. Bike lines are one of many options presented and to claim otherwise is blatantly incorrect. The Montclair SAFE plan isn’t a plan for cyclists only…it is a plan for people who walk in our town as well; our families, our visitors, our children walking to school, our elderly, etc.

    https://www.montclairnjusa.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_5276204/File/Government/Boards%20and%20Commissions/FINAL_Montclair-SAFE-CS-IP_6-26-2017.pdf

  9. First, it is bicycle-centric plan. One simple ‘tell’ is the bad rendering above that sends ADA pedestrians into the intersection instead of the crosswalks. A pedestrian didn’t make that mistake.

    Second, noted your concern about people hurt. Maybe you will also support the Council passing a helmet law for adults, too. That B/WM doesn’t support this is ludicrous.

    Third, the MSP recommends 5′ wide, single bicycle lanes with a 3′ buffer – 8′ total. OK, a typical SUV is 8′ wide. Don’t you think that is, maybe, excessive?

    Fourth, there are really only 2 options for the primary streets: take away parking on one side, if not both, and/or take away the grass buffer between the curb and the sidewalk.

    My recommendation for a N/S bike route would be to take the entire length of Park St & S. Park St, eliminate parking on one side and replace with a 2-way, 8′ bike lane with a 2′ buffer. Run that for a year and see how it does. No Master Plan crap, no it doesn’t serve the entire town stuff. This would connect 8 schools and 3 business districts. Put a couple of stop signs at Watchung South (below Midland) and at Park St North (@ train station). Done.

    PS: Next time save a hundred grand and collaborate & compromise instead.

  10. “That B/WM doesn’t support this is ludicrous.”

    Is it?

    Or is it an just an oversight?

    I know, I know, that word’s lack of emotionalism means that it is not useable by Ruby.

    “Ludicrous” is a more apt description of behavior that allows one individual to continually assert that they are the possessor of all correct knowledge on any subject upon which they (endlessly) pontificate on line…

  11. It’s a conscious position on their part. Unfortunately.

    I would really like to see a bike lane like I suggested or wherever B/WM thinks we should start. On the subject of the Master Plan I’m pretty knowledgeable of the content, what it took to create it and the glacier like pace of the Planning Board to update it. The MP element this subject applies to is called the Land Use & Circulation Element (LUCE). What is in it now on Circulation is really superficial, placeholder content because it would have held up publishing. For B/WM to think that the Council will update it soon – with an election coming up – is unrealistic…and it will not expedite any implementation. So, yes, I guess I am pontificating.

  12. Correct Mr. Rubacky. The Plan is bike-centric. I just read it. So to deny they don’t want streets all redesigned to accommodate their bike lanes everywhere goal, is a distortion.

    And you’re right. For safety we should start making adults wear helmets too.

    The Planning Board people are on the money too. We should just pick say one or two north south streets like you suggest — Park street hits many of the schools but also loses one side of parking….maybe if Midland or Montclair — not well traveled…you don’t lose much parking. But you’ve got the right idea. Start with one or two north and south routes….then a few major east and west crossings…start with that as a trial.

    Seems like they are burying their bike lanes everywhere ask within the pedestrian safety proposals — to make bikes equal to autos. It’s a bit of transportation policy slight of hand.

  13. I always though Midland’s purpose was to serve the High School and as a back entrance to Erwin Park. Interesting choice; especially as it is not even a SAFE network listed street.

    I have a bias towards ‘go bold or go home’ when advocating change. Park Street’s range of challenges would make for a better proving ground. Unfortunately, Park Street faces the municipal rezoning away from residential. And life marches forward as we dawdle – the twin flags of growth recently planted on Park Street (Mr Plofker buying & Mr Sionas designing). So, Park Street, while test-worthy, would likely NOT fit into long-range bike network plans.

  14. Hello Rightfromwrong….

    In response to you writing..

    “You’ve got this one right Rubacky. These Bike Walk people want to make bikes equal here in street allocation space to cars. It’s wrong. “Equity” is the catchword they use.”

    I have seen a number of anti-SAFE plan folks claiming that there is a push to make Bikes equal to cars in town. EQUAL?!!! Ha…what a joke and if that is truly their goal/intent, then what a horrible horrible job they have been dedicating the last decade to as of this post the score is exactly

    cars – 100%
    bikes – 0%

    there is not one inch of dedicated bike space over the hundreds of miles of roads in Montclair. not one inch. Seems they have a while to go before cars even sharing a fraction of the road…lets alone sharing it equally so calm down with the anti-car hysterics ok? In a state that is incredibly auto centric, Montclair lags far behind even the most anti-bike towns as they at least have one or two roads in town with a bike lane. How do you explain such resistance to even having one inch of dedicated bike lanes in a town where compared to every other suburb in NJ, a much high proportion of people bike and walk? How is that justifiable?

  15. How do you explain such resistance to even having one inch of dedicated bike lanes in a town where compared to every other suburb in NJ, a much high proportion of people bike?

    I struck the part about walking as it’s is not true. It is a good question about biking.
    Why do you think this is?

  16. The MSP says only 2.9% Montclairions walk to work. I discount students for obvious reasons, exclude dog walkers & runners, and don’t count the out-of-town wallets. Unrelated, but amazing to me is the overwhelming number cars with non-commercial NY license plates. By my count, there is a 10-fold increase within the last 18 months.

    Anecdotally, in my neighborhood, I see maybe 8 children tops on my street walking to Bradford School. FYI, I see a similar amount of children biking…and they use the sidewalk. As it is, there are 8, maybe 10 bikes total at the train station each morning. I don’t see how many walkers argues for bike lanes and clearly we haven’t quantified usage. I left the bike part in because, as you said, we have 0% roadway infrastructure for bikes. Zero is usually indefensible.

    I have to say the advocacy efforts seem uneven and disjointed. The NJ Complete Streets Design Guide – big advocate of bicycle lanes – highlights an Oregon study that only 9% of adults say they are “very comfortable” riding on the street. Yet, if painted bike lane are provided, it only goes up to 12%. It goes on to say if protected bike lanes (best case solution), it goes up to 29%. The other 71% must range from comfortable to downright scared.

    I think we can agree to put the stats, the studies, and the polling aside and just say this is something Montclair should explore now. We don’t have all the answers; we don’t even have all the right questions. But, c’mon, we can do better so let’s make a real effort to find what can work here.

  17. I think some need to read a little closer and then think a bit more before they comment.

    As I read all of this, the negative responses to this report are not a “NO” bike lanes anywhere push back. But instead SOME bike lanes — to be intelligently placed on main north-south and east-west routes, but with safety most in mind. Yet, a dispute of the underlying policy premise of these Bike Walk people which appears trying to gain approval for their consultant’s report to make it official public policy that substantiates bike lanes inserted everywhere.

    But that goal is being buried it appears among the seeming pedestrian safety and promotion of walking benefits being touted. Buried really to gain equal status for biking with cars here going forward — at the expense of needed parking. And the results if approved — would be to then mandate all future street modifications get designed so that bike lanes are ultimately inserted and constructed everywhere.

    Why? Because they believe biking should become an “equitable” transportation mode to cars — to use their own words. And that is the fundamental dispute within all this as I see it — intentionally vagued out and thus being hidden for readers.

    But there is actually some agreement above , yet also policy disagreement. Because it’s not as if people can’t now bike ride on streets today. It’s not as though there are no sidewalks for walking. But the Planning Board people’s statement says that the need for and demand for new bike friendly constructed street modifications everywhere going forward has just not yet been proven. And that this is also not pushed for now by enough residents to warrant the costs — given the only limited survey results presented.

    That would make demand to approve this report really still the goal of another well-meaning, but only limited special interest public policy group. Yet one seeking in this case, potentially very substantial taxpayer expenditures if the report was approved — again which the planning board reviewers say the case for has not proven, and the expenditures to come if so — not yet warranted.

    PS…I just rode by a bike lane on Union Street so there is clearly at least one designated lane here east west. More should be created for safe routes to move around town….just not put everywhere.

  18. And for context, my street has an average daily traffic count ranging from 8,200 vehicles at the Little Falls line to 16,000 at Bellevue Av. So, you can see bicyclists and pedestrians are less than 1% of the combined modes.
    Right now, my public RoW is allocated 60% to vehicles and 40% to sidewalks & buffers. This plan would flip the allocation to 40% vehicles. And B/WM can’t see why there might not be buy-in? The one obvious option would be to have the bikes and pedestrian “share” the 40%, non-roadway allocated space. Can’t do that, can we?

  19. And to conflate two issues, I raise the Township’s approval of – or lack of enforcement against – front yard parking. I see a growing number of these case, partcularly on my street. If we are going to allow front yard parking, I see a reasonable argument for converting the grass buffer strips between the curb and the sidewalk/RoW line to bike lanes. I’d rather see this space allocated for bike lanes instead of additional, private convenience parking – especially since most have ample driveway parking anyway.

  20. rightfromwrong

    I am honestly wondering why we keep coming back to the word “everywhere” you keep using repeatedly in every post. The reason there is push back to your to your comments is because you are misrepresenting the plan and the people advocating for the plan when you claim that it and they are call for bike lanes “everywhere”.

    As I said, and as Frank agreed…there are exactly 0 bike lanes, not one inch in the entire town.

    Also, not sure why we are discounting students, 25% of whom bike or walk to school and out of town visitors who can be found all over Montclair Center walking…or at least trying to walk. At least we all agree that even if the number is 3 percent who bike, that is still a mismatch between the 0% of bike lanes we have and are advocating for.

    The idea that this plan and Bike Walk Montclair are somehow conspiring to achieve a 50/50 split share between bikes and cars all over Montclair is comically misunderstood…to the point that it must be intentional.

  21. Parkour,

    If you want to advocate in a small, pragmatic step, then let’s influence the Planning Board to use some of the setback space for the 65 Chirch St Redevelopment to include space for a bike lane and ensure the new Church Street roundabout design includes a bike lane.

    These small steps would be helpful in what I would call the primary bike network box comprising Park St – Lorraine – North/South Mountain – Hillside/Church. With the new design of Glenridge Ave at Bloomfield should include a bike lane crossing to Church St. This will connect the network to Grove Street without having to screw up Claremont Av.

    If we wait for the Master Plan, it will be many time more expensive and difficult to retrofit. So, if you have any influence, maybe start here.

  22. Parkour,

    I didn’t get around to this before, but Montclair has only 98 miles of roadways with 85 of them being Township roads. My suggestion above would create 5+miles….not a bad start.

    Also, 2020 FY Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications are due Nov 22. This is $320K pool this year where historically, the Township takes about 50-60% for capital projects with the rest going to low-income safety net type organizations. See https://www.montclairnjusa.org/news/headlines/public_hearing_notice__2020_c_d_b_g_applications

    Even if B/WM isn’t a recipient, the hearing process would be an excellent track to spotlight the bike lane initiative before the Council & the public.

  23. Hah! B/WM gets absolutely no respect. I wonder why?

    Anyway, I saw the article today about how the Council rushed through another Edgemont Park-like redesign.

    OK, yes, this Council is just obstinate when it comes to sharing their design decisions. Yes this all happened last week and was submitted to the State. So, B/W-M, while you have been futzing around all this time on the Big Plan, this will sink the bike route idea. But, hey, the pretty diagrams will look sweet in the Master Plan some day.

    At least this will be cheaper project; somewhere between $500K-$650K. Thankfully, there are no Aging In Place / Senior-types involvement (as it’s downtown).

  24. Frank…what article are you referring to? What will sink the bike route idea?

    and also…why the anti- BWM stance from you? You seem to have a bone to pick with this small group of volunteers that seem to be trying to do good things in town? What gives?

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