August 20, 2019 | 81° F

City council holds off decision on sidewalk biking ban

The New Brunswick City Council last night decided to wait before voting on an ordinance that would reinstitute a ban on sidewalk cycling, instead choosing to take a deeper look.

In the mandate, cyclists are only allowed to ride on multi-use sidewalks on Rt. 18, Rt.1 and Rt. 27.

The city’s ban on sidewalk bicycling existed since 1893 before it was eliminated last year after it was unknowingly revoked along with another ordinance regarding bike registration, said Bill Bray, city spokesman. The council is working to undo this action.

“The section was deleted in error, so this all a housekeeping issue,” he said.

But some residents and riders at the meeting held in City Hall on Bayard Street criticized the ban for its lack of age and zoning specifications.

Bray said the ordinance was once a law for more than 100 years and that no one complained about it in the past.

“It wasn’t until some people thought that it might be politically advantageous [to] … fight the city because they [think we] are anti-student,” he said.

Andrew Beshold, a North Brunswick resident and instructor for the League of American Bicyclists, said in his experience most cyclists ride on the sidewalk because of the lack of bike lanes.

“Very little has been done to engineer city streets, not just here in New Brunswick, but all throughout New Jersey to accommodate cyclists safely and properly,” Beshold said.

Charlie Kratovil, a community activist, said he was disappointed in the city not getting its first bike lane as promised due to a lack of funds from the state and logistical issues.

“I know there was a hold up of utility companies not wanting to move their stuff [on the street],” he said. “I implore the council to do whatever you can to make this plan for this bike lane to happen in New Brunswick.”

Kratovil, a New Brunswick resident, said while the city did not get enough grant money to construct bike lines, the city should take it up.

“Use city funds to get other bike lanes going in the meantime,” he said. “If the state can’t do it, if the county can’t do it, then we have to pony up ourselves.”

Bray said the city supports bike lanes but for numerous reasons it unfortunately did not happen.

“You need to improve intersections to new [Department of Transportation] standards,” he said. “Our storm sewer infrastructure … would need to be addressed, and the cost was brought to our attention at the 11th hour, so we weren’t prepared to absorb those costs which were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Every street in New Brunswick would not be able to accommodate bike lanes, Bray said.

“Bicyclists are going to have to ride in those roads without the bike lanes. They are going to do that in the future, they could do that now,” he said.

The lack of age or zoning restriction on the ban was disconcerting to some residents, Beshold said.

“Most towns that have a ban on sidewalk riding do make an exception for cyclists age 15 or 14 and under,” he said. “We do not advise people to ride on the sidewalk, but I think there are certain circumstances where it should be allowed. Residential neighborhood streets should not be an issue.”

Beshold was also curious if the ordinance applied to sidewalks on the College Avenue, Cook or Douglass campuses.

“I would consider that you do propose adult prohibition on cycling on the sidewalks, that you make an exception for the campuses because a lot of those are multi-used pathways,” he said.

Beshold said while the city has a lot of bikers, the city does not have bike lanes.

“New Brunswick is a college town. You go to most college towns throughout the country and you will see very well-engineered bicycle lanes all throughout the central business district,” he said.

He believes cyclists would help improve the city in a number of ways.

“More cyclists are good for business, they keeps cars off the street, keep the parking free for those who have no choice but to drive into town,” he said.

Beshold said the bike lanes should be implemented to reduce riding on the sidewalk and not just a ban.

“I ride through the city all the time on the street and I see other cyclists on the sidewalk and I believe they are scared,” he said. “You have to give cyclists the carrot and not just the stick of the law that says you have to get off the sidewalk.”

Bray said it is safer to ride in the street and it will create a safer environment for bicyclists to ride on the street.

“The more bicycles you have on the street — that is a traffic calming activity, and it heightens the awareness of people that there are bicycles on the street and makes it safer for bicycles,” he said.

By Tabish Talib

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