What about Bloomfield Avenue?

At the MontclairSAFE Complete Street implementation meeting in Montclair last week I wondered where was Bloomfield Avenue.

When there is talk of a revitalization of Bloomfield Township, I wonder, where is South Bloomfield and its connection to Newark and the rest of suburban Essex in the Bloomfield Avenue Complete Streets studies?

Between February and August of 2014 a Health Impact Assessment was conducted along Bloomfield Avenue. The name of this report released in Spring of 2015 is the Bloomfield Avenue Complete Corridor Plan Health Impact Assessment (HIA). The assessment was produced by the New Jersey Health Impact Collaborative (NJHIC).

“Bloomfield Avenue, also known as County Route 506, is an arterial road that connects suburban and urban areas of Essex County. The Bloomfield Avenue Complete Corridor Plan is a study of a 4.3 mile segment of Bloomfield Avenue from the Garden State Parkway in Bloomfield to Grove Avenue in Verona. “

The study looked at the northwest side of Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Montclair and Verona.

The study left off Bloomfield southeast of the Garden State which connects to Newark in favor of a hilly part of Verona, where the average person would have a hard time walking or cycling.

Of all the cities Bloomfield and Newark are where Complete Streets can make the most impact on the population.

Bloomfield and Newark have the oldest populations, the most economically oppressed populations, the most racially diverse populations and the populations with the highest number of immigrants.

According to the study immigrants and economically oppressed populations benefit greatly from Complete Street changes.

The study took an extensive look at bicycling and walking. 40% of people stated that they felt unsafe to drive up Bloomfield Avenue and 94% of cyclists stated they felt unsafe cycling up Bloomfield Avenue. Over 84% of people with mobility issues stated it was difficult to cross Bloomfield Avenue. 76% of people with no mobility issues stated it was difficult to cross Bloomfield Avenue.

Between 2009-2012 there were 848 crashes along Bloomfield Avenue and 46 involved pedestrians.

According to a recent synthesis of road diet studies by the Federal Highway Administration an implementation of a road diet shows an average reduction in crashes of 19% in urban areas and 47% in rural areas. Owing to the nature of Bloomfield Avenue 19% would be a low estimate. A road diet on Bloomfield Avenue has the potential of 167 fewer crashes and 57 fewer pedestrian injuries within 4 years.

“Lower-income communities could be particularly impacted by road diet measures because they are more likely to walk, bicycle or use transit to commute to work, or to appointments due to the costs of owning a vehicle. The condition of Bloomfield Avenue for walking and bicycling is an equity issue, when lower-income service workers are commuting along the corridor to work in restaurants and shops.”

The participants of the study stated that they would be more likely to ride their bicycle along Bloomfield Avenue if there were protected bicycle lanes.

More than 50% of participants stated that they want protected bicycle lanes.

The danger zones for bicycles on the sections of Bloomfield Avenue studied in the Bloomfield Township is where the avenue intersects the Garden State and where it intersects Municipal Road.

“Nationally, more than 70 percent of trips under one mile are now made by automobile, 9% of these in part because of incomplete streets that make it dangerous or unpleasant to walk, bicycle, or take transit. A 2004 study showed that each additional hour spent in a car per day was associated with a 6% increase in the likelihood of obesity, while each additional kilometer walked per day was associated with a 4.8% reduction in the likelihood of obesity.”

Complete Streets for all of Bloomfield Avenue is not about making the road safer, it is also about making people healthier and economic development. When people feel that they can safely walk around, because there are thriving businesses, the streets are easy to cross, the streets are easy to bicycle on and they don’t have to spend 30 minutes looking for parking when they are less than one mile away from their destination they are healthier and the entire community– from small business owners– to seniors benefit.

So when will there be an implementation of Complete Streets for Bloomfield Avenue? When will Bloomfield Avenue below Garden State and literally connects urban and suburban be studied?

According to the report Bloomfield Complete Streets Corridor put out by Together New Jersey in April 2015 the implementation of Complete Streets on Bloomfield Avenue needs further study. Specifically two of the studies that need to be completed before implementation is a walkability audit for all four cities and a corridor network analysis for all four cities.

The target date for for these items was 3-18 months from the published date of April 2015.

October 2016 was 18 months from April 2015.

Complete Streets is important for the physical and mental health of our citizens, economic progress of our townships and the safety of our roads and we have to let our public officials know that we understand and value the  health and safety of all the residents and communities along Bloomfield Avenue.

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