Capitalism requires people to live on an unnatural schedule. Middle management wants you to get to work as quickly as possible. At job interviews they often ask, “Do you have a car?” In their mind the only efficient way to get to work outside of New York city is to have a car. Their idea of efficient means many things and quick is one of those things.

Quickly is not the most important virtue for transportation. Just quick kills people.

I like performing actions that cause the least amount of harm possible to people, animals and the planet.

I ride my bicycle, especially if it’s less than three miles, because it does a lot less harm than driving.

In many cities in the United States cycling is planned as a sports activity, so roads are to recreational places. That is wonderful. People need those options, but that’s not the only purpose of the bicycle.

Giving the public only a back road bicycle lane to a recreational spot pushes the idea that cycling isn’t a real way to accomplish everyday tasks. It limits the bicycle to leisure. It strips cycling of its utility as transportation. It turns cycling into a hobby for the rich and privileged.

I have been riding my bicycle as transportation as an adult for 15 years. As a child I rode my bicycle to the park many times. The park was my coffee shop when I was 10-years-old.

As an adult I have ridden my bicycle to the park 10 times, the last five times have been in the last six months, because I live next door to Branch Brook Park. I ride my bike to do things I want to do as person old enough to go to jail, vote and walk into the sex shop and not be carded.

I ride my bicycle to meetings, coffee and to work.

I need bicycle paths that gets me to where I need to go. I need to go to where there are people. I need to be relaxed when I get there. I am not relaxed when I have spent 30 minutes circling the drain for parking.

We need bicycle paths to get us to work and we need employers who are flexible. 9 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. are more or less the same time.

If everyone is going to work at the same time everyday and everyone is taking the same means of conveyance and everyone is getting high blood pressure and everyone is getting diabetes and everyone is getting migraines and everyone is sick and everyone is scared then you tell me how is that efficient?

How is that society efficient?

The bicycle is an efficient way to get us to where we need to go, but we need to change the idea of where a physical bike path should be and more importantly we need to change the idea of where we think we need to be and what time do we really need to be there.

Does every school have to start at 7:30 a.m.? Does every grocery store need to be open 24 hours a day? Is it required that all of us work 40 hours a week? Is it required that we all vote for a Democrat or a Republican? It it required that progressive means we just adjust oppression to be a little less oppressive?

This is not just about where the cycling path should be, but where should our paths be taking us on this journey that we call living.

by Teka-Lark Lo

Photo credit: Gulangyu Island, a car-free island off the coast of Xiamen, in Southeast China’s Fujian province. Li Luanhan for China Daily

 

The public input did indicate there is a need for the creation of designated and clearly-marked bike lanes, paths and routes near or along Bloomfield Avenue including the business districts in Verona, Montclair, and Bloomfield. There was also a strong desire expressed for linking other major destination attractions such as parks, schools, transit facilities with a bikeway system. – Bloomfield Avenue Complete Corridor Plan

The bicycle map on Together North Jersey did not have Bloomfield Avenue labeled and did not connect it to Newark. VELO Bloomfield added edits to help the community envision what a wonderful bike network we could have in our beautiful county of Essex.

A Complete Street that truly connects Urban and Suburban.

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The Newark Subway run by New Jersey Transit (NJT) has much potential and is underdeveloped. It started as a replacement for the Morris Canal which was abandoned in the mid 1920’s. At that time, several cities, Newark, Bloomfield, Clifton, and Paterson purchased the canal route to be used for a main line for light rail network extending from Newark to Paterson. The Depression intervened, Public Service of New Jersey made the decision to convert its trolleys to electric buses, and only Newark completed its section. But what a system! Three other important light rail lines used the Subway as way to efficiently and quickly transverse the downtown city streets. The #29 Bloomfield line ran up the avenue all the way to Verona. The #21 traveled from West Orange and used entrances at Warren and Orange streets to enter the subway. And the #23 exited on a secret ramp (Shhh! It’s STILL there!) and traveled down Central Avenue to the Highland Avenue station in Orange. The 21, 23, and 29 were converted in the 1950’s to busses.

What was interesting about all three was that these routes didn’t dead end into small suburbs but connected with other rail lines at their outer terminuses. While the Highland Avenue on the New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) Gladstone Line still exists in Orange, the #21 connected with the now abandoned Erie West Orange Line and the #29 connected with the lost Erie Caldwell branch. This INCREASED the utility of the lines because a person living in the middle had reasons to go in BOTH directions. There was a destination AND a connection to other systems.

Which leads us to the topic at hand, the northwest terminus of the Newark Subway (New Jersey Light Rail). It ends just a block short of Bloomfield avenue at a shelter surrounded by parking lots, abandoned factories, a neighborhood, and a storage center. Four blocks to the north and one block to the south along Grove Street are the backs of strip malls. It connects with four bus lines. If you didn’t know it was there, you would miss it driving down Bloomfield Avenue.

But, if the light rail was extended ½ mile to the west and north, it would terminate at the NJT’s Watsessing Station on the Montclair Line in Bloomfield. Now there would be an obvious west end connection to Montclair, Montclair State University (MSU), Wayne, Dover and Hacketstown. And for the people in those communities they have an alternative route to jobs in Bloomfield. The area around the Watsessing station still retains the early 20th century buildings. These are mixed use building with commercial on the lower levels and apartments above. The area has several antique stores, botegas, fitness centers, restaurants, and there is a Home Depot just three blocks north. Next, by adding a station just after crossing Bloomfield the extension could provide a connection with all the new housing that is being built at the intersection of Bloomfield and Watsessing. Behind that is another vacant brownfield bounded by MacArthur and Arlington that would be perfect for Transit Village styled apartments or condominiums or cooperatives. And finally, it would cross Bloomfield Avenue at grade providing an announcement: HERE IT IS!

It’s also time to start think about where we would like the Newark Subway to go.

The original plan from the 1920s was to use it as a super transit-way to connect Newark and Paterson off of the city streets. That vision is still possible with the underutilized and abandoned rail lines that still exist. The West Orange line is intact in the east almost all the way to Secaucus. And the right-of-way is undeveloped all the way to West Orange. Next, there is an under-utilized line that runs from the North side of Newark through Belleville, Nutley, the Highway 3 commercial area of Clifton, to downtown Paterson. It intersects with the aforementioned West Orange line. An “easy” and useful extension would be to run some of the trains east from the Branch Brook Park Station to the Newark line located just a block east of Washington Avenue in Belleville. The line would then turn north paralleling the Washington Avenue supporting that main-street commercial district. At Avondale the line would turn NW to bisect Nutley and give them rail transportation options. It would continue to Clifton’s Highway 3 Commercial strip and on to a terminus at the Paterson train station downtown. In Paterson, the line would connect directly with NJT’s Main Line allowing for connections all the way north to Port Jervis and south to NYC.

Finally, there is real utility in returning light rail trams to the city streets in Newark. Buses are very useful but if I pointed out a random bus, could you tell me where it is going? How about if it wasn’t present when I asked? But a light rail system announces its presence with its infrastructure. You KNOW that there is a trolley the runs on this path because you see the rails in place. It states that the city has invested in that area and that attracts businesses large and small. They know that their workers and clients can get to their business and not have to worry about parking.

When I travelled to Europe, the light rail systems I used were visible examples of civic pride. They were an investment in the community that all ages and abilities could access and enjoy. The large trams were structured to carry bicycles enhancing the utility of the bicycle. It wasn’t just ride and park, it was ride, ride, ride! (bicycle, tram, bicycle).

The trams helped complete the streets.

Let us complete the streets Essex!

by Charles Sontag, PhD

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.

I live in the neighborhood  of Halcyon Park. When my partner Charles and I decided to buy a home in New Jersey we looked for four things:

*Diversity
*Proximity to public transit
*Bikability
*Complete Streets resolution

The Halcyon Park neighborhood of Bloomfield has all four.

What Are Complete Streets? Walking a few blocks to a local restaurant along a busy thoroughfare with narrow sidewalks, nonexistent crosswalks and a generally unwelcoming environment can be daunting. Unfortunately, this is a common situation for many residents nationwide. Complete streets can help resolve such problems by integrating the needs of all transportation users into one plan to create a balanced, multi-faceted transportation system. Because streets often are built with only cars in mind, they may not meet the needs of residents who want to use alternative transportation.  (Shinkle, 2007)

Halcyon Park is a two minute walk from the NJ light rail (two trains away from NY) and a 20 minute walk from the Watsessing (one train away from NY) NJ heavy rail.  Within the neighborhood there is also a great park, calm streets and wonderful people.

Have you ever went bike riding in Halcyon Park? It is wonderful. You can cycle regardless of age or ability. You can ride your bike slowly and look at the great scenery. You can do this, because the narrow roads and one way streets forces people in cars to drive no faster than 15 mph and even better, it encourages people to walk if they are going a short distance. It is much more pleasant to walk by the pond on the way to the grocery store than it is to try to drive through the neighborhood.

When people come to visit me and my partner they don’t want to just tour our home, they want to tour our neighborhood. The streets in Halcyon Park make you want to walk. We walk visitors up the winding calm streets, we look at the cute little houses, the trees and then we typically end up at the Halcyon Park Pond, which even during these cold winter months (I am originally from Los Angeles, 50 degrees is freezing) always has a visitor or two.

In Halcyon Park children play in the streets, bicyclists leisurely stroll around the community and the middle aged and the seniors do their walking exercises.

Activities that many other have to get in their car and drive to do, here in Halcyon Park we just walk, play and cycle through our community, because our streets are great examples of some aspects of Complete Streets.

Halcyon Park streets are perfect for walking and cycling. Halcyon Park’s streets are perfect for joining together a community.

Halcyon Park streets are perfect for people and awful for cars and those are both great things.

by Teka-Lark Lo