Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bike Lanes Bloom on Hamilton Ave (for a week)

Update: Town council will be discussing bike lanes Jan. 26, 2021 at its 7:30pm meeting. Community input encouraged. More info on the meeting and how to comment can be found on the Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee website. The post below dates from 2018.

The sun finally came out Sunday, and with it sprouted some bike lanes on Hamilton Avenue. A bit like Brigadoon--that Scottish village that comes to life for one day every 100 years--these bike lanes will last only a week, enough time for the community to fall in love with them and call for a future and more lasting return.

As serendipity would have it, I happened to be biking by during the transformation, guitar strapped to my back on the way to perform in Onstage at McCarter Theater. Two council members and a Princeton Environmental Commission member were carefully shifting the centerline over to accommodate bikelanes on either side. The street was closed while the volunteers worked, bringing a sudden sense of relaxation and freedom from the din and danger of machines. For one afternoon, while being refitted, the road wasn't serving as a climate change factory. Councilman Tim Quinn, the leading force behind this initiative, hailed me in good humor as "the Dean of Sustainability" as I rode by,

and more volunteers who had added new green bike symbols further up encouraged me to give the bikelanes a try. My usual approach to riding up Hamilton Ave is to use sidewalks when they're empty, in order to stay out of the way of cars as much as possible. A bikelane greatly simplifies the journey, with actual designated space provided for bicycles, so that people like me who want to stay out of the way of cars and pedestrians aren't having to constantly improvise a route. Significant car parking is being sacrificed while this "beta" bike lane is in existence, but for a week, until May 26 or 27, we get to enjoy and demonstrate the utility of these lanes.

Any initiative to increase the number of bike lanes in town comes up against not only cars and parking, but also leaves and brush, which get piled in streets pretty much year round and, if not timed with scheduled pickups, can sit for weeks, forcing bicyclists out into traffic.

The laudable push for bike lanes could be coordinated with a gradual shift towards containerization of leaves/brush. Supplying homeowners on busy main streets with large-capacity rollcarts to containerize their leaves/brush would be a low-cost way of beginning the shift away from the traditional loose dumping of yardwaste in the path of bicyclists, while making our streets cleaner and more attractive.

In the meantime, give the beta bikelanes a spin this week. They worked great yesterday during my bike ride to the Dinky.

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