New Jersey working to become more bike-friendly
Many towns in New Jersey are working on projects to improve bicycle and pedestrian access, but the state is still slipping in the rankings of bike-friendly states, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
In 2008, the Garden State was in the number five spot, falling to the number 12 spot in 2014. This year, New Jersey is the 11th most bike-friendly state in the nation. While, the state moved up in the rankings, experts say there is still work to be done.
"What holds New Jersey back is that it has a lower than average percentage of people who get to work by bike," said Ken McLeod, legal and policy specialist with the League of American Bicyclists. "When we're looking at baseline statistics based on federal data that we have, New Jersey is currently ranked higher than where it would be placed if we simply went by how many people are biking to work, what we know about how safe and/or dangerous it is to ride in New Jersey and federal data we have on how the state spends money on biking and walking facilities. All those things would place New Jersey lower, but the state does have great programming that makes it rank higher."
One such program is the State Department of Transportation's "Complete Streets" program which requires that future roadway improvement projects include safe accommodations for all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders and the mobility-impaired.
What can New Jersey do to improve its ranking?
- Adopt a safe-passing law with a minimum distance of three feet;
- Spend more federal funding on bicyclists and pedestrians;
- Reduce bicycle fatalities.
"At this point, most states have adopted some sort of law that sets a defined distance when passing. New Jersey hasn't yet," McLeod said. "In 2010, New Jersey spent 2.3 percent of federal transportation dollars on bicyclists and pedestrians and it's been far less than that since then, so that's another area where New Jersey needs improvement."
While bike fatalities were down 16 percent in New Jersey from 2010 to 2012, the state is still the 18th worst in the nation for bike fatalities.
"We're urging all states to adopt standards that would reduce bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. Right now there is a federal rule that is proposed and will hopefully be finalized soon, about what those standards should look like. But, we're also pushing for every state to get ahead of that and adopt their own performance measures right now to commit themselves to lowering bicycle and pedestrian fatalities." McLeod said.
The top five most bike-friendly states, according to the report, are Washington, Minnesota, Delaware, Massachusetts and Utah. Alabama is the least bike-friendly state.