Whether they walked, came by car, or biked, more than 20 local cycling advocates came to Zeppelin Hall on Barrow Street on a cold night this past Tuesday to offer suggestions for making Jersey City more bicycle-friendly.
They were there for the first meeting of the new better biking/safe streets group, Bike Jersey City.
Carly Berwick, who lives with her husband and baby on the city’s West Side, was the moderator of the meeting. Berwick spoke before the meeting about why she was taking part.
“When I bike with my kid, you suddenly become alert to how difficult it is to be a bicyclist here,” Berwick said.
More than 200 signs are posted on various streets that read “BIKE ROUTE” and “SHARE THE ROAD.”
They called for the implementation of an extensive bicycle system throughout Jersey City, and a program to encourage bicycling for commuting and for recreation.
One of the major issues was the absence of bike lanes and bikeways in the city, even though there are over 200 signs posted on various streets that read “BIKE ROUTE” and “SHARE THE ROAD.”
Bikes to work every day
Daisy DeCoster, a librarian at St. Peter’s College, does the one-mile bike ride to work from her home near Journal Square and sees those signs frequently, and they concern her.
“There are too many people who will see those signs and take them literally, which can be a danger,” DeCoster said during the meeting.
Making biking a city priority
Another task is getting elected officials to pay closer attention to this issue. City planners in the past decade have studied how to incorporate bicycling into everyday traffic on different occasions, but progress has been slow.
In 2000, the city had the Transportation Policy Institute of Rutgers University prepare the Jersey City Bicycle Plan for the Jersey City Division of Planning, calling for the city to be divided into five sections with signs pointing out various biking destinations. In 2006, the Planning Board approved an amendment to the city’s master plan to include the “Jersey City Bikeway System” plan, but excluded bicycle lanes and advocated for signage.
In 2007, the city’s Department of Public Works studied whether the bikeway system could include actual bike lanes in possible locations such as Mallory Avenue, Washington Boulevard, Washington Street, Christopher Columbus Drive, and Phillip Street, all wide lane thoroughfares. But the study ran into an impasse over the possibility that parking would be eliminated to make room for bike lanes.
Bicycling enthusiast Chris Bray, a Bergen-Lafayette resident for the past five years, recalled at the meeting a conversation with Mayor Jerramiah Healy about making Jersey City more amenable to bicycle riding.
According to Bray, “[Healy] said, and this is a direct quote, ‘You bike around here, are you crazy? I want people to use public transportation.’ ”
Riding some optimism
Chris Englese, co-owner of Easy Riders JC, a bike rental and tour company, said that a bike path could be forthcoming based on a recent article in the Jersey City Reporter. That article in October addressed the $72 million extension of Jersey Avenue in downtown Jersey City. In that plan, Jersey Avenue going into Phillips Avenue in Liberty State Park would become a 36-foot wide boulevard with two travel lanes and one parking lane. Also included, a 10-foot-wide bike path would be adjacent to the travel lane on one side of the roadway and separated by a landscaped island. Construction is scheduled to start in August.
Other optimistic moments from the meeting were suggestions not just from newcomers to town, but also from veteran advocates, such as activist and former mayoral candidate Dan Levin, a longtime champion of a more bike-friendly Jersey City. Open space enthusiasts Maureen Crowley and Mike Selander also participated.
Those attending were ready to take on their assignments as part of the new group, so that they can report their progress at a next meeting tentatively scheduled for Jan. 26 at a site to be determined.
But Rodney Morweiser, co-owner of the bike shop Grove Street Bicycles, cautioned that this initiative will not bring about changes “overnight.”
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.