The city is currently in the process of implementing new bike lanes and facilities in an effort to free up parking, lessen traffic, and make the streets safer.
Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs said that the city will continue to make the streets more bike-friendly following the success of the bicycle lanes that were placed on Madison and Grand Streets roughly four years ago.
“There’s more and more people that are choosing to bike,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer, stressing the positive impact of the trend. “It’s a very convenient way to get around and we’re trying to make it even more convenient to have a bike.”
“I am really committed to making sure Hoboken is bicycle friendly,” added Zimmer.
“We are taking a very aggressive and proactive approach toward pedestrian and bicycle safety and the community is reaping the awards of that.”– Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs
This week, the city will convert a side of Clinton Street into a class two bike lane, which will stretch the entire distance of the square-mile town. When Clinton Street’s lane is completed, the city will continue to convert the city’s roads until the majority fall into a class one, two, or three categorization.
Sacs said that many of the remaining wider, north-to-south streets such as Clinton will have class two lanes. The more narrow roads found on the east-to-west numbered streets will eventually become “sharrows.”
The city’s move toward a more bike-friendly community is evident in its placement of a bike repair station near the PATH, as well as more racks for bike parking.
According to city spokesperson Juan Melli, the city’s bike parking capacity has increased from 666 to over 1,000 in the past three years. The city also nearly doubled the amount of bike racks near the Hoboken Terminal in the same amount of time.
Sacs said that a large benefit of the city’s initiative will be the impact it has on the lack of parking in the area.
“Every time that someone chooses to get on a bicycle to get from one place to another, there’s a good chance they didn’t choose to take a car,” said Sacs. “As that happens, the amount of traffic on the street drops, and the amount of parking spaces that are occupied drop as well.”
“It all plugs into this larger objective of addressing the parking plans in Hoboken,” Sacs continued, “as well as improving the traffic conditions.”
Sacs and Zimmer also stressed the impact the bike lanes will have on public safety. Sacs said that class two and three bike lanes can narrow roads and force vehicles to share roads, respectively, which in turn causes drivers to travel slower.
“The fundamental argument for why we should start using bike lanes was that not only would we be encouraging bicycling,” said Sacs, “but we would also be calming traffic.”
Melli said that the implementation of the bike lanes on Madison and Grand streets caused an average four mile per hour reduction over time.
“We are taking a very aggressive and proactive approach toward pedestrian and bicycle safety,” said Sacs, “and the community is reaping the awards of that.”
Sacs said that in the past two years, collisions between bike and vehicles are down 60 percent; collisions between vehicles and pedestrians are down 30 percent.
“We want to make sure the streets are safe and convenient,” said Zimmer. “This is about bicyclists, cars, and pedestrians being able to safely use the streets.”
“If you’re clever about roadway design,” Sacs said, “you can improve conditions for drivers at the same time you [improve it] for pedestrians and bicycles.”
Sacs also said had to step up enforcement to prevent vehicles from parking within 25 feet of a crosswalk, which can obstruct the view of motorists and pedestrians, thereby creating an increased potential for an accident.
“Before Mayor Zimmer’s administration, the city did very little to enforce the state law of parking within 25 feet of a sidewalk,” said Sacs. “In Hoboken, where pedestrian volumes are so high, and we’re trying to foster more bicycling to reduce traffic and parking demand, it’s actually critical that we’re vigilant on enforcing the rules.”
According to Sacs, the city began placing poles, at the cost of roughly $40, within the 25 foot space cars would sometimes illegally occupy.
“Hoboken has kind of set a trend for that safety measure,” said Sacs, adding that other cities and municipalities were adopting the system. “It’s a way of having a dramatic impact on safety conditions at a very low cost.”
Officials announced their intention to create a green “band,” or “loop” around the city. According to officials, the “band” would be a connecting the green bike lanes and pedestrian walkways around the perimeter of the entire city, similar to facilities currently present on Sinatra Drive.
In an effort to convert Observer Highway to meet the guidelines of the green “band,” officials announced their intention to make safety improvements to the street.
“For decades, Observer Highway has traditionally been in a very industrial area of the city,” said Sacs. “The primary focus has been to get cars in and out of Hoboken.”
“That’s still a very important need, continued Sacs. “But what we’ve seen over the past ten to 15 years is a significant increase and pedestrian and bicycle activity on that roadway as well.”
Sacs said that a class one bike lane and pedestrian walkway will be implemented on the road. In turn, the street will become “Observer Boulevard.”
Zimmer also announced the city’s plans to create a “bike sharing” program in which residents and visitors can pay both a monthly and annual fee to a private company in order to temporarily rent bikes at their convenience.
“It’s something that we’ve been working with the county on,” said Zimmer, adding that Hoboken will serve as the test area before the county decides to apply it to other towns in the area.
Zimmer said that the county will award a contract for the program later this year.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.