By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN – Borough officials are asking for the public’s help in making the community more pedestrian – and cyclist – friendly.
Thanks to a state Department of Transportation Local Technical Assistance Grant, local officials have contracted with an engineering firm to draft a study mapping out ways of ensuring Fair Haven remains safe for cyclists and pedestrians for coming generations, explained Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli.
He envisions the eventual master plan for this issue to be a “50-year, multigenerational document.”
“The reason for this plan,” Lucarelli said this week, “is for the next governing body, when they go to pave the road, they’ll know what it is they should do. They won’t have to reinvent the wheel,” and may be able to have additional bicycle lanes and shared road stenciling put in place on the roadways following future repaving.
The Department of Transportation’s grant will go directly to pay Parsons Brinckerhoff Engineering Services, New York City, to do the research and write the final report detailing what can be done for all of the borough roadways to improve them for multiple uses and not just motor vehicles. The public can go to the borough website, fairhavennj.org, where they can find more information about the study, a fact sheet, access to an online, interactive map, as well as the opportunity to offer comments for the final study. Lucarelli has formed a committee to collaborate with the engineering firm. The committee, he said, consists of “this tremendous talent” of borough residents like Gail O’Reilly, who has experience working in municipal governments; Tracy Challenger Cole, whose background is as a professional planner and with commercial downtown development experience; and John McCormick, a traffic engineer. “It’s really cool, the talent we have here,” Lucarelli observed.
Fair Haven has long been a bicycle-centric community. Just visiting the borough’s two public schools, Viola L. Sickles Elementary School, Willow Street, and Knollwood School, Hance Road, for middle graders, you will see racks in front of the buildings jammed-packed with students’ bikes, used to get them back and forth from school. The borough doesn’t offer student busing. The borough on school days closes Third Street to traffic for part of the day to allow kids to make their way to and from school. And on weather-appropriate weekends a common sight is whole families out on their bikes for recreation or even running errands.
Lucarelli has long been a cycling enthusiast and had aggressively lobbied to have the county government install bicycle lanes on some county roads as the roads were repaved and lined, which the county did do last year.
But, Lucarelli did point out there are other steps that need to be taken to help make it a safer environment. In recent years there was a traffic/cycling fatality on River Road, in the borough’s business district, which isn’t lined for bike lanes.
Fair Haven’s bicycle-friendly culture has contributed to the community’s attractiveness, Lucarelli said, continuing to attract new homeowners and businesses.
Cyndi Steiner, executive director of the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition, believes “it’s something more towns should pursue.” Establishing a long-term plan to share roadways has multiple benefits, including improving safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, she said. But, Steiner continued, it has positive effects in less direct ways, such as on the local economy. “Businesses are usually very happy,” she said, “because people on bikes, people walking, spend money,” and don’t have to worry about parking.
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