From quick temporary changes to roads, to finding funding for more permanent improvements to running a public education campaign, the latest Together North Jersey Institute workshop covered the various ways communities can work to improve pedestrian safety.
The half-day workshop also touched on the ways crime can impact walking in low-income and minority communities and offered an overview of national movements aimed at reducing pedestrian fatalities.
Pam Shadel Fischer, a transportation safety consultant and former director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said the Vision Zero movement, Toward Zero Deaths initiatives and Road to Zero coalition may have slightly different approaches and timeframes but they’re all working toward the same overarching goal — reaching zero roadway fatalities.
But getting to that number will take work, she said, and it means getting people to change their own behaviors and encouraging others to follow their example.
“We can do this, but we have to recognize everybody has a right to the road, but with that right comes a responsibility,” she said.
Charles Brown, senior research specialist at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, said that communities need to examine crime data when they’re considering ways to improve pedestrian safety. He said people walk where they feel safest in terms of crime, but that route may not be the safest for pedestrian travel.
Bettina Zimny, Director of Planning at NV5, Inc., gave an overview of complete streets projects, which are roadways designed for all users. She said while it can be difficult to convince local officials of the need to invest in large projects, highlighting the many benefits is one way to get support.
“The economic value alone of improving places for walking is huge,” she said.
Leigh Ann Von Hagen, senior research specialist at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, gave an overview of different funding opportunities for pedestrian-related projects, including the Transportation Alternative Program, which can be used for trail projects, and Safe Routes to School grants, which can fund improvements to help students get to and from school safely. NJDOT is accepting applications for both programs through August 24.
Communities can also use Safe Routes to School Programs to educate students about safe walking and bicycling practices, said Lisa Lee, Manager of Bike and Pedestrian Programs at EZ Ride Transportation Management Association (TMA). The TMAs give students helmets, offer safe skills bike courses, conduct crosswalk demonstrations to show children how to safely cross the street and support Street Smart NJ, the NJTPA’s statewide pedestrian safety campaign.
Will Yarzab, the Street Smart NJ coordinator, explained to attendees how to participate in Street Smart NJ, from hosting a planning meeting, to attracting volunteers, conducting education and enforcement and evaluating a campaign’s effectiveness.
Laura Torchio, deputy director of transportation initiatives at Project for Public Spaces, and Barkha Patel, senior transportation planner for the City of Jersey City, both spoke about how implementing temporary projects can help lead to more permanent changes.
Torchio encouraged attendees to “test before you invest” to see if a proposed bike lane or curb extension works best for the street the community is trying to improve.
“If your community doesn’t like it, it’s easy to undo because you’re not moving curbs, you’re just using paint,” she said.
Jersey City did just that as part of its Jersey City Pedestrian Enhancement Plan, called JC Walks, part of the NJTPA’s Subregional Studies Program.
Patel said that by using temporary paint, planters and colorful tape, the city was able to demonstrate to the community what improvements to their neighborhoods could look like. Before the demonstration projects people told her that there was no way the concepts would work, but after seeing them they wanted the city to narrow the crossing distance for pedestrians and create more pedestrian seating, among other things.
[July 17, 2018]