SEA BRIGHT MULLS MORE BACK-IN PARKING

BETTER NEXT TIME on Make A GifA motorist attempts to park in a reverse-angle space in Sea Bright last June. Mike Dannemiller, below left, addresses the council Thursday morning. (Photos by John T. Ward)

By JOHN T. WARD

sb council 011515Hoping to piggyback on a plan by the state to repave the town’s main drag in coming weeks, Sea Bright officials gave informal approval Thursday to the creation of bike lanes on Ocean Avenue.

They stopped just short, however, of doing the same for a proposal to expand the new-to-Monmouth County use of reverse-angle parking.

Last June, Sea Bright became the first town in the county to give reverse-angle parking a try. Also known as back-in and head-out parking, the method requires a motorist to back into a slot at a 45-degree angle to the curb.

Reverse-angle parking has been adopted in numerous cities because, advocates say, it’s safer than parallel parking both for motorists and pedestrians.

Sea Bright eased into the concept with a pilot program consisting of eight curbside spaces in front of the Ocean Avenue supermarket. The idea at the time, baked into the town’s “20/20” plan, was to later expand the concept elsewhere in the borough.

At a workshop meeting of the council Thursday morning, town officials hoped to accelerate the program by having the state Department of Transportation create additional angled spaces when it re-stripes most of Route 36 – Ocean Avenue – following a repaving project.

Mike Dannemiller, a biking and pedestrian safety consultant to the DOT, said the time was right for both back-in parking and the bike lanes, as the Ocean Avenue is about to become “a clean canvas.” And the agency is on board with the borough’s request, he said.

Following the installation of a new water main, the DOT plans to repave Ocean Avenue from the Monmouth Beach border to the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge, officials said. The bike lanes, however, would extend to the town’s northern end, at Sandy Hook.

On the southbound side of the highway, where most of the town’s businesses are located, back-in parking would yield 41 spaces where there are now 34, Dannemiller said. Overall, however, the number of spaces outside the municipal lot would be reduced slightly, he said.

Linda Richter, a borough resident and trauma nurse who spearheaded the change as a safety measure both for motorists and pedestrians, told redbankgreen she has about 100 signatures, including many from business owners, on a petition in support of the parking plan.

There is some opposition, she acknowledged, over the reduction in parking spaces. “Also, some people think they can’t do it,” she said, though advocates maintain it’s easier and safer than parallel parking.

Mayor Dina Long and members of the borough council appeared largely supportive, though Long said she wanted to be sure there was buy-in from the business community. She asked that Businesses of Sea Bright and other interested groups discuss the matter and bring their concerns and questions to the February 3 council meeting before the town gives the DOT a green light.

Councilman Jack Keeler, however, voiced concern that the back-in system would aggravate motorists commuting through town.

“Commuters want to get through,” he said.

Dannemiller, however, said the change would have no impact on roadway capacity, and slowing down traffic is one of the aims of the project.

Less controversial was the plan to stripe the roadway for bike lanes, though questions arose about the width of the lanes on Ocean Avenue north of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge. Dannemiller said that while the optimum width of a bike lane was five feet or greater, that stretch of roadway could only accommodate four feet in each direction.

“There’s a slight narrowing” of the lanes north of the bridge, he said. “You make things a little tighter, people will drive a little more slowly. We’re working with the existing infrastructure.”

Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli, who has been lobbying for uninterrupted bike lanes from the Red Bank train station to the oceanfront community, was in the audience to show his support.