ben lucarelli 1 061612Mayor Ben Lucarelli heads to D.C. this week to sharpen his biker-and-pedestrian safety campaign. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


HOT-TOPIC_03Anyone who’s heard Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli talk about biking safety knows it’s an issue he’s passionate about.

And listening to him talk about the biking-and-walking safety program he’s attending in Washington, D.C., this week, you’d think he was charging down to the capitol on two wheels.

“I would, if I had the time,” Lucarelli told redbankgreen on Tuesday.

Lucarelli is attending a seminar as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets in which his town is participating. His goal is to pick up some pointers from transportation experts on how to make safe, regional bike lanes a reality.

It’s an issue that hits home. Fair Haven has seen two roadway deaths of bikers in recent years, including that of borough Councilman Jerome Koch in November. The other, of Shrewsbury resident Cole Porter, occurred during a 2013 bike race in which Lucarelli was a participant.

In recent months, Lucarelli has been at the forefront of an effort to create bike lanes from the Red Bank train station to Sea Bright.

“We’re hoping to carry it across the two-river area,” he said, noting that the planned repaving and restriping of Route 36 from the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge to the Monmouth Beach border will include markings for bike lanes. Lucarelli was in the audience when the Sea Bright borough council approved that plan.

New Jersey, Monmouth County and many towns having adopted a Complete Streets approach, which advocates for roadway improvements that benefit all users, not merely motorists. But even where there’s support at the policymaking level, as with the Complete Streets adoptions, pro-bike and pro-pedestrian efforts can stall over technical issues, he said.

The aim of the DOT program, led by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, is “to get out in front of” technical objections and be ready to offer workable solutions, said Lucarelli.

“The biggest problem wherever you go is bureaucratic resistance,” he said.

For example, engineers might say that a “pinch point” in a roadway that’s less than 30 feet wide might not be able to accommodate two vehicle lanes 11 feet wide as well as bike lanes feet wide.  One solution might include the use of a road “sharrow” and signage to alert motorists that, despite the road narrowing, there may still be bikers out.

“Engineers will point to all the reasons you can’t do something,” Lucarelli said.

One of his goals for 2016 is to see bike lanes installed along stretches of Rumson Road and Ridge Road when they’re repaved by Monmouth County, Lucarelli said.