fh bike lane 121215Both a bicyclist and an approaching a jogger appeared shy recently about using a new bike lane on the Little Silver side of Harding Road, seen here from Tower Hill in Red Bank. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


HOT-TOPIC_03To go along with their shiny new Christmas bikes, cyclists on the Greater Red Bank Green have a new riding course: 2.8 miles of freshly minted  bike lanes through Rumson and Fair Haven.

Marked with share-the-road “sharrow” icons, heavy white lines and signage, the lanes call attention to the presence of bikers in an effort to improve safety, says Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli, who advocated for them.

fh bike lane 120815A view of the westbound bike lane from Kemp Avenue. Below, Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl and Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli. (Photo above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

ekdahl lucarelli 120515Lucarelli, who’s quick to note that the lanes are also for use by walkers and runners, said he was gratified recently to see a friend jogging in a new lane with a “huge grin on his face,” and doing so as safety experts advise: toward oncoming traffic. Cyclists, he notes, should always travel with traffic.

“I’m also seeing all sorts of people riding their bikes, not just the ‘mamils’ — middle-aged men in lycra,” he said.

The lanes are “supposed to give you a level of comfort” as a biker or pedestrian, Lucarelli said. The rights and obligations of cyclists, runners and motorists “are the same as before, but it’s about better communication” so that drivers are more aware, he said.

Fair Haven has seen two roadway deaths of bikers in recent years. Shrewsbury resident Cole Porter died as a result of injuries suffer during a 2013 bike race in which Lucarelli was a participant. Borough Councilman Jerome Koch in November, 2014 when he was struck by a vehicle while cycling on River Road.

Those incidents further stoked Lucarelli’s passion for road safety. An avid cyclist, he participated earlier this year in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets to get some pointers from transportation experts on how to make safe, regional bike lanes a reality.

The lane markings are on both sides of the roads from the intersection of Alderbrook and Harding roads east to Ridge Road and Buena Vista Avenue, where they continue to Rumson Road. There, the lanes run to and from the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge over the Shrewsbury River.

To allow for the bike lanes, motor vehicles lanes have been narrowed from 12 feet wide to 11, which is expected to slow traffic. That opened up enough shoulder width for the three-foot-wide bike lanes in most places, said Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl.

But not everywhere. The bike lanes briefly vanish along Rumson’s Meadowridge Park because of road-width issues: there’s only two feet there, said Ekdahl, and lawyers warned of a liability issue if the bike lanes were marked there. But they’re implied, he said.

The project was the first to “break the dam” of resistance by Monmouth County officials over costs, said Lucarelli. In addition, “the county had no interest in marking old roads, but we convinced them to do ‘new’ roads as they paved them,” Ekdahl said, and Ridge and Rumson were both due for new asphalt.

Rumson and Fair Haven shared in the estimated $49,000 cost of the markings with the county.

“We told the county we needed to be leaders, not followers,” Ekdahl said. “It took a while for that to sink in.”

Next, the state Department of Transportation plans to extend the route through Sea Bright, both north to Sandy Hook and south through Monmouth Beach, when it repaves Route 36/Ocean Avenue early in 2016. Local officials hope to eventually loop the bike lanes through Oceanport, Little Silver, Shrewsbury and Red Bank to complete a circuit.

In addition, the state plans to install bike lanes along Route 35 from Ocean Township through Red Bank when it repaves the highway next year, Ekdahl said.

Fair Haven is now working on a comprehensive bike-and-pedestrian plan that Lucarelli hopes will lead to additional lanes throughout the borough, which has an unusually large number of children who travel to and from school by bike.

Lucarelli said Fair Haven was letting homeowners and landscapers working along the route know that, by borough ordinance, they may not block the lane with leaves, brush or trash.