Under the plan, both sides of River Road between Lake Avenue and Hance Road would be marked with bike lanes; sharrows would be painted from Hance east to the Rumson border. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
[See CORRECTION below]
By JOHN T. WARD
Mayor Ben Lucarelli was forced to break a tie when three council members balked at approving share-the-road markings through the River Road business district.
As outlined by borough Engineer Rich Gardella during a council workshop session July 13, designated bike lanes would run between Lake Avenue and Hance Road, where there’s sufficient width for them in both directions. Though parking is allowed on the north side of the street, it’s infrequently used, Gardella said.
From Hance to Buena Vista Avenue, at the Rumson border, “share the road” sharrows would be painted on the roadway, rather than dedicated bike lanes, Gardella said.
Monmouth County, which has jurisdiction over the road, is planning to repave it, with a bid request expected this week, Gardella said. The borough would pay only for half of the cost of striping and signage for the bike lane and roadshare, or an estimated $19,000, he said.
The proposal came recommended by a pedestrian and bike safety committee appointed last fall that included residents John McCormick, who Lucarelli said is a “nationally recognized complete streets engineer,” and Gail O’Reilly, who previously worked with the borough in getting bikes lanes installed on Ridge Road through Fair Haven and Rumson.
The council was asked to approve the plan for submission to the county. In addition, the county wants the borough to prohibit parking between Lake and Hance, Gardella said.
But Councilwoman Betsy Koch said she had “serious concerns about safety” about running the share-the-road through the business district, particularly on the north side of River Road, where parking is allowed.
“It looks to me to be a recipe for disaster,” said Koch, whose late husband, Councilman Jerome Koch, died after he was struck by a vehicle while cycling on River Road in November, 2014.
“Right now, it’s difficult to get in and out of your car, with passing motorists,” she said. “By adding cyclists, encouraging cyclists int to that mix, it looks to me that it could be a very busy situation.”
Gardella said that had been taken into account, and that parking stall widths would be reduced to seven feet, from eight, increasing road lane widths, “so you get a little more area.” He said the plan was drawn in accordance with federal design standards.
Councilman Chris Rodriguez said the plan “will give riders more visibility.”
But Koch said she has not been able “to find any compelling reasons that the sharrow is a good idea” in that stretch of roadway.
Lucarelli, a cyclist, said there’s a “substantial body of evidence that it calms traffic and reduces accidents.”
Councilman Jim Banahan said he would prefer to encourage cyclists to bypass the business district by using Third Street.
“As an experienced cyclist, I’d avoid it,” he said of the business district.
Lucarelli told the council that not to move forward with the proposal “would be going against the active transportation plan” incorporated into the Master Plan in 2017.
With Councilwoman Susan Sorensen absent, the motion to move ahead with the plan drew yes votes from Rodriguez and Mike McCue; no votes from Banahan and Koch; and an abstention from Meghan Chrisner-Keefe. That left it Lucarelli to break the tie, and he cast what he called an “enthusiastic yes.” [Correction: the original version of this post inadvertently dropped the word “absent” following mention of Councilwoman Sorensen. redbankgreen regrets the error.]
“Hopefully we can dissuade you from your current positions, because not to do so would change the course we’ve been on for nigh a decade,” he said.
During the public comment session that followed the vote, River Road resident Susan O’Brien opposed the lane through the business district. “You’re taking road space, essentially,” she said.
“We’re not taking the road,” said Lucarelli, himself a cyclist. “The cyclists are already there. What we’re looking to do is to bring order and awareness and safety to a condition that already exists.”
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