On May 5, 2020, the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council’s Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee organized a virtual meeting to discuss ongoing efforts to improve bicycle and pedestrian access through the stay-at-home order issued as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the Committee included representatives from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), NJ Transit, New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), Rutgers’ Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC), Union County Bureau of Transportation Planning, Municipality of Princeton, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Cross County Connection TMA, Sam Schwartz, and NV5.
The meeting highlighted 15 ways in which local communities and transportation organizations are responding to bicycle and pedestrian needs during COVID-19, stated as follows.
DVRPC, the metropolitan planning organization for the Greater Philadelphia Region, is currently (1) analyzing trail counter data to identify changes in user volumes during COVID-19, which so far has shown a 100% increase in the usage of some trails in April compared to that in March. Additionally, typically crowded trails were found to see a flattening in volumes, while typically less crowded trails were found to have relatively higher volumes, indicating that trail users are spreading out in order to adhere to social distancing principles. Learn more about the analysis here: https://www.dvrpc.org/webmaps/PermBikePed/. In a similar effort, DVRPC is developing a new statistical method for its (2) South Eastern Pennsylvania Region Pedestrian Count Program to analyze patterns in how pedestrian usage is changing during COVID-19. More information on the project is available here: www.dvrpc.org/traffic.
In April 2020, DVRPC conducted a (3) municipal COVID-19 and technical assistance survey in order to track municipal needs and provide appropriate support. As a result of the survey, the office has released a set of example projects that illustrate potential short-term bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects that could be undertaken to provide people with safe and sufficient walking and biking space. Use this link to see the survey results: https://www.dvrpc.org/COVID19resources/.
Additionally, DVRPC is working to institute a (4) bike sharing, bike libraries and bike matching program to provide essential workers an alternative means of transportation. The program will soon launch an online application where interested users would be able to donate/request bikes. Furthermore, on May 22, 2020 at 1pm, the office will host a webinar discussing new considerations for safety protocols in bike sharing programs. Lastly, DVRPC is currently developing a (5) survey for regional rail users to understand their opinions on biking to transit during Covid-19.
The Municipality of Princeton, the governing body of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, is (6) updating and installing signage along their bicycle boulevard in response to the observed increase in the number of bicyclists and pedestrians on the streets.
Sam Schwartz, a planning and engineering firm, is contracted by the D.C. Department of Transportation to develop a (7) quick and low-cost approach to widen sidewalks in order to provide sufficient space for pedestrians to keep at a safe distance among other partnership projects, including (8) maintaining sufficient frequencies of transit services to avoid over-crowding, (9) modifying traffic patterns for drive through and in person testing centers, and (10) planning for temporary protected bike lanes and bikeshare availability.
Sam Schwartz is also working for the New York City Department of Transportation to (11) create an open streets program for the city, focusing on areas where equity, social depression, and Covid-19 issues essentially concentrate. The guide will include a screening methodology to select streets for closing streets initiatives along with various techniques to close streets, and build partnerships with residents and other local stakeholders. The current open streets plan includes 40 miles of city streets that are available daily from 8am to 8pm for pedestrians and bicyclists, which is in the process of being increased to 100 miles. Vehicle traffic is restricted to local deliveries, pick-ups/drop-offs, necessary city service vehicles, utility vehicles and emergency vehicles only during these times at a speed of 5 miles per hour or slower. See a full list of open streets at this link: https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/pedestrians/openstreets.shtml.
NJ Transit, the state transit corporation, has partnered with the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition to (12) set up a bike station with free bike racks at train stations, including the Trenton Transit Center, and is in the middle of conversations with real estate developers and other stakeholders to develop a plan for maintaining and sanitizing the proposed racks and the station.
Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit advocacy organization, is working to engage with the Trenton Health Team in order to (13) encourage neighborhood bike rides utilizing the low stress network roads in the city along with the new canal trail. The organization is currently gathering more information from people who are riding in the city, and is looking into ways to orchestrate bike giveaways without in-person interactions.
Lastly, Cross County Connection TMA, a non-profit transportation-related service provider, has plans to release a (14) South Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding Guide that will list all the types of funding opportunities that have been undertaken by South Jersey for bicycle and pedestrian projects along with tips on writing grant applications. Additionally, Cross Connection TMA is currently working with local communities providing (15) Safe Routes to School assistance focusing on educating kids on how to safely walk/bike to schools, which is in response to safety concerns associated with operating school buses with safe social distancing and sanitization measures.
Image Source: NYCDOT Teeth and Grooves by Eugenie Tun on Flickr