Living in a city has many wonderful advantages. One that immediately stands out is proximity. In a city like New Brunswick, residents can easily walk or cycle across town in a relatively short time. This makes it extremely easy to commute to work, class, shopping areas, etc. However, not every city makes this easy.
New Brunswick is fascinating because for such a small city, it is extremely difficult to get around on bike. All it takes is one ride from College Avenue to Cook Campus to realize this. The short ride (about two miles) consists of heavy traffic, narrow streets and oblivious driving, making it extremely dangerous. Living and biking in the city, I have observed a few characteristics that make it extremely difficult to bike around:
The first and most obvious characteristic of New Brunswick Streets is the complete lack of bike lanes. This means cyclers must ride side by side with automobiles, who often don’t know how to share the road. This brings me to my next point: these signs do not work:
These arrows, which are all over New Brunswick, communicate to drivers that they should share the road with cyclists. In theory, this should work well. On wide roads like Central and Somerset Avenues, cars are traveling at at least 25 mph, making it impossible to “share the road” with bikes. Either the cars will have to significantly slow down to yield to bikers, or they will honk and pass, creating an unsafe situation for cyclists. There is an answer to solving this issue, and that is the creation of bike lanes.
Bike lanes solve two problems on city streets: they create narrower corridors (slowing down traffic, making it safer for bikers and pedestrians), and grants bikers their own space to travel. Not only do they create safer streets, but they also promote the use of bikes in small accessible cities like New Brunswick. Not only do bike lanes provide safer, more efficient traffic corridors, but they also help promote business and retail performance.
The good news is that New Brunswick is finally making efforts to add these lanes.
The bad news is how slow it takes, and the few bike lanes in New Brunswick are in some of the most sparsely traveled streets.
In downtown New Brunswick, particularly the area surrounding George Street from New Street to Albany Street, much of the city’s business and commerce takes place. This means high traffic and transit, and a great demand for bike lanes. Planners and policy makers are now slowly implementing bike lanes in residential areas, but where do they lead to? They end before they reach the high traffic streets where they are needed most. This delay in policy implementation is evidence of complex political, and logistical implications involved in creating these lanes. Although in some areas its as easy as painting new lines, in others, it may involve serious construction and road widening.
This difficult process, which will take years to complete, will hopefully transform New Brunswick into a much more accessible, and safer city to bike in.