WESTFIELD, NJ — With the pandemic prompting a rise in bicycle riding, the town on Sunday tested out a bike lane on Prospect Street.
For four hours, the lane demarcated with cones stretched for about a quarter mile from Lincoln Road to Dudley Avenue. Referred to by organizers as a “pop-up,” the trial bike lane is one measure in a series the municipality is taking as it attempts to make its roads safer for cyclists.
“We’re going to learn today,” said Councilman David Contract, liaison to the Westfield Green Team, which organized the initiative. “There have been a couple of people who have used this, and our hope is that more people do so that we can get people’s opinions about it — what do they like and what could be done better.”
Organizers timed the test lane in coordination with a food tasting walk, or “Foodie Stroll,” spearheaded by Downtown Westfield Corp. on Sunday. By 12:30 p.m., a half-an-hour into the initiative, Prospect Street resident Art Mason already had some thoughts on the bike lane.
Mason said he saw three riders traveling inside the lane, one rider weaving in and out of the cones and as he was speaking with this reporter, another rider passed by riding outside the lane. With the cones close to the curb line, Mason said, his main concern was the potential for riders to get caught in a nearby sewer grate.
“What happens if someone has an accident on the grating — the sewer grating?” he asked.
Jay Goldring, who heads up the Green Team’s transportation committee, said the team would be surveying residents and bicyclists after the test of the bike lane.
Goldring said that with an actual bike lane sewer grates could be marked off with paint on the pavement. And the parking restrictions that came with the test lane, he said, did not appear to be a significant issue.
“The other side of the street is also very sparsely parked today, so it looks to me like there isn’t a major parking issue,” Goldring said. “But we want to get that from the residents directly.”
Sunday’s event follows a program last month during which young bicyclists rewarded riders for wearing helmets, and the police department gave away helmets to children they found not wearing them. It also follows a grant-funded bicycle and pedestrian study the town commissioned last year, which recommends a series of bike lanes throughout the town.
On Sunday, the Green Team also provided a “bike corral” in the parking lot behind Chipolte Mexican Grill for bicycle parking in during the foodie stroll.
Contract said that having additional bike parking in the downtown could encourage bicycling — something the Green Team volunteers learned through the setup of the bike corral.
“If you’re not willing to test and learn, then you can get easily stuck in place,” Contract said. “So we have to try different things — see what people think, see what they like, see what they don’t like and that gives us insight into how we move the town forward.”
Email Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @MattKadosh
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