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CAPE MAY – This city’s answer to its traffic congestion is promoting and supporting pedestrians and bicyclists who seek to navigate the resort while leaving the car behind.

Traversing the city on foot or bike reduces traffic, promotes a healthy lifestyle, and provides a different way for visitors to experience the city’s amenities.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee provided an update to City Council Nov. 6 concerning plans for encouraging supporting visitors who want to leave the car parked.

Some of those plans call on the city to take action on what engineers call “traffic calming,” steps that lead to a reduction in speed in designated areas.

Council also heard from city Engineer Thomas Thornton on the results of a traffic study done on Pennsylvania Avenue from Pittsburgh Avenue to the gates of the Coast Guard Training Center.

Prompting the study were concerns about excessive speed in the area, which is home to a large number of children whose parent or parents are Coast Guard personnel. 

Representatives from the center urged the city to do whatever is necessary to improve safety on that stretch of roadway.

Committee Plans, Recommendations

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, chaired by ex-council member William Murray, is concerned with promoting and supporting those who want to experience the city on foot or bicycle and with the safety of those individuals.

One concept being explored is the development of short bike safety videos which could be displayed at locations that rent bicycles.

Committee members felt that videos would more likely reach people and commend their momentary attention than would a printed safety manual.

In today’s digital world, videos could be available as downloads to smartphones.

The committee may also seek modest financial support from the city for the publication of maps displaying the best routes and potentially promoting stop-off points along those routes.

It would not take long for a printed map to migrate to an always-available digital display.

Bicycle paths are also a concern for the committee. Members want to promote better signage along bike paths, reduce maximum traffic speeds in select areas and continue the work already underway to extend the city bike paths.

Plans for a bike path from the Coast Guard Training Center to the elementary school are being designed. 

The committee update said that construction would probably begin in the fall of 2018, with a goal of completing the path by the start of the following school year.

Council members were encouraged to visit Lewes, Del. as an example of a tourist destination that has done a good job of supporting pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

The committee would like the city to join the League of American Bicyclists and eventually complete the checklist for designation by that national organization as a Bicycle Friendly Community. 

Only six communities in New Jersey have that designation, including Ocean City.

Safety is a major concern of the committee, and members urged council to look seriously at the tendency of cars to drive too fast on Pittsburgh Avenue. The wide road seems to invite drivers to speed.

Traffic Calming

The concern for excessive speed on Pittsburgh Avenue tied in with the report Thornton gave on the results of a traffic study done in response to concerns raised about similar problems on another wide road, Pennsylvania Avenue, from the intersection with Pittsburgh to the Coast Guard Training Center.

The area of Pennsylvania Avenue under discussion is part of Coast Guard housing where the majority of the children live that attend the city elementary school.

Mixing large numbers of children with a wide road, coupled with a tendency for cars to exceed the speed limit, is a bad combination, he noted.

Thornton said that the study did not support the anecdotal evidence of speeding on the road.

“On average the study found that 85 percent of drivers exceeded the speed limit by about five miles per hour,” he said. Concerns about fast traffic are strong among families in the area.

Options

Thornton presented three options for council’s consideration, all of which involved some form of median that reduces the perceived width of the road and should have a calming effect on traffic.

The most intensive and expensive option involves a grassy, raised median, six inches high and 10 feet wide, which reduces the traffic lanes each way. One lane in each direction would have 10 feet of roadway with five feet reserved for a bike lane and another 10 feet for parking. The option would likely cost around $500,000.

The mid-range option would have a more modest median but would still reduce the road to a 10-foot lane in each direction at the cost of $234,000.

Finally, for about $73,000 the city could implement striping, in effect, a 10-foot striped median, rather than a raised median. It was noted that striping alone does not always have the desired effect.

At no point in the discussion of traffic calming, speed limits and pedestrian and bike safety did the council ask to hear from police.

As the committee continues its work and the council ponders the traffic calming options for Pennsylvania Avenue, it became clear that a great deal is involved in making a city friendly to those who wish to travel outside of an automobile.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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