Hoboken City Council Approves Resolution for Traffic Engineer to Reassess Bike Lanes on Washington Street

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This time next year, Hoboken residents may see bike lanes on Washington Street looking a whole lot different. This past Wednesday {November 4th}, during a Hoboken City Council meeting, the Council approved a resolution urging the Ravi Bhalla administration to reassess the bike lanes on Washington Street. This now means the Council OK’d the services of a traffic engineer to make the lanes more protected and separated. 

The specific bike lane approval on the 849-page meeting agenda for November 4th stated, “that the traffic engineer should consider various options on how using paint, poles, or other ‘quick build’ materials and methods, protected, and separated bike lanes could be incorporated into a protected and separated bike lane design to minimize the costs of such a project as well as to minimize the length of time such a project would take to complete and to minimize the potential disruption to Washington Street traffic patterns while implementing and constructing the project and share a report with Mayor Bhalla, Mayor Bhalla’s Administration, and the City Council including the cost estimates for such a project in said report.”

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Hoboken Council members Phil Cohen and Emily Jabbour released a public statement in regards to the approval: “The COVID-19 pandemic and the experience of the State of Emergency make clear that the businesses on Washington Street seek increased foot traffic to support their businesses. Introducing protected and separated bike lanes have boosted businesses and revitalized commercial districts throughout the country. The recent introduction of enhanced outdoor dining and business spaces on streets and sidewalks also show us how separated bike lanes will safely allow bikers of all ages and abilities to travel on Washington Street without competing with trucks, cars, and NJ Transit busses keeping cyclists off sidewalks and allowing increased accessibility to Hoboken businesses for customers using motorized wheelchairs or other mobility devices.”

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They further added, “We hope that next year we will see a traffic engineer’s report addressing the feasibility of a Washington Street redesign with an eye to minimizing the length of time and disruption to our Washington Street traffic patterns during any future construction work and estimating the costs of those designs. Then, Mayor Bhalla and the City Council will be able to better assess the costs associated with protecting the safety of our cyclists and pedestrians, furthering the City’s Vision Zero goals of eliminating all traffic-related injuries and deaths by 2030, and realizing the City’s Climate Action Plan goals.” 

While some Council members, like Cohen and Jabbour, were in agreement with the redesign, it didn’t sit so well with others like Hoboken’s 3rd Ward Councilman Dr. Michael Russo.

“I totally disagree with it. I think we’re going back to a point where, I said it then, and I’ll say it again, Washington Street I don’t think is appropriate for protected bike lanes. I think there’s just too much stuff going on there, it’s not a multi-laned street like Jersey City or New York where you see a lot of protected bike lanes,” Russo explained in the meeting, while also arguing that he couldn’t rationalize spending the money unless the city suddenly came across “a few hundred million dollars in the budget.”

The measure ultimately passed 6-3 {Russo, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, and Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco all voted against it}.

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Efforts to redesign the bike lanes began in February 2016 when a crowd of people attended a meeting urging a change to take place. At the time, former Mayor Dawn Zimmer stated, “Washington Street is a great street—it is the heart of our city and home to many great businesses, however, it also has a number of challenges. The unfortunate reality is that it is also the most dangerous corridor in Hoboken with more than 300 crashes in the past three years. There were 20 pedestrians struck by cars, and sadly we lost a Hoboken senior who was crossing Washington Street last year.”

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Thus, the result of the meeting brought about the Class II “non-protected” bike lanes design used today. After that, a second Washington Street Redesign, made possible by the contractor Underground Utilities Corporation, was initiated in February 2019 and finished in the spring. A press release revealed last year, “The Washington Street Project, including the installation of pedestrian countdown timers, curb extensions, electrical work, and more is scheduled to continue over the coming months. The project is 95% complete on Washington Street between Observer Highway and 11th Street. Paving of Washington Street between 11th and 15th Street will resume in the spring.”

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“As someone who commutes to Manhattan by bicycle for work every day in normal times, I understand better than most the importance of protected bike lanes. The current design of Washington Street has approved four years ago with input from small business owners who feared their operations would be severely impacted. Now, with restaurants utilizing parklettes to survive the pandemic, there are even more stakeholders involved to ensure our streets are shared responsibly by everyone,” Hoboken Councilman Mike DeFusco shared exclusively with Hoboken Girl. “I’m all for identifying ways to make our streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, but this resolution lacks any kind of plan or funding to even execute a study. While I have concerns that this could be nothing more than politics in action in Hoboken, I’m hopeful we can work collaboratively to assess the functionality of our street designs without straining taxpayers or our municipal budget.”

Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher also chimed in. She told Hoboken Girl, I’m fully supportive of taking a relook of Washington Street from a safety standpoint and looking at what works, like the new pedestrian and traffic lights, and what doesn’t. While my position hasn’t changed that protected bike lanes cannot fit safely on Washington St., I’m always open to hearing about ways we can make further safety improvements.”

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After landing her dream job as a reporter for In Touch Weekly and Life & Style Weekly, Diana moved to The Heights in 2014 and has been living in Jersey City since then. Diana enjoys riding her bike at Lincoln Park and taking fitness classes in the downtown area in her free time. She loves binging reality TV shows, dining out and grabbing drinks with friends, and traveling to new places. Her work has led her to meet and interview celebrities as well as attend exclusive events and premieres in New York City. But at the end of the day, what she enjoys the most is cuddling up with her newly adopted kitten, Chloe.