2006-10-19 / Front Page

Boro aims to be more pedestrian friendly

Officials take walking tour as part of Walkable Community Workshop

Staff Writer

During the Walkable Community Workshop held on Oct. 11, many borough stakeholders took a tour of downtown Red Bank, and the group walked across Riverside Avenue from Veterans Park without a crosswalk. The tour allowed the group to pinpoint areas in town that could be more pedestrian friendly.RON TINDALL During the Walkable Community Workshop held on Oct. 11, many borough stakeholders took a tour of downtown Red Bank, and the group walked across Riverside Avenue from Veterans Park without a crosswalk. The tour allowed the group to pinpoint areas in town that could be more pedestrian friendly. Although parking and traffic problems often are at the forefront in Red Bank, a recent workshop focused on making the town more pedestrian friendly.

The Walkable Community Workshop was sponsored by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) and was hosted by Ronald J. Tindall, a planner with the NJTPA, on Oct. 11.

Mark Poltz, program manager of the Walkable Community Workshops with The National Center for Bicycling and Walking, Bethesda, Md., said that although Red Bank is a very walkable place, it could be made even more pedestrian friendly.

"Here," he said, "we have the bones of a walkable community. Now, it's just a matter of filling in the details."

Poltz said that since Americans walk less now than they used to, many downtown areas throughout the country have been impacted.

He said that some of the key points to a walkable community are having post offices and grocery stores within walking distance of residential communities.

Poltz also said that when a community has many children riding bikes, that's a good sign that the community is pedestrian friendly.

"I'm a bike commuter," he said. "What is most people's first commute? To school. A lot of us started out as bike commuters."

According to information presented by Poltz, on average, 60 percent of children are driven to school, 27 percent are bused, 12 percent walk to school and only 1 percent ride bikes.

"In some districts," he said, "children are not allowed to ride their bikes to school because no one wants to be responsible for their safety between home and school."

Poltz said the reasons many people don't walk more fall into four categories: convenience, comfort, safety and access/design.

Several community leaders attended the workshop last week, including Executive Director of River Center Tricia Rumola, Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels, Deputy Administrator in Charge of Special Projects Gail O'Reilly, Administrative Assistant at the Red Bank Senior Center Wilhelmina Vaughn, Red Bank Traffic Officer Lt. Darren McConnell, and Borough Zoning Board Director Donna Smith Barr.

Tindall and Poltz led the group on a walking tour of the downtown, including parts of Bridge and Shrewsbury Avenues.

While walking along Monmouth Street, west of Maple Avenue, Poltz pointed out that crosswalks need to be repainted, and that the traffic down the street was moving fairly fast.

He pointed out that narrow streets with cars parked on both sides tend to slow traffic.

"The chance of someone being killed when hit by a car at 20 miles an hour is about 15 percent," Poltz said. "That jumps up to 85 percent at 40 miles per hour."

O'Reilly said that one of the main issues at the Red Bank Train Station is the total lack of public restroom facilities. Poltz commented that the pedestrian-scale lighting was just right for the train station.

"People do need better places to put their bikes," Poltz added, pointing to a line of bicycles that were chained along the fence of the newly built high level platforms.

Walking along Bridge Avenue, Poltz commented on the lack of grass between the train station and Chestnut Avenue, and was told that is the place where day laborers wait to be picked up for work.

"You should put some pavers there," he said, "and maybe some benches. The day laborers need a place to go and they're either going to stand there or sit there."

The group then walked down Chestnut to Shrewsbury Avenue, where Vaughn explained that the traffic is so bad that it becomes nearly impossible at some times to cross the street.

"Around 3 p.m.," she said, "it's just horrible."

There are no pedestrian crosswalk signals along Shrewsbury Avenue between Newman Spring Road and West Front Street, and McConnell said the intersection of Chestnut Street and Shrewsbury Avenue would not qualify for a traffic signal.

Sickels added that the Shrewsbury Avenue corridor is in need of some improvements.

"That area is really crying out the most for increased pedestrian safety," he said after the walk.

Poltz said that along West Front Street, there is not a lot of separation between the sidewalks and the traffic going by.

"This might be a spot to consider a little bit of paint to slow down traffic," Poltz said.

Poltz said that painting lines that define on-street parking, as well as using paint to create a bike lane, can help in slowing traffic, because the paint acts as a visual barrier for drivers.

Poltz said that the two parks along West Front Street, Veteran's Park and Riverside Gardens Park, are great draws for pedestrians, but that neither one has proper crosswalks for pedestrians to walk directly into the park.

He also commented that Veteran's Park has no benches, and therefore is not as inviting as it could be.

Rumola said that RiverCenter is working on obtaining some benches for the park, especially in light of the recently opened K. Hovnanian Enterprises headquarters across the street, and the park could be a place where employees might want to sit and eat lunch.

During the walk, Poltz had each of the participants write their comments about how pedestrian friendly certain areas of the downtown are on notepads.

After the group returned from the walk, the participants each stuck their comments to an overhead photograph of the Red Bank downtown, and a priority list was created.

Poltz took the priority list and is expected to create a summary of the priorities and submit it to the borough within the next few weeks.

Poltz said that he will be continuing with similar workshops in 12 other counties in New Jersey, as well as workshops in Newark and Jersey City.

"I like to think that I'm not wasting my time doing these workshops," Poltz said after the meeting. "Sometimes I get that feeling; not in Red Bank."

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