by ERIN ROLL
A long-term project in Montclair to make more of the township’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as motorists, could be taking a few more steps forward this spring.
Montclair is getting ready to present a draft version of its Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE) Streets plan. The plan would involve setting up a network of existing streets that pedestrians and bicyclists can use to get from one place in town to another, and to come up with ways overhaul high-capacity streets to make them safer for pedestrian use.
The township and the New Jersey Department of Transportation were to host an open house event on March 8 to ask residents for feedback on the draft plan.
A survey that the township conducted last fall found that the two biggest obstacles to bicycling in Montclair were concerns about traffic collisions and the lack of bike lanes and other infrastructure.
Township Engineer Kimberli Craft said that after the open house, the next steps would be for the township’s consultants to work the public’s feedback into the draft plan, and then present a revised version to the township council for review and adoption.
The plan includes a Complete Streets network: a map of local streets that pedestrians would use to get to key places around town, such as schools, parks, business districts and the train stations. The survey also identified several major streets around town that could receive upgrades if the funds ever became available.
There are also several “priority corridors”: roads that need to have upgrades and improvements done before they can be included as part of the Complete Streets network.
The priority streets include some county roads such as Watchung Avenue and Grove Street, as well as high-traffic local roads as Claremont Avenue and North and South Mountain avenues.
For a street such as Upper Mountain Avenue, which is considered a minor arterial road, one idea would be to narrow the travel lanes and put stripes for bicycle lanes on either side of the street. Another idea would be to mark off a bicycle lane on one side of the street with steel bollards, or to put sharrow, or shared-lane, markings on the pavement.
“We believe that having such a plan is critical: first to provide the blueprint for a multimodal network of roads, paths, sidewalks and transit that connects people to places in Montclair,” said Bike&Walk Montclair trustee Laura Torchio. “Second, it will enable us to identify the resources that will be needed to improve our streets so that they truly reflect our belief that streets are for everyone.”
There wasn’t one particular element of the plan that Bike&Walk Montclair felt was more pressing than any of the others, Torchio said. Rather, the goal was to have a street plan that took all varieties of transit users into consideration.
“I believe that if our 8-year-olds and our 80-year-olds can use our street network safely and comfortably on foot, on bike or in a car, then we’re doing OK for everyone in between,” Torchio said.