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Active Transportation and the Health of Our Communities

20 Jan

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) released a new report, The Case for Healthy Places, in December 2016 in which they highlight key areas that support healthy placemaking.  According to PPS one’s zip code is a better predictor of health than genetic code. Where we live and where we work matters and we can see that from research highlighting health disparities among low-income communities and high-income communities.

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We already know that Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and certain cancer types.  Americans also suffer from poor mental health and all of these conditions are linked to insufficient physical activity among other factors. Insufficient physical activity is directly related to the way our communities are designed.   PPS states issues such as sprawl, unwalkable communities, poor air quality, unsafe street design for walking and biking, all have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

One of the key areas named in the PPS report is Walking and Biking. According to research cited by PPS, placemaking supports more walkable and bikeable communities which leads to improved safety  and accessibility of streets,  a sense of community, increased physical activity, support of local economies, and reduced air pollution. And we now have enough evidence that physical activity helps reduce the risk of chronic disease.

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So what would encourage more physical activity? According to the American Planning Association cited by PPS report, there are nine features that encourage active transportation:

  • Sidewalks
  • Bike lanes and racks
  • Traffic calming measures
  • Crosswalks and signals
  • Aesthetics and placemaking efforts, such as public art and fountains
  • Public space including parks and plazas
  • Street trees
  • Green infrastructures, including greenways and rain gardens
  • Street furniture, including benches, bus shelters, and signage

The report shows that active transportation is not only good for our health but also for the health of our local economies. And studies show that physically active kids have better concentration, mood, self-image, self-confidence, and fewer chronic health problems.

What do you think about the walking and biking conditions in your community?  What do you like? What would you like to change?

Let us know; you can comment on our social media or write a guest blog.

You can find the full report here and the report release article here.

Street Smart Campaign Launch

28 Sep

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Police Department are holding a news conference with the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) Thursday, September 29 to kick off its participation in Street Smart New Jersey, a pedestrian safety initiative focusing on outreach and education designed to change unsafe behavior by pedestrians and drivers on our streets.

zerogrpah

The event is being held at Hinds Plaza at the intersection of Witherspoon and Hullfish Streets during the Princeton Farmers Market at 12:30pm.

Speakers will include Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, and GMTMA Executive Director Cheryl Kastrenakes.

The Street Smart Campaign is launching in early October to coincide with the start of local schools and the return of Princeton University students for the fall semester.  The campaign focuses on compliance of traffic and pedestrian safety laws.  The Princeton Police Department is partnering with GMTMA, a non-profit transportation organization serving Mercer County.

“We want everyone to be safe whether they’re walking to school, to work, to the store, or out for some exercise,” said Mayor Lempert. “Princeton has lots of pedestrians because we’re a great, walkable community, and that’s why this safety campaign is so important. It’s an opportunity to remind both pedestrians and drivers of the rules that are designed to keep everyone safe.”

Street Smart is a collaborative effort between the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), Federal Highway Administration, New Jersey Department of Transportation and New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.  GMTMA is working with NJTPA to coordinate Street Smart campaign in communities in Mercer and Ocean Counties.

Street Smart aims to change pedestrian and motorist behavior to reduce pedestrian-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities.  The campaign uses the slogan “check your vital signs” to remind motorists and pedestrians of safe travel roles and responsibilities.  Vital signs are displayed on tip cards, posters, and temporary street signs throughout the community as a visual reminder for drivers and pedestrians.

In the state of New Jersey, from 2010-2014, 750 pedestrians were killed and 17,000 were injured.  Between 2013 and 2015, there were 55 pedestrian-related crashes in Princeton.  Of those accidents 52 pedestrians were injured and there was one fatality.

For more information on GMTMA and the Street Smart campaign in other municipalities, go to gmtma.org/street-smart.

NJ Sustainability Summit Takeaways

24 Jun

Last week on Wednesday, June 15, some of us at Greater Mercer TMA attended the Sustainability Summit organized by Sustainable Jersey.

Several interesting things were announced during the summit, including the new NJDEP “It pays to plug in” campaign, meant to increase workplace charging infrastructure.  There was also some sobering news from the keynote speaker.  Dr. Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central provided the keynote address – a sobering and sometimes frightening view of the current climate change, sea level rise and flooding impacts on New Jersey.  Dr. Strauss explained that while natural causes do contribute to the sea level rise, 67% of the global sea level rise is human caused, and CO2 emissions are the main culprit.

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In the worst case scenario, if CO2 emissions continue to grow at the same rate, the likelihood of experiencing 5 feet coastal flooding by 2030 is 46%, and by 2040 the likelihood increases to 69%. As soon as 2060 the likelihood soars to 97%!  To get an idea of how some parts of the NJ coast might appear you can check out the climate central risk finder tool.

You can see the rest of Dr. Strauss’s presentation here.  On page 57 there’s an amazing picture of what Newark airport might look like given the predicted rising sea level.

The good news is that if we start curbing emissions now, we can avert the worst case scenario. According to Dr. Strauss, taking serious measures now could make a big difference in the long run. Low emissions could decrease the risk of 5 FT flooding to approximately 30% by the year 2100 as opposed to 100% as soon as the year 2070 (on parts of the NJ coast).

In NJ steps being taken to curb emissions. An example is the As Mentioned earlier; the NJDEP is offering grants to increase the number of workplace EV charging stations. Grant and eligibility information available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/aqes/

The first item on Sustainable Jersey’s Energy Goals is “decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in to avert catastrophic climate impacts.” The Energy and Waste Standards were the first ones of the 14 standards in the new Gold Certification announced at the summit.  Municipalities have to lower Greenhouse emission by 3.6% per year.  The new Gold certification is the highest level of certification and will also measure performance, not only implementation of actions. Reductions in GHC will be measured every three years to see whether municipalities demonstrate continued reductions.   More info available here.

And if that got you thinking about climate change and wonder what can you do to reduce or offset your carbon footprint, check out these easy steps.

Sources:
www.sustainablejersey.com
http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/uploads/ssrf/NJ-Report.pdf
http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/ssrf/new-jersey

West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance celebrates 10 years!

18 Mar

Last night the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance celebrated its 10th anniversary at its Annual Meeting. Ken Carlson, the group’s founder and first president who moved from the area, was back in town to attend and be a guest speaker.

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Presentations from both the current president (Jerry Foster) and past president, covering recent advocacy efforts as well as the history of the group, made it clear that this is an organization that has made a real impact on improving conditions for both cyclists and pedestrians in West Windsor.

Their efforts have made West Windsor a safer place and a more inviting place to walk and bike.  And their work is inspiring other communities and other groups to do the same.   West Windsor is now a bronze designated bike friendly community.  Given WWBPA’s efforts so far… a Platinum designation could be in sight for their 20th!

 

 

What is Vision Zero?

25 Feb

Sweden knows a thing or two about safe streets; they have the safest streets in the world.  That is why their approach to reducing traffic fatalities, Vision Zero, was adopted in other countries and in recent years in a few cities in the U.S.  Vision Zero is not just the latest safety buzzword, it turns the whole idea of traffic safety upside down, from blaming fatalities on what motorists (cyclists, pedestrians, etc.) did wrong to shared responsibility with road designers as well. For example, a traffic fatality at a curve might prompt installation of a guide rail today, while under Vision Zero the lane might additionally be narrowed and the speed limit reduced, to prevent another crash by encouraging lower speed.

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In Sweden roads have many speed bumps and raised crosswalks, and the speed limit is 19 miles per hour. The chance of someone dying is significantly lower when being hit at 19 mph vs. 40 mph. Also, there are separate bike lanes for cyclists.

In U.S., New York adopted Vision Zero in 2014, and the results show that traffic fatalities have declined since then.  The speed limit in NY has been lowered from 30 mph to 25 mph, and police are enforcing speed limits citywide. Other traffic calming measures include creating more bike lanes, educating public about safe driving habits, redesign dangerous intersections, and installing speed cameras.

Other cities in U.S. that adopted Vision Zero are Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Austin, San Mateo, San Jose, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Washington D.C., and Fort Lauderdale.

Let’s hope we will adopt Vision Zero in every city in the U.S. and we will see a major decrease in traffic deaths and injuries. Or better yet, many more people will feel safe enough to walk and bike more often.

 

Sources:

http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/en/Concept/

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-02-23/these-americans-want-behave-more-swedish-road

http://citylimits.org/2015/12/14/de-blasios-vision-zero-appears-to-have-dented-traffic-deaths/

 

Mobility As A Question Of Equality

24 Jul

In this TED talk Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, speaks about mobility and why buses represent democracy in action. Although he talks mostly about mobility in developing countries, it is hardly an issue limited to developing countries. It is something every country should consider seriously in the future.

Peñalosa says that mobility gets worse as societies get richer, and it becomes a question of equality. The definition of an “advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.”

Road space is a valuable resource for a city, and it is important for a city to distribute it equally. It is important for all modes of transportation to share resources and the way Bogota solved the problem was to implement, lanes for buses, dedicated bike lanes, and sidewalks. A mass transit system where buses enjoy their dedicated lanes and zoom by cars stuck in traffic.

Protected bicycle lanes are considered a right. Being able to bike without the risk of being killed is a “powerful symbol of democracy because it shows that citizen on a $30 bike is equally important as one in a $30,000 car.”

Also, Peñalosa refers to walking as a need and says that:  “In terms of transport infrastructure, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but quality sidewalks.”

According to Peñalosa in developing countries more than 80% of the cities will be built in the next 4 or 5 decades. But this massive development is not limited only to developing countries.  The US alone will build more than 70 million homes in the same time frame.

He considers the current road space sharing model unsustainable and before building these cities, the relationship between pedestrians and cars has to be reconsidered. Cities that give priority to people rather than cars; cities that protect all individuals need to be built.

Peñalosa speaks based on the measures he implemented in his city, and he admits it was not easy. He proposes a few solutions and urges countries to think of these solutions when considering the next wave of massive city development.

Listen to his TED talk to find out about his work and what solutions he proposes for the future.

Let us know what you think and as always if you have a blog post you would like to share please contact us. You could be our next guest  blogger.

GMTMA’s Bike to Work Week and Photo Contest Winners

19 Jun

A big thank you to everyone who rode their bike to work during GMTMA’s Bike to Work Week challenge this year! In just one week you eliminated 300 car trips and rode over 1800 miles!

While many people that registered for bike to work week do regularly or occasionally ride their bike to work, 15% of our bike to work registrants were first-time bike to work riders. Sixty percent of these new riders were women.  Some could not bike to work but chose to swap an errand typically done by car with a bike ride. Cargo bikes proved to be great for running errands and grocery shopping.

33% of the participants that reported their rides for the week, rode to work five times, 23% rode three times, and 8% ride their bike seven days.

The longest commute by bike was 32 miles/day which adds up to 160 miles per week and five people reported more than 100 miles rode in a week.

This year’s participation by gender:

gender

The incentive to ride was great this year, besides the great weather, we had 25 prizes to give out thanks to our generous sponsors:

Hart’s CycleryMcCaffrey’s SupermarketWhole Earth CenterKopp’s CycleSt. Lawrence RehabREISourland CyclesHalter’s Cyclery,Knapps CycleryWhole Foods Market (Princeton) and NJ Bike Tours.

The prizes ranged from Trenton Thunder tickets, $25, $50 and $100 dollars gift cards to helmets and bike tune-ups.

The winners are: Jenny M., Deniz D., Robert W., Sharon H., Sena V., Jim S., Christian J., Marc B., Sam B., David B., Vanshaj B., Daniel W., Chris S., Elizabeth M., Joseph K., Charles K., Michael L., Philip C., Ellen F., Ken M., Jenny G., Ted B., and Edwin S.

The Bike to Work Week Team Challenge prize goes to a group of four riders from Maser Consulting.

Maser Consulting Team

Maser Consulting Team

The Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner is Deniz D.

Who needs a car on a beautiful spring day? We are a car-free family. You ask if that is even possible in New Jersey? It sure is and we love it! Here’s a classic example of a resourceful bicycle moment: my wife managed to get an entire piece of plywood home (cut to fit in our daughter’s chariot, yet just the right length for our project). But if that wasn’t enough, she stopped to pick up a watermelon along the way. The best part was the proud smile on her face when she got back home!

-Deniz D.

Kudos to Deniz and his family and thank you for the great picture!

GMTMA Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner

GMTMA Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner

And as one of the riders said: “It’s not over yet!!   The more I ride the more I enjoy my bike! Thanks for the extra push on my spring and summer riding. “

We hope this was an incentive to get you started and you will keep biking every chance you get.

Don’t forget to join us for the next Bike to Work Week Challenge!

Until then send us your stories or join us as a guest blogger.

We will follow up with a post about all the suggestions we received to make our communities more bike friendly.