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This Earth Day Green Your Commute

21 Apr

This Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day, marking the end of Earth Week, an event celebrated in 192 countries, to increase awareness about the environment, sustainability, animal extinction, rainforest depletion, and other issues.

This Earth Day we’d like everyone to focus on reducing CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. A recent NJ Spotlight article highlights the need to reduce greenhouse gases and to increase public awareness of the impact climate change had on people’s health.  In New Jersey there are 590,000 adults and 180,000 children that have a chronic respiratory disease.  The asthma rates for adults and children are higher in NJ (9%) than the national average of 8.4% for children and 7.6% for adults. Climate change also exacerbates allergic reactions and infectious diseases. It seems like we have many reasons to keep working on reducing emissions and take steps to improve our health.

This Saturday will be a good day to go out, enjoy the great weather and leave your car at home.  Maybe you can even try extending your active travel to 2 or more days a week by choosing one of the following:

  • Public transit – you can find info about traveling by bus and train in Ocean and Mercer County
  • Try bike commuting and if while you’re at it sign up for Bike to Work Week and get a free t-shirt; you can find more information about bike commuting, bike lockers, ask for maps, and more
  • Give carpooling and vanpooling a try, you can start once or twice a week and go from there – more information and registration form are available here.
  • And if you don’t have a choice and have to drive, why not go electric?!? Kudos if you already did. A lot of Americans were buying trucks and SUVs last year because the gas prices are so low, and while these vehicles may have better fuel economy than they once did, they are still impacting the environment in a negative way.

We know there are many people out there who made active commuting a lifestyle. Many people take the bus or train, bike and walk to work and that is great. Kudos everyone and we hope to see even more.

Happy Earth day and we hope you enjoy the outdoors this weekend.

 

Sources:

http://www.earthday.org/campaigns/green-cities/green-your-ride/

http://inhabitat.com/fascinating-earth-day-facts-that-you-may-not-know/

https://motiondigest.com/2017/04/18/earth-week-2017-lets-go-green-commuting/

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/04/18/is-climate-change-already-aggravating-asthma-other-diseases-in-new-jersey/?utm_source=NJ+Spotlight++Master+List&utm_campaign=714520017d-Daily_Digest2_5_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1d26f473a7-714520017d-398644857

Street Smart Campaign Back in Princeton

7 Apr

Greater Mercer TMA and the Municipality of Princeton will kick off the second phase of the Street Smart campaign during April 10- April 14 in Princeton.  The first phase was conducted in October 2016 with a street level pedestrian safety initiative focusing on outreach and education designed to change unsafe behavior by pedestrians and drivers on our streets. In the second phase, GMTMA, Princeton Police, and Princeton University Safety will be back with outreach and education and enforcement.  Before the enforcement period starts, let’s review some of these safety tips.

Pedestrian Safety Tips

  • Cross the Street at marked crosswalks and intersections
  • Before crossing, look left, look right, and left again
  • Use pedestrian pushbuttons
  • Begin crossing the street on “walk” signal
  • Stay visible after dark and in bad weather
  • Watch out for trucks and buses backing out of parking spaces and driveways

Cycling Tips

  • Obey all regulatory signs and traffic lights
  • Never ride against traffic, ride with the traffic to avoid potential crashes
  • Use hand signals to tell motorists what you intend to do
  • Ride in a straight line at least a car door’s width away from parked cars
  • Always a wear a helmet
  • Use lights at night and when visibility is poor

Driver Tips

  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks
  • Slow down and obey the posted speed limit
  • Yield to pedestrians and cyclists when turning
  • Look before opening your door
  • Be careful when passing stopped vehicles
  • Allow 3 feet when passing bicyclists
  • Do not drive distracted

And if you are curious about what the laws say click here.

Enjoy the spring weather and remember to be safe!

5 Ways Employers Can Make Commuting Less Stressful for Their Employees

24 Feb

New Jersey commuters know congestion too well. NJ has five of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the nation and that costs commuters millions of dollars and lots of stress.  And long, stressful commutes can translate into the loss of productivity and unhappy employees.

So if you are looking for ways to make life easier for employees, here are 5 things you can do and we at GMTMA can help you get started:

  1. Encourage ridesharing

A carpool is a group of two or more employees driving to work together. Let your employees know about carpooling and encourage them to carpool at least once a week.  GMTMA has a free carpool matching service, can help you determine the potential for carpooling, and we can help you talk to your employees about it.

  1. Free van to transit

Many employees would like to take transit but face the “last mile” problem; they have no way to get to the office from transit. The solution to that is an employer-sponsored van that can run in the morning bringing employees to the office and in the afternoon bringing employees to transit.  To make it more affordable see if you can partner with other businesses near you. We can help with that too.

  1. Encourage bicycling

If a free van to transit is not feasible, encourage employees to bicycle from transit to the office. Employees are more likely to bike to work when they have access to showers, bicycle racks, and bike repair tool stations. The IRS permits employers to reimburse up to $20/month for reasonable expenses related to commuting by bicycles.

  1. Incentivize employees not to drive

Offer a financial reward to employees who do no drive. Offer transit, vanpool and bicycle commuting tax benefits.

  1. Help employees form a vanpool

Vanpools consist of 7-15 people, and the van can be leased by a third party vendor.  NJ Transit offers a Vanpool Sponsorship Program of $175 per month to form vanpool where public transportation is not available.  GMTMA can help you with setting up a vanpool.

Your local Transportation Management Association can help you get started. TMAs offer programs and services to help employers reduce costs and congestion.  Here is a sample of what TMAs can do for your business: http://www.gmtma.org/pg-employers-programs-and-services.php

Calling All Artists Grades 3 – 5!

17 Feb

Greater Mercer TMA’s (GMTMA) fourth annual Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design contest is now underway.  Mercer County and Ocean County students in third through fifth grade are eligible to show their love of walking by creating a bookmark with the theme “I like to walk to … with….”


bookmark

Exercise your feet and your brain! Draw a bookmark of who you like to walk with and where you like to go. The winning bookmark designs will be printed and distributed to area schools and local libraries.  Each winner will also receive a $50 gift card.  For more information about the contest and the Safe Routes to School Program, go to gmtma.org.

Submission deadline is March 24, 2017! Bookmark entry forms are available at gmtma.org

Life in Transit: Take the Bus to Princeton

3 Feb

This week’s post comes from a guest blogger, Tineke Thio, who also serves on Princeton’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, and it also appears on their blog – thanks!

Some are un-apologetical fair-weather riders. Some don’t leave home without their bikes unless a brutal polar vortex has parked itself over New Jersey.

Wherever your limit lies, for those days that you have places to go, but don’t want to or can’t get there on your bike, try the bus. Sure, NJ Transit buses go through Princeton – but here I want to tell you about Princeton’s local buses.
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FreeB
The FreeB is Princeton’s jitney; its cute logo, the blue “B” surrounded by a constellation of orange dots, is displayed on the bus stops and on the bus itself (named “Marvin”, after former Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed).

It comes in two versions, commuter and daytime; the latter runs between 9.40am and 4.30pm. The two versions have different routes: for instance, only the commuter FreeB goes to Princeton Station, and only the daytime FreeB passes by the Municipal Building on Witherspoon Street. If you click on the links in this sentence, that downloads the PDF files of the map and schedule for the Commuter FreeB, and the Daytime FreeB. (In case you’re wondering: Yes, Princeton is working on getting the FreeB schedules on Google Maps).

Note: even though the schedules say you can flag down and board the FreeB between stops “where it’s safe to do so”, in practice you’re best off boarding at a designated stop. Bus drivers are highly risk averse – and that’s how we like them!

The FreeB is equiped for wheelchair access.

Best of all, it’s free!

Tiger Transit
As you can see from the maps, the FreeB services mostly the town side of Nassau Street. For travel on the University side, there’s Tiger Transit, Princeton University’s bus service which is also free and open to the public. Their buses are fully accessible, and have bike racks.

Tiger Transit coverage is of course densest around Princeton University, but its routes cover an area extending to the new Merwick Stanworth apartments, the Forrestal Center / Plasma Physics Lab, and Canal Pointe Boulevard.

Moreover, Tiger Transit buses have trackers, so you can see where they are at any time on this TigerTracker map.

Try the bus, it’s fun!

And tell your friends about it.

 

We would like to thank her for sharing her thoughts!

If you have a transit story that you would like to share, please let us know.

Why Walking is Worth the Effort for Me

27 Jan

This week’s post comes from a www.strongtowns.org Pathfinder, Michelle Erfurt. Michelle’s story shows how beneficial it is to find a time to walk.

I love following along with the work of John Simmerman of Active Towns who shares examples of towns that support a culture of activity. The practice of getting fresh air by taking a walk every day is something that should be easy for me to do… I work from home, my house is in a town with sidewalks, near a big park, beside a historic district, and two blocks from a quaint downtown. I’m not lacking in things to see or places to go.

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Michelle walking her son Eddie. Photo credit: Michelle Erfurt

But working from home on my computer and taking care of a 3-month-old always takes a higher priority and before I know it, the day is over and I haven’t gotten outside. Let’s just say that I’m completely on board with the philosophy of Active Towns and Strong Towns, but the practice is challenging. I have two kids and a job, I’m often tired and seldom alone, so taking time to be active outside feels like a big hassle. Then, the next edition of the Active Towns newsletter lands in my inbox and I’m reminded that I really need to get out there.

We had really nice weather the other day so I decided to walk to pick up my 4-year-old from school instead of drive. I put the baby in the baby carrier and walked him, the stroller and myself to day care. It’s about a mile away.

When I picked up Eddie (the older kid), he did not want to walk. He said he wanted to “ride in his car”. As we went, he hugged every parking meter and after a block, he decided to ride in his stroller. In his stroller, he talked non-stop commenting on how big the trees were, how he loves trees, pointing out all the newspapers in front of people’s houses, and talking, talking, talking. He talks a lot and at a very loud volume. I was happy to not have to constantly remind him to use his inside voice. Eddie has a speech delay and gets speech therapy twice a week. It’s very hard to understand him most of the time but the more we practice, the better it gets. Finding opportunities where speech practice can naturally occur is really important. And this walk was full of them.

When we were almost home, a little girl came out of a house saying “Eddie! Hi Eddie!”. It turns out that she is in Eddie’s classroom in the mornings and her grandmother lives down our street. She hangs out with grandma in the afternoons. Maybe I finally found a neighborhood kid for him to play with this summer.

Picking up Eddie like this takes me a full hour. When we got home I was sweating, the stroller and baby attached to me became heavier and heavier. It would definitely be much less shorter in the car and would take a lot less effort on my part. But the benefits outnumbered the challenges: I got outside, the baby got outside, Eddie practiced his speech, we got to do something fun together and we met some neighbors. I felt really proud of myself too! The active lifestyle looks different for everyone.

The next day, Eddie told his dad “I want mommy to walk me home every day”. So, I guess he liked it too.

Thank you Michelle and Strong Towns for this article! Michelle Erfurt is a Strong Towns “Pathfinder” and a mother of two.

This article originally appeared on www.strongtowns.org and was reprinted with permission,” followed by the permanent link to the blog post. http://www.strongtowns.org/contributors-journal/michelle-erfurt

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.

buildings-1853891_1920

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.

street-351548_1920

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.