A challenging year with a silver lining
As the team at New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition settles down for the holiday season, we’d like to share with you some reflections on the whirlwind of this past year. Like many others, we began 2020 with high hopes, wishes, and ambitions. We started on a high note with yet another successful live Bike & Walk Summit that brought together 300 advocates, government officials, and transportation and health professionals from across the state. One week later everything changed.
2020 has been a year of deep tragedy and challenges for us all as we cope with uncertainty and anxiety about our personal wellbeing and the world as a whole. Our hearts go out especially to those who have lost loved ones. For all of us, this is a crisis we could not have imagined, a global pandemic that has touched every aspect of our lives – the way we work, shop, socialize, exercise, and move around.
However, through these increasingly difficult days, a silver lining emerged. As we looked for safe ways to move through our communities, people across the state discovered that their neighborhood streets were perfect places to walk, bike, and play. Those miles of asphalt turned out to be unused acreage of open space where we could meet our growing need for exercise, sanity, and safe mobility.
Thanks to this, many people came to understand that safe streets are critical to our health, safety, and quality of life. Once we temporarily experienced streets without traffic we could begin to imagine all the possibilities for permanently making them safe and welcoming for all users. As walking and cycling became part of our daily routine, we recognized the importance of active transportation and access to open spaces for the health, recovery, and future resiliency of our cities and our country at large. In addition, the pandemic has further exposed the inequities that exist in our built environment and transportation system and has drawn attention to biking and walking as tools that help cities provide equitable mobility for all.
Our Coalition partners and advocates around the state mobilized quickly to ensure these new uses of our streetscapes were translated into temporary new local initiatives. We worked with local governments to prioritize safe walking, biking, and public space in creative ways with open street pilots, new bike lanes, and outdoor dining. We are incredibly grateful to all our friends who have worked so hard this year to make New Jersey a more bikeable and walkable place.
Those of us at NJBWC have been proud to play a part in keeping up this momentum. This year we actively supported Coalition partners in advocating and passing local Complete Streets policies, new safe bike/ped infrastructure projects, and Open/Slow Street pilots in dozens of cities and towns across the state. We also helped launch the Vision Zero New Jersey Alliance a new statewide initiative to end the preventable plague of traffic violence.
After more than a decade of advocacy 2020 also saw NJBWC reach new critical milestones in our campaign for the Essex-Hudson Greenway. Working with our partners, the Open Space Institute and the 911 National Memorial Trail we saw the completion of a preliminary purchase and sale agreement with Norfolk Southern Railroad to purchase the property for the proposed greenway. To ensure the project becomes a reality we have been hard at work this year leading community outreach. We galvanized support from communities across the region who sent nearly 1,400 letters of support to their elected officials – an act that has been crucial in encouraging Essex and Hudson counties towards the goal of acquisition in 2021.
While we continue to live under the burden of this pandemic we look ahead with hope to the new year buoyed by the resiliency and adaptability of advocates across New Jersey. In 2021, we have the opportunity to take build on the new public awareness created by the pandemic and continue to advocate for a new vision of streetscapes designed for greater equity, safely and inclusion. We must take on this challenge and ensure that the glimpse of a “better new normal” becomes our better future as temporary changes are adopted as permanent. Xanax has a toxic effect on the fetus and increases the risk of developing birth defects when used in the first trimester of pregnancy. Constant use during pregnancy can lead to physical dependence with the development of withdrawal syndrome in the newborn.
In addition to ongoing local safe streets initiatives and the Essex-Hudson Greenway, we are looking forward to developing a statewide approach to a shared use trail network with key partners from across the state. Despite the recent rise in traffic fatalities, we know there are successful strategies in ending traffic violence and what is needed is the political will to implement them. We will be working alongside Coalition members to advocate for Vision Zero and the renewed interest in a 4-Foot Passing Law in New Jersey legislation.
Most of all, we look forward to continuing working alongside all of you to advocate for the right to walk and bike safely throughout New Jersey and fulfill the potential we see for a more equitable, safe and sustainable place to live, work and play.
We want to thank all our generous sponsors, members and partners for your support throughout this most difficult year. As an advocacy nonprofit your contributions are what makes it possible for us to continue our work so we hope you will help us in this season of giving by making an end of year tax deductible donation. Together we have the power to make New Jersey a more equitable, safe and sustainable place to live, work and play!