Mt. Prospect Avenue Bike Lanes Reborn: Newark Revives New Jersey’s First Parking-Protected Bike Lanes
by Cyndi Steiner and Aaron Hyndman
This past Monday, June 22, the City of Newark revived the scuttled parking protected bike lane along Mt. Prospect Avenue, due to efforts by NJBWC and our partners working with the City of Newark’s Division of Traffic and Signals. The city began enforcing the protected bike lane after shop owner complaints last December closed down the right of way for bike riders. Through funding from the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone, Mt. Prospect Avenue had received a full complete streets overhaul last year, including streetscape, sidewalk, and New Jersey’s first parking-protected bike lane.
Starting in September 2014, area business owners began blaming the new roadway configuration for a lack of parking for their patrons and a subsequent decrease in income. Shopowners claimed revenue losses of 20-40%, and blamed it on the inability to double-park that resulted from the new bike lanes. As a stop-gap measure, in December 2014, Mayor Ras Baraka allowed cars to park in the bike lanes on Mt. Prospect Avenue, effectively rendering them inoperable for bike riders.
Fortunately though, NJBWC and our allies were able to push for a more permanent solution to the parking situation that worked for the good of all parties. Simply by adding parking meters and limiting parking to two hours, legal parking spots are now freed up for shoppers, rather than being occupied for hours or days at a time by residents and shop owners. As a result, bike riders regained access to New Jersey’s first parking-protected bike lane, and newly-enacted street parking regulations will ensure that there is an ample supply of parking for customers of businesses along Mt. Prospect Avenue. The city also gains a new source of revenue from metered parking.
Effective June 22, 2015, Newark Municipal Ordinance 6PSF-b will be enforced, once again making it illegal to park in the Mt. Prospect Avenue Bike Lanes, and enacting 2-Hour Street Parking for non-residents from 7AM to 10PM on Mt. Prospect Ave. between Heller Pkwy. and Verona Ave.
The first day of the new enforcement resulted in virtually 100% compliance; a few cars were in the bike lanes and the police were alerted. Even with the loss of double parking, there were plenty of available legal parking spaces. Bike riders were also using the new lanes, and the street appeared to be functioning as it was designed to.
Making Newark’s streets safer for pedestrians and bike riders is a priority and follows through on the city’s Complete Streets policy. Pedestrian fatalities are higher in cities with lower income residents; the streetscape project along Mt Prospect is more than beautification; it is about saving lives by reducing car travel speeds. Mt Prospect Avenue has substantial space to add these bike lanes; there is ample travel space for cars. Walk, pedal, or drive along the avenue, and you will feel like you are on a grand old boulevard from days gone by.
The section that has the parking-protected bike lanes should be just a start towards calming traffic on this expansive stretch of roadway that runs from Bloomfield Avenue north through Branch Brook Park to Belleville Avenue. The return of the Mt. Prospect Avenue bike lanes is a great example of persistence paying off, and is proof that great things can happen when diverse groups of stakeholders work together to create effective solutions. Making the road safe for bicyclists and improving the availability of parking, this policy compromise is a great victory for both bike riders and business owners, as well as area residents. It also sets the stage for more protected bike lanes in Newark and throughout the state.
Cyndi Steiner is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition. Aaron Hyndman serves as the organization’s Communications Coordinator.