accepting a Complete Streets 2021 Champions Award at the Complete Streets 10th Anniversary virtual Summit, Oct. 22, 2021
“We want to thank the NJ Complete Streets Summit Advisory Group and the NJ Department of Transportation for this most appreciated Complete Streets Champions Award. And we want to congratulate the other winners. All of us, along with those of you watching, are fighting to make one of our major public land resources — our streets— Complete…Green…and Safe for all the vulnerable users we see every day who walk, ride a bike, push a stroller or wheelchair, hop on a scooter, or use the roads to get around in other ways without a car or truck.
It’s my honor today to thank you on behalf of Team4 the NJ Safe Passing Law, the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition and Executive Director Deb Kagan— our allied partner organizations: the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Vision Zero NJ Alliance, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Families for Safe Streets NJ—and the hundreds of volunteers it took to pass the strongest safe passing law in the nation.
Imagine this were live, not Zoom. Imagine the stage packed with those who for over 10 years proposed solutions and sounded the alarm about the close calls and crashes resulting in serious injuries and deaths—caused by drivers trying to speed up and squeeze by vulnerable users. But with Zoom there can be only four us here today to represent so many others. The four of us were among the earliest organizers for this Team4 the NJ Safe Passing Law campaign that I had the honor to lead. With me are Ray Cipollini, then on the Bike& Walk Coalition Board and a key legislative contact, Rebecca Feldman who galvanized wide volunteer support, and Metuchen Councilman Jason Delia who reached out to his delegation following the tragic death of cyclist Oscar Zanoni who could not drive and depended on his bike.
The four of us accepting the Complete Streets Champions Award today want to thank the hundreds of others involved in this campaign that resulted in legislation– hammered together from three competing bills–that garnered bipartisan support, passed both houses by a combined 102-1 vote and was signed into law by the Governor in August. And we want to thank the Governor and the 16 sponsors and co-sponsors of the bills in the NJ Senate and Assembly
To us, the signing of the law marks the real beginning of the mission. We want to make the NJ Safe Passing Law not just one of the nation’s best laws, but one of the best understood— and practiced on NJ roads—in EVERY neighborhood because EVERYONE throughout New Jersey—whatever our age, ability or ethnicity— has the right to share the road safely. We campaigned for a law that would protect the most vulnerable users on the road—those who can’t–or choose not to– drive. Now our mission is to ensure drivers, safety educators and law enforcement—all of us— use the guidelines.
The law fills in a gap in NJ’s safe passing laws that protected many other vulnerable users—even horses and riders—but was silent when it came to the rest of us on the road. That’s why we believe the Safe Passing Law will help NJ take another step on the road to Zero deaths and serious injuries that NJ DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael Russo talked about this morning.
The guidelines are now clear: slow down, move over a lane if possible, and, if not, swing wide enough to create a four-foot safety zone.
I can’t imagine any driver would choose to see a friend or loved one injured by a close call or crash. It’s time every driver—every time we drive— to see every other road user as a friend or loved one. It’s time for the NJ Safe Passing Law that asks drivers to “pass us like you know us” and—please, please — stop trying to save time when you could save a life.”