The Hoboken City Council approved a resolution urging the Ravi Bhalla administration to reassess the bike lanes on Washington Street, specifically to see if they could become protected and separated, by retaining the services of a traffic engineer at last night’s meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“I just have a quick question: are we going under or the parklets and the streeteries,” 3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo asked.
“Is that a question for me?,” asked 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen, a co-sponsor of the resolution along with Councilwoman-at-Large Emily Jabbour, responded.
Russo said that his inquiry was for anyone who could answer, further stating that with parklets and streateries being expected for around the next year, this resolution doesn’t make much sense.
“This resolution is to have a traffic engineer, next year, assess the feasibility of this. So, it may not be feasible, the answer may be that it may not be able to be done,” Cohen said, noting that a bicyclist called in during public portion expressing concerns about the dangers of riding on Washington Street.
That didn’t sit will with Russo, who said that “anyone with a set of eyes” could realize that it is absolutely not feasible as long as parklets and streateries are necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
” … I totally disagree with it. I think we’re going back to a point where, I said it then and I’ll say it again, Washington Street I don’t think is appropriate for protected bike lanes. I think there’s just too much stuff going on there, it’s not a multi-laned street like Jersey City or New York where you see a lot of protected bike lanes,” Russo explained.
Russo added that their efforts would be better spent on expanded protected bike lanes elsewhere throughout the city.
In response, Cohen pointed out what is in part of the resolution, that COVID-19 has shown that residents prefer to have more open space to enjoy outdoor activities where they can socially distance and avoid congregating.
He also argued that this could actually help local businesses since protected bike lanes would be wheelchair accessible.
Russo still wasn’t having it though, exclaiming that he just couldn’t rationalize spending the money on an engineering study right now unless the city has suddenly found “a few hundred million dollars in the budget.”
1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco also expressed trepidation with the resolution, but ultimately said he would support it since it would be a preliminary step in what would potentially be a long process.
To that end, Council President Jen Giattino said she would also vote yes, but noted that she thought this was a project better suited for Transportation and Parking Director Ryan Sharp.
The measure ultimately passed 6-3, with Russo, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, and Councilwoman-at-Large Vanessa Falco voting no.
“Introducing protected and separated bike lanes have boosted businesses and revitalized commercial districts throughout the country,” Cohen and Jabbour said in a joint statement today.
“The recent introduction of enhanced outdoor dining and business spaces on streets and sidewalks also show us how separated bike lanes will safely allow bikers of all ages and abilities to travel on Washington Street without competing with trucks, cars and NJ Transit busses — keeping cyclists off sidewalks — and allowing increased accessibility to Hoboken businesses for customers using motorized wheelchairs or other mobility devices.”
The city council approved the current Washington Street bike lane layout in 2016.
Bhalla was a councilman-at-large at the time and voted yes for the plan, an action which he has since apologized for.