Pushing for Bike Commuting in New Jersey
When I was 8 years old my family moved from Brooklyn to South Brunswick, NJ.
Coming from the big apple(yum!), everything outside of New York was farmland. That is, to my 8 year old brain, the entire earth was littered with cows munching on grass, apathetically and…slowly…munching. Of course, this thought was scary, and my older sister and I fought against the outrage that was moving out of our Brooklyn apartment, to some place foreign and much cowier.
One detail that makes New York and other cities so great, is the prevalence of the corner store. Something that is lacking completely in suburban and rural areas. Every day after school I’d reach far into my parents coin jar, and pull out a quarter for a bag of chips, and sometimes I’d even splurge on a Snickers Ice Cream bar for 50 cents. Those were the days. I knew that the suburbs lacked in corner stores, even at 8. Now I’m two miles from the nearest snicker dispensary.
Failing to convince our parental units of the terrors of suburban life, we put our efforts elsewhere. Day in and day out before the move, while my parents had to make the difficult choices of where, and when, how, and what type of home to live in, my sister and I lobbied for one thing: a pool. Successfully securing a pinky promise(you know how special that is), we resigned ourselves to what would be our much more diving board filled lives in Central Jersey.
I’m 24, and my older sis is 26, and we’re still waiting. Duped by parents searching for better schools, lawns, and longer walks for Snickers bars.
Whats the point?
Well, the point is that after all the horror that was moving, we’re still here in New Jersey and fortunately, there is a lot to love about this tiny little state between New York and Philly. In particular, I have a very special place in my heart for one of our small cities: New Brunswick, NJ.
New Brunswick is a small city, with just under 60,000 residents, it is extremely accessible, walkable, bikeable, and loveable. Chances are, if you’re not from New Jersey, you’ve never heard of this city unless it was about it’s local awesome university, Rutgers, or its local pharmaceutical giant, Johnson & Johnson. Both are internationally recognized, and being that I graduated from Rutgers University, my soft spot for the city is tenderized by floods of great memories.
New Brunswick, is not only a great University town, but it is recognized for its top notch restaurants like The Frog and The Peach, and Due Mari, and bars like Oldbay and Clydz. (Warning: biased opinion of bars and restaurants.) New Brunswick is also extremely diverse in it’s population, and hosts a wide variety of ethnic foods to boot.
If you don’t like that fancy stuff, you may have even heard of our most mouthwatering delights: The Fat Sandwich. This sandwich is the evil, and artfully assembled, signature item hailing from The Grease Trucks. Receiving such high accolades as “best sandwich in America” from Maxim magazine, no trip to New Brunswick is truly complete without one, directly followed by a quick trip to one of the cities fine hospitals (just kidding they’re great).
Recently, while I worked the elections in New Brunswick I took note of how many people rolled up to the polls on a bike. I also noticed New Brunswick’s fairly new addition of Sharrows (Shared Bike Lane Markings) on New Brunswick’s streets.
Bike and Public Transit Integration
After another recent visit to New Brunswick, I noticed it’s many well placed bike racks. It’s not just how many there are, but it is also where they are. Placing bike racks near public transportation hubs encourages the use of public transportation as well as biking. Both help out with our little climate change problem.
For as long as I can remember New Brunswick has had a large rack right in front of the train station, and you can see in this picture it is all filled up. A great location on the corner of Easton Avenue and Albany Street, the train can take you to many local cities from Edison to Newark, and even New York Penn Station in 50 minutes.
I’ve been taking my bike from my home in South Brunswick to my friends apartment in New Brunswick, and in their parking deck is a convenient and thoughtful bike rack for anyone biking to the building, or living there. There are even bike racks near many of the major bus stops, and a nod goes out to Rutgers University for outfitting their shuttle buses with bike racks also!
It’s good to take note of the positive things that are happening to move towards a more bikeable future in New Jersey and New York. And although there is a long way to go (for example, there are no bike lanes between South Brunswick and New Brunswick — not too safe to ride) cities like New Brunswick and Hoboken are working to make biking a safe, approachable form of transportation.
The more I open my eyes and look around, the more I see bike lanes, racks, and bikers even in the suburbs and small cities in New Jersey. Next time you’re biking, or driving around, take a look at what kind of bike infrastructure your local cities do have, and maybe even start to use it.
That’ll be fun.