It’s been nearly ten months since Hoboken abandoned its well thought out plans for protected bike lanes on Washington street. Despite years of workshops, city staff and official meetings, public open houses and a final concept design – the city council ultimately changed the plan of the street at the 11th hour. In its place, Washington street will only have striped bike lanes south of 8th street, and sharrows to the north. Ignoring the many people and voices that gave their input on the final plan.
During the city council meeting, many of the people who voiced opposition said that they did not oppose protected bike lanes in Hoboken – just they did not want them on Washington street. Well it’s nearly a year later. And we want to know – where are Hoboken’s protected bike lanes?
Here’s some thoughts on protected bike lanes in Hoboken. Why they are important. Answers to some common arguments against them. And where they should go.
1) “Why do we need protected bike lanes in Hoboken?”
Hoboken is a city of nearly 55,000 residents with just a square mile of land space. Simply put – we need protected bike lanes if we are going to scale our growth – which will continue as people move here and stay here. Hoboken has been making lots of small improvements that make it attractive to live here. And more and more families are staying here, especially as our schools continue to improve. Hoboken is an urban environment. And the reality is, there are going to be too many people here to devote more and more space to on-street parking. The only way to scale is promoting (at least some) protected bike lanes. And you don’t oppose growth by saying we lack the infrastructure. You improve and invest in your infrastructure to support your growth.
Here’s a good illustration:
2) “What about parking? Parking in Hoboken is a huge problem. Don’t we need more of it not less of it?”
Hoboken does not have a parking problem. It has a pricing problem. Right now, in Hoboken, it costs $15 a year to have a residential parking permit. That’s just four cents a day. The free market on other hand typically charges around $10 dollars a day for garage parking – and in a lot of cases substantially more. So what’s the result? We have a residential parking permit for four cents a day when the free market is charging around $10 a day to park in a garage. That’s a price a difference of 24,900%. Yes, 24,900%. When you have such a skewed market it creates a huge demand for free or nominally free on-street parking, and much less demand for garage parking.
And the city’s data show this. Hoboken has 5 public municipal garages (and may add another in the NW). And four of the five have availability for monthly residences:
And those are just public garages. It doesn’t include the many other private garages throughout the city.
Now, what if we rose the cost of parking from four cents a day to something much more reasonable, say one dollar a day ($365 annual permit). That’s still a factor of ten less than what it costs on average to park in a garage ($1 vs $10). Do we think any of the people who have a parking pass on city streets may get rid of their car?
Hoboken is estimated to have 13,000 parking permits for only 9,000 spaces. This +4000 difference is the reason why people have to circle blocks for hours on end looking for a spot. If a price increase from $15 to $365 reduced the amount of parking permits by 33% (which it easily could), the parking problem would actually solve itself. Even if only 15% of people reduced the need to have a parking permit, a very conservative number, that would be an subtraction of 1,950 less cars. The leading voices in this field, like Doanld Shoup, have all concluded that the problem with on-street parking isn’t that it’s too expensive. It’s that it’s too cheap.
We don’t want to hear about any enterprising commercial, residential or open space development taking away a few dozen parking spaces when such low hanging fruit (i.e. the ability to cut cars by the thousands) exists. Hoboken needs to solve its pricing problem. And these aren’t controversial points. Just fact based ones. Many other people have said as much, here and here.
It should also be noted that Hoboken is an urban environment – it is a city. Cities become premier destinations when they have great places to live, things to do and attractions to see. There is an inverse relationship between how great parking is and how great a city is. Have you been to London, Paris, Milan, Moscow? All amazing cities, but no one is returning from them and saying, you know what I loved about Milan – the parking! Enterprising cities use every square inch to maximize the benefits to their residents with things to do. It is not about being against on-street parking, it is just that great cities do not have the luxury to devote more resources to on-street parking.
3) “I just love to drive and don’t want to be forced to change. I also don’t want to make traffic worse”
If you love driving you should be supporting protected bike lanes more than anyone. Every person that switches from driving and parking a car to using a bike is one more spot you can have. One less car on the road. One less person beeping behind you. One less car holding you up at a light.
No one is saying you have to use the bike lanes, but if you love driving, what would happen if all these people stopped using bikes and started driving?:
4) “I don’t care about bike lanes. All I care about is increased property values/more money/more business.”
If you want to increase property values or business activity, you should be for protected bike lanes in Hoboken. The areas with the highest property values in Manhattan and Brooklyn have protected bike lanes. In fact, take a look at this map, it’s pretty clear that bike lanes are sprouting up in the areas with strong city economics. We should emulate the qualities of great communities and especially ones which are similarly situated to us as urban environments on the periphery of Manhattan (blue lines are unprotected bike lanes, green lines are protected bike lanes):
5) “Bikers are annoying. I always see them biking on sidewalks in Hoboken. It’s dangerous. I don’t want to do anything to support bikers.”
If you don’t like bikers on sidewalks, can we at least try to give bikers some good options that are separated and protected from cars? When protected lanes were installed in New York and Washington D.C., the number of bikes on sidewalks immediately fell by an average of 56 percent:
NYCDOT and DDOT, 2010-2014 – Tired of Cyclists Riding on the Sidewalk? Build More Bike Lanes
6) “So where should the protected bike lanes go in Hoboken?”
Washington street would have been ideal, but in light of where we are, we think the protected bike lanes should be as centrally located as possible. And we think that they should go the entire length of Hoboken. We are only a square mile, we should be able to handle a continuous stretch of protected bike lanes so that people uptown can get downtown and vice versa.
Our first choice would be Hudson Street. Most of the cars are not going east towards Hudson street. However, Hudson street is a county road and that complicates things. We would suggest getting as close to the center of the city as possible. Clinton and Grand Street are good options. Mostly because they would be located so close to most of Hoboken’s parks – as well as Hoboken’s future parks, as seen below. Plus, these are much less trafficked car routes:
7) “Okay, I’d like to see protected bike lanes in Hoboken, what should I do?”
We need to realize it is not bikers vs. drivers. It is bikers and drivers. The city voted for double parking instead of protected bike lanes on Washington street. The least we can do is honor the promise of putting protected bike lanes elsewhere in the city. As many in opposition of the Washington street bike lanes suggested.
If you agree, reach out to your city council members (email). And speak out at city council meetings.
Top image credit.