For years, Englewood Cliffs officials have attempted to convince the Bergen County Department of Public Works (DPW) to install bike lanes on Hudson Terrace, a county road used by thousands of New York City and New Jersey cyclists on a daily basis.
Due to the lack of space, bike lanes were out of the question, but two weeks ago the county proposed an alternative to meet cyclists halfway without shortchanging motorists - widening the shoulder.
On August 8th, the county began milling, repaving, and repainting the shoulder lines and widening them from 3ft. up to 5ft. in sections.
“We’re trying to do something to accommodate cyclists and accommodate our residents,” said Melanie Simon, councilwoman for Englewood Cliffs and liaison to the Borough’s DPW, who was particularly concerned of rude motorists and cyclists who sometimes ride three or more abreast on the narrow roadway. “Everybody is trying to get somewhere and the idea is for everyone to get there safely.”
The wider lanes are expected to make it easier and safer for cyclists to navigate around debris, sewage drains and deep potholes without having to weave into vehicular traffic. New lines were added near catch basins to give cyclists advanced warning of the obstacles, and motorists maintain 12 ft. or more of road, the minimum allowed.
One of the most difficult aspects of getting the project started was getting officials from various agencies in the same room simultaneously including Bergen County DPW, Palisades Interstate Parkway (PIP), the Englewood Cliffs Police Department, Englewood Cliffs DPW and Borough officials.
The other challenge was county budgetary constraints.
“We have to work within our budgets,” said Tom Connolly, County Road Supervisor at Bergen County DPW. “We have very limited resources to maintain our roadways. The first three years a road is laid down, it’s smooth and beautiful. Afterwards, it starts to deteriorate. Water and asphalt don’t mix at all, and we have a lot of poor drainage areas.”
According to Connelly, Englewood Cliffs Superintendent Mark Neville agreed to coordinate a cleanup of the buffer zone with the PIP twice a month if the county widened the shoulder.
Simon credits all agencies and Borough officials who came together to get the shoulder extended including Englewood Cliffs Borough Administrator Lisette Duffy, Police Chief Michael Cioffi, Deputy Police Chief Michael McMorrow, Superintendent of DPW Mark Neville, and Englewood Cliffs Mayor Joseph Parisi.
Many cyclists crossing over the George Washington Bridge (GWB) from New York City stop at Strictly Bicycles, the only bike shop on Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee, to stock up on hydration, nutrition, and other bike products and services before continuing north towards 9W.
For Nelson Gutierrez, proprietor of Strictly Bicycles with his wife Joanna Gutierrez, a safer road equates to a more enjoyable experience, regardless if the rider is a beginner cyclist joining one of the Sunday group rides out of the Strictly Bicycles parking lot or a veteran cyclist.
"Creating greater separation between riders and cyclists means a safer experience for everyone on the road,” said Gutierrez. “Cycling promotes a healthier lifestyle. The safer we make it for everyone, the safer and healthier we’ll be.”
Event organizers also rely on safe roads to deliver the best possible experiences for cyclists, especially when they host anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 participants during events such as the Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York (GFNY). The GFNY is a timed 105-mile pro-am race that draws professional, intermediate, and beginner cyclists from 70 countries around the globe.
“Enhancing road safety encourages people to get on bikes to ride,” says Lidia Fluhme, who co-organizes the GFNY with her husband, Uli Fluhme for the last three years. “Many people cite speeding cars and unsafe road conditions as the top reasons why they are too scared to ride a bike. [When] initiatives like this help foster healthy lifestyles in the community, more people start riding bikes and take on a challenge like Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York.”
Fluhme believes widening the shoulder on Hudson Terrace is a good step towards safer cycling.
“Granting more road to cyclists creates a better awareness and awards cyclists with more equal rights to be on the road as cars,” Fluhme added. “Cars that travel along Hudson Terrace are used to cyclists and generally give space, respect the cyclists and are good at sharing the road. But any additional infrastructure, like a wider shoulder, also helps.”
State officials plan to address the cycling issue on 9W next month. Go to StrictlyBicycles.com to follow this series and more cycling news.