Thousands of New Jersey and New York City cyclists traversing the George Washington Bride
daily en route to 9W, arguably the most traveled cycling route in the northeast, will soon have improved visibility this fall after the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) begins repainting the road shoulder lines and adds new signage along Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly, and Alpine up to the state line.
“There’s a study we’re looking at to see what is feasible in terms of longer term improvements for the 9W corridor,” said Joe Dee, spokesperson for NJDOT, who is also an avid cyclist. "We’ve been interested in addressing this issue for some time now due to the volume of cyclists. It’s a very popular area.”
While the project is designed to make the road more visible and safer for cyclists, Dee says motorists need to understand the road is to be shared by a variety of users. Nevertheless, cyclists need to do their part as well.
“I think it’s awareness,” Dee said. “Cyclists can make themselves more visible by wearing bright jerseys. But I shake my head at the recklessness of cyclists when they go two abreast on a highway that doesn’t have a shoulder. And clearly, they’re on the highway for a short distance, they’re trying to get off it onto a country road, but they absent mindedly or arrogantly decide to take over a section of the road and it just doesn’t make sense.”
“I always look at little stretches of highway, and even county routes where there’s no shoulder, and I’m on those periodically like Route 579 in Hunterdon,” Dee added. “That’s the time for a pace line. If you have a bunch of riders, get in the pace line and grind it out.”
According to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles. Cyclists must ride on the right side of the road, travel in the same direction as motorists, obey all signals, and ride no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file.
Narrower sections along 9W are posted with signs requiring cyclists to ride in a single file. Cyclists under 17 years of age are required to wear a bike helmet approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, although bike shops, groups, and clubs advocate the use of helmets regardless of age.
Organizers of Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York (GFNY), a timed race that utilizes 9W for much of the 105-mile course, has developed a “sixth sense” for what’s improved and what requires more focus, including speeding cars, distracted drivers due to texting, and the 3-foot distance rule motorists should maintain when passing cyclists – all of which require additional education for both cyclists and motorists.
“While speeding and distraction will have to be enforced by ticketing drivers, passing cyclists appropriately requires education because many drivers are not aware of the danger that comes from passing cyclists closely,” says Lidia Fluhme, who has successfully co-organized the GFNY with her husband, Uli Fluhme for the last three years.
Group rides meeting at Strictly Bicycles every Sunday at 8am not only provide a supportive training environment for cyclists training for the next GFNY and other events, they also educate cyclists on road rules, etiquette, and how to properly share the road with motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians.
But Fluhme believes non-cycling motorists needs to experience the road from a cyclist’s perspective to better appreciate the potential for disaster.
"Ideally, before anyone is granted a driver's license, he/she would have to be on a bike and have cars, trucks and motorbikes speed by with 3-12 inches of distance while riding their bike from A to B,” Fluhme explained. “Experiencing that fright firsthand would show drivers how horrible it feels and deter them from doing it and, hence, avoid terrible accidents.”
For more information regarding cycling tips, bike safety, and to view digital maps, go to the Road Rules section under Community @StrictlyBicycles.com.
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