With pedestrians, strollers, cycles, skateboards, scooters, automobiles, Ubers and mass transit scraping their way through relatively narrow thoroughfares among an ever-expanding populace, there has been a bit of an outcry over the sense of safety on the streets of Hoboken lately.
In what appears to be an effort to address those concerns, Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla signed an executive order today officially launching Hoboken’s “Vision Zero” safety campaign, claiming it aims to eliminate “all traffic-related injuries and fatalities by 2030.”
As part of this ambitious effort, a Vision Zero Task Force—made up of community advocates and City personnel—will develop action items and strategies to be formalized through a Vision Zero Action Plan, which will then be adopted by Hoboken’s Department of Transportation.
“Hoboken is proud to launch the most ambitious Vision Zero campaign in the tristate region,” said Mayor Bhalla. “As one of the most walkable cities in the entire country, we can, and we must do more to make our streets safer for our residents and children. Eliminating traffic-related injuries and deaths will involve a collaborative approach with all of our residents and stakeholders, and I look forward to working with our community as we create a stronger and safer Hoboken for everyone.”
The Mayor’s plan is bound to raise a few perplexed eyebrows, given significant amount of discourse over the state of the City’s streets. Amid a rollout of its e-scooter rideshare initiative, the City of Hoboken has managed to turn a pilot program into a revenue stream after approving a new contract with scooter rideshare companies Lime and OjO that will see 35 cents per ride go to the City—reportedly meant to be invested in enforcement, education tools, and enhanced transportation infrastructure.
Among the items discussed are protected bike lines (PBLs), which have become a perennial political football in Hoboken. Previous attempts to include them on the ambitious Washington Street Redesign were met with significant pushback, resulting the Class II (painted/surfaced) bike lanes. Yet conversations have renewed over reintroducing the PBL concept, even as jackhammer echoes still resonate from the budget and deadline-busting project that brought many Hoboken businesses to their knees.
Some on #Hoboken Council say fixing their error in 2016 on Washington St. design & adding protected bike lanes is too hard. A solution like this wouldn’t require “ripping up” anything. Bump outs remain and bikes and scooters are protected. #NewIdeas #Phil4TheFifth #Cohen4Council pic.twitter.com/9t3udXaxFw
— Phil Cohen (@PhilipHCohen) August 6, 2019
Mayor Bhalla announced that the City will be, “moving forward with planning” for PBLs on Clinton Street and Grand Street, to be completed by the spring of 2020.
“Bike Hoboken is thrilled at the formal adoption of Vision Zero by the City of Hoboken,” said Chris Adair, President of Bike Hoboken. “We are grateful for Mayor Bhalla’s determination to make streets safer and improve mobility for everyone in our mile square. The philosophy of Vision Zero is fundamentally a declaration that mistakes should not be fatal, that nobody deserves to die because of their abilities or choice in transportation. We are excited to join our neighbors in Jersey City and New York with this vision and look forward to the specific policies and street designs that will embody it.”
Meanwhile Hoboken’s scooter program has seen widespread criticism since its May 20 rollout. Injuries from the scooters have been a concern in markets worldwide—underscored by a fatality in Nashville the day before Hoboken rolled out its program. Apprehension here in Hoboken became apparent on day one, and uneasiness over the program continues in the face of ongoing anecdotal and documented misuse.
Three’s Company in Hoboken! pic.twitter.com/8Shp3kfYc1
— Bad Scooterists Hoboken (@BadHoboken) August 5, 2019
Stats on the scooter program show that it is indeed popular. Between the two companies, there have been 275,000+ trips, taken by 55,000+ unique riders adding up to 250,000+ miles traveled according to the latest data. Scooter advocates argue that those numbers translate to 8,000+ gallons of gas and 250,000+ lbs of CO2 saved.
But the safety issues continue to make the topic of scooters in Hoboken increasingly polarizing.
Given Hoboken’s dense population, general pedestrian issues are always a concern. The City announced today that they and Hudson County are installing two traffic signals and pedestrian countdown timers at Hudson Street and Hudson Place, as well as at 14th and Garden Street. Furthermore, the City will be moving forward with improvements on Newark Street between Willow Avenue and Jefferson Street this Fall.
Community members can follow Vision Zero updates on Twitter (@VZHoboken), Facebook (Link not yet available), and Instagram (@VZHoboken), and a website for the City’s Vision Zero program will be developed in the coming weeks.