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Last weekend at Rutgers University – Camden, the Bicycle Coalition hosted its annual Active Transportation Forum highlighting efforts to promote safe streets and Circuit Trails in Mercer, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties. Discussions provided insight into the importance of safe streets for development of community spaces, recreation, community safety, health promotion and even the impact of planning on local youth programs.

Welcomed by the City of Camden’s Councilmember Felicia Reyes-Morten, forum participants were commended for their efforts to promote active mobility in Camden County and the greater New Jersey area. Inspired by grassroots organizers, planners, community leaders and activists, conversations spanned a wide range of topics that addressed the challenges and successes of such work.

A panel on the efforts toward increased road safety left the audience with hopeful insights. Elena Peeples with the East Trenton Collaborative announced that through ongoing engagement efforts that reinforce the importance of “community power”, they have succeeded in getting the NJDOT to commit to holding a community road safety listening session to address the mobility challenges in their community.

Maggie McCann Johns, Director of Camden County Parks, along with panelist Matthew Ludwig from NV5 Technical & Engineering Services, presented a special debut of the Cross Camden County Trail expansion. Notably, Burlington County planner Matthew Johnson also shared on the challenge of getting approval for an at-grade trail crossing on the New Jersey Transit Riverline: a difficult win, but it’s going to be awesome when it’s finished!

William Penn Foundation representative Andrew Johnson began his introduction of the keynote address by acknowledging the value of the Circuit Trails as a critical connector of a regional network. Keynote speaker Olivia Glenn, Director of Parks & Forestry for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, expanded on that sentiment as she noted the importance of Circuit Trails in connecting local NJ residents, as well as outside visitors, to natural resources and amenities. A highlight of local projects included an update on the progress of the Cramer Hill Park project, formerly the Harrison Avenue Landfill.

In the community panel, Dan Rhoton from Hopeworks Camden reminded us that the work of planners and safe-street advocates is not just critical to connect people to places, but to change the narrative of the Camden community. Kris Schnepf of Urban Promise in Camden spoke to this truth, highlighting that the narrative of Camden also included a vibrant group of youth who build boats and connect to nature by venturing through the waterways of the local river. Integration of diverse perspectives in the conversation of safe streets really helped to bring home a sense of how important community spaces and mobility is to the entirety of our cities.

Thank you to all the speakers and attendees who joined us for this important dialogue! And a special thanks to all the event’s sponsors: Lyft, AECOM, NV5, Pennoni, Traffic Planning and Design, Inc., Michael Baker International, Green Mountain Energy, and McMahon Associates.

Leonard Bonarek

Author

In 2016, Leonard entered his third career: city planning. Previous to joining Bicycle Coalition, he had 7 years’ experience working in social services, and 10 years’ hard labor in the maritime industry, in addition to several years of intern and volunteer experience with our organization and Neighborhood Bike Works.

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