Over the past year, the City of Camden has been trying to make it easier and quicker for motorists to get off the highway and access new job centers on the waterfront. The City has made some tweaks to the traffic pattern by banning parking on Cooper Street and putting traffic lights on flashing yellow on certain intersections of Cooper and Market Streets during the morning and evening rush hours.
Videos taken by Bike Camden County Chair Jordan Mead show adults shepherding children in strollers the intersection and motorists who are reluctant to yield to people legally in the crosswalk. Without addressing the core problem with Camden’s obsolete street design there is little that the City can do tame traffic and make it comfortable for people on foot. Giving drivers the blinking yellow light only exacerbates the conflicts at intersections.
Meanwhile, between the Walter Rand Transportation Center and Cooper Hospital, NJ DOT just awarded a $7 Million grant to build a pedestrian bridge to MLK Boulevard. The argument for the construction of the bridge is that the highway like intersection is dangerous for pedestrians. Currently, on weekdays the pedestrian traffic is controlled by four Camden County Police Officers stationed at the corners.
The success of a pedestrian bridge is dependent on its design, lighting and its accessibility to the public (will it be open 24 hours?). More importantly, the bridge will not address the issue of pedestrian safety on Broadway, a chaotic street where the bus stops handle thousands of passengers every day.
The city is competing with business parks in suburban South Jersey which offer quick access to major highways. But Downtown Camden and the Waterfront are not business parks. They are mixed-use communities where people live and in many cases walk to work, school and public transportation. Cooper Street, in particular, is critical for pedestrians and cyclists with Rutgers Camden, LEAP Academy the Cooper St RiverLINE station and the Ben Franklin Bridge walkway.
We firmly believe that one the best ways to improve mobility in Downtown Camden is to make its streets safer for bicycling and walking.
The Bicycle Coalition has signed on to a letter addressed the Mayor and Council asking the City to apply for free NJ DOT Local Technical Assistance to develop a plan for the City. You can see some examples of possible improvements in the presentation that we co-produced with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.