Last month Camden City Council passed a resolution to apply for NJDOT’S Local Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Assistance to develop a master plan for the city. The application was the result of a 3-year campaign to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in the City from the Bicycle Coalition and the Tri-State Campaign, New Jersey Conservation Foundation Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association and concerned residents of the City.
We met with Coopers Ferry Partnership several times, put together a concept presentation, and wrote co-authored a letter asking for a plan.
Additionally, we worked with these same partners to create a bike/ped strategy document in 2016 that makes many recommendations to make Camden’s streets safe for all road users.
Over the past three years, Camden has seen major growth in work destinations: Rutgers School of Nursing, Triad 1828 Building, American Water, and the Philadelphia 76ers Training Facility have popped up. New parks and recreation facilities, such as the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center have been recently completed, too. A new Hilton Garden Inn will be opening on the waterfront in 2020.
Unfortunately, all of these developments are designed as if they were in the suburbs, with massive parking facilities, no “relationship with the street,” and internal amenities that discourage employees from participating in civic life in Camden. It is then no surprise that most of the new workers drive in from outside the city, leading to considerable car traffic impacts to city residents.
At the same time, construction will start soon on the deceptively-named Cooper St. Pedestrian Access Project. This will create a fenced median on Cooper St to prevent jaywalking, add a lane of vehicular traffic with no bicycle improvements and minimal ADA pedestrian improvements.
Looking further, the Cooper Ferry Partnership has several road and trail projects in various stages of planning.
The preliminary concepts for these projects often include facilities such as bike lanes and bike parking as an option. But for the most part, they have been quickly shut down by neighborhood groups at public meetings.
A bike-ped master plan would put these issues upfront, giving the public a chance to conceptualize a system of bike and ped facilities for the City to build a better case for inclusion.
The City is now in the process of submitting the application to NJDOT which will offer planning services at no cost to the City. Other communities that have recently applied or finished plans through this program include Burlington City, Elk Township, Hightstown, Maple Shade and Pitman.
Thanks go out to the City Council, especially Councilwoman Felisha Reyes-Morton and the resolution’s sponsor and Mayor Frank Moran’s office. We are hopeful that NJDOT will approve the plan and start work by 2021.