VINELAND — Local officials are trying to make sure the municipality’s first designated downtown bicycle lanes are safe for two groups that often do not coexist well together.
The city’s Health Department is asking bicyclists and motor vehicle operators to take extra precautions to prevent possibly fatal collisions.
“It is clear that more bicyclists and motorists are sharing the road than ever before,” said city Health Officer George Sartorio, adding that numbers should increase during the upcoming summer season.
And while local police said there are no special enforcement plans for the new bicycle lanes, department members are “aware of the new traffic patterns established by the creation of the new bike lanes.”
“We will be monitoring the area for compliance, ensuring the safety of pedal cyclists utilizing the new bike lanes,” Capt. Rudy Beu said.
Work on the lanes, which run for about a mile each on Elmer and Wood streets between East and West avenues, is now complete. Each lane is clearly marked with bicycles painted in white. Black and white bicycle lane signs are also posted along the route.
The work also includes designated parking spaces along both Elmer and Wood streets.
The bicycle lanes shrink the amount of space for motor vehicles traveling along the streets. The finished work creates the single lane of traffic that local authorities said both streets were originally meant to handle.
Work on the project was paid for by $37,000 in various grants.
“It’s a good thing,” Mayor Ruben Bermudez said. “I talked to people and they like the idea. It’s more safe now. Now the traffic is where it should be and they’re not going as fast as they can.”
On Monday, however, more bicyclists were riding on the sidewalks along Elmer Street than were using the new bicycle lane there.
Local resident Charles Weatherly, 51, a laborer, said he rides his bicycle because he does not have a car. He said he really did not notice that the new lanes were in place.
Asked whether he would use them, Weatherly said, “Maybe. I’ll at least think about it.”
City officials said the local Health Department, especially during visits to local schools, will start encouraging residents to use the bicycle lanes instead of sidewalks.
Sartorio said state law requires bicyclists and motor vehicle operators to obey the same rules of the road, including stopping at stop signs and obeying traffic signals.
However, he is urging both bicyclists and motor vehicle operators to take extra safety measures.
Bicyclists should be more aware of their surroundings and motor vehicle traffic, and should use hand signals when turning, Sartorio said. Motor vehicle operators should give extra space to children on bicycles and be careful when opening doors, he said.
“When we all drive safely and are considerate of others, it is easy to share the road,” he said.
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