Kevin Robinson chooses his routes carefully.
The 20-year-old Pleasantville resident often walks across the Egg Harbor Township border but avoids major roads such as the Black Horse Pike and Washington Avenue because of the fast-moving traffic and lack of space for pedestrians.
“I take back roads (because) there are too many cars,” he said. “It is dangerous. Sometimes I’ll ride my bike and I think a car will hit me.”
Egg Harbor Township resident Doris Mooney lives on Washington Avenue and said she sees lots of people walk on the road as cars whiz by. She also said she sees a lot of near accidents.
“I wish they would put a sidewalk in here,” she said. “It is a dangerous road.”
Though many busy roadways do not have sidewalks or lanes to accommodate pedestrians or bicyclists, the state and some local towns have adopted guidelines to eventually make those amenities a reality.
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, Cape May, Linwood, Ocean City, Vineland and the state Department of Transportation have adopted formal “complete streets” policies, which state that if a street is built or redone, accommodations must be made for pedestrians and bicyclists.
DOT spokesman Tim Greeley said each municipality adopts its own details for their policy.
“The basic ideals that should be consistent in all of them are that future roadway projects need to consider safe accommodations for all users of the road, not just cars,” he said.
Twenty-seven municipalities and three counties have adopted complete-streets programs in the state, and Greeley said the department is confident those numbers will increase. In April and May, the DOT held workshops with towns on the importance of complete streets, and Greeley said the agency will hold more in the future.
“The investments we make in good design now will pay dividends for generations,” he said.
The DOT’s program has received positive attention. It received the highest state ranking and the fourth-highest ranking overall among the more than 350 communities and states that have adopted formal complete-streets policies, according to a report released in August by the National Complete Streets Coalition.
Matthew Norris, South Jersey advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said many people need to be able to walk because they can’t afford a car.
“Safety is a huge problem, and a lot more needs to be done,” he said.
The organization, which promotes a reduction in the use of vehicles, supports implementation of complete-streets policies. Norris said each area is different, and local officials make determinations on the best options.
But efforts have been made on the federal level, as well. U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, is a co-sponsor of the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011, which was introduced in May 2011 and remains in committee. The legislation would require each state to develop policies mandating that all federally funded transportation projects obey complete-streets principles.
“While some vital safety reforms have been achieved in recent legislation, more needs to be done to have complete, safe streets,” LoBiondo said. “I will continue to be an advocate for increased safety for everyone who uses our nation’s roads.”
Mayors whose towns have adopted complete-streets rules say the benefits outweigh the costs. The municipalities have worked to acquire grants and work with property owners to cover expenses.
Cape May Mayor Edward J. Mahaney said the city requires sidewalks to be built or repaired if work is done on a road. The city, which is almost entirely developed, has a Shade Tree Commission that inspects sidewalks and makes recommendations on areas that need to be repaired, he said.
The mayor said safe walkways benefit tourism and cut down on traffic congestion.
“Tourism is our No. 1 economic aspect,” he said. “We have to have a town where people can walk around and see all of the attractions.”
Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle Sr. said the issue is particularly important to his city’s senior citizen population.
The city has installed on Main Street new crosswalks with clocks that count down to when the light will change, and has plans for more crosswalk improvements on roads used heavily by pedestrians.
“We identify roads that need it,” he said. “We take complete streets very, very seriously.”
Tweedle said the issue is becoming more important to people.
“People are starting to look and be more proactive,” he said.
But creating complete streets in rural areas, which have large parcels of undeveloped land and roads without sidewalks, is more challenging.
Middle Township Mayor Dan Lockwood said the township has laws that require developers who build roads to add sidewalks, but in some places in the 72-square-mile town, there may not be enough room to place them on both sides. It can also be a challenge to add sidewalks on sides of roads that already have signs and utility poles installed, he said.
The township conducted a safety study about 18 months ago to determine problem areas and will work with property owners to get more sidewalks and curbing built, Lockwood said.
“It’s really important. It’s something in our community that benefits our whole community,” he said. “It benefits seniors and children.”
On July 31, two teenage girls died while walking along Route 47 after they were struck by a motorist who was allegedly drunk. Lockwood said he is working with the DOT on safety measures on Route 47, including putting up barriers on the road so people can’t cross at unsafe places.
But the mayor said people need to use sidewalks when available. He said he has seen people walk on the street even if there is a sidewalk.
“We are not going to be able to protect against those that are reckless or not use common sense,” he said. “People still need to be careful.”
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