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Safety for bicyclists, pedestrians remains priority in Metuchen

A man on a bicycle makes his way along a crosswalk in downtown Freehold Borough on a cold and snowy afternoon on January 6.

METUCHEN — Bicyclists and motorists will continue to share the road after pavement markings known as sharrows are placed on Route 27 and on Amboy Avenue.

A sharrow is a shared lane bicycle marking, which indicates that motorists and cyclists must share the road and that bicyclists are permitted to use the full lane. A lane that is marked with sharrows is not reserved for bicycles.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) is expected to place sharrows on Route 27 during a repaving project. Sharrows will also be placed on Amboy Avenue, which was recently repaved.
Route 27 is a state highway and Amboy Avenue is Middlesex County road.

Despite the markings being placed on the pavement, the sharrows will not necessarily protect bicyclists. That possibility was brought to the attention of the Borough Council by a resident during a meeting on Jan. 16.

“We have asked for bike lanes for Route 27 and Amboy Avenue,” Borough Administrator Jay Muldoon said, adding that the request was denied by the DOT. “We agree (with the resident) that a sharrow is a poor substitute for a bike lane.”

Discussions about ways to enhance pedestrian safety and bicycle safety have taken place during the last few years. Several ideas have been implemented, from signals being placed at crosswalks to pedestrians carrying orange flags as they cross a street.

“On one level, the sharrow starts to send the message” of pedestrian and bicycle safety, Muldoon said. “I agree that it does not protect the cyclist. I don’t think any of us propose that was the purpose of a sharrow. However, if we continue to do nothing, I think it is going to make things worse and more dangerous” on the roads.

Muldoon said the use of sharrows will be a step toward making Metuchen safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“That (safety) is the goal,” he said, adding that officials can start taking steps with local roads to implement bicycle lanes. “Grove Avenue is one such place where we can do that.”

Muldoon said municipal officials believe sharrows are one element which will communicate that the borough’s roads are meant to be shared.

“Roads are for bikers and vehicles, not just for vehicles. That is the culture we are trying to work with from an automobile-centric culture,” he said.

Mayor Jonathan Busch thanked the resident for sharing his concerns. He said the implementation of the sharrows is an initial step to show that pedestrian safety and bicycle safety is important in Metuchen.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.

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