Robeson-Wiggins-Hamilton corridor study evaluates pedestrian, bicyclist safety

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The Princeton Council has accepted the long-awaited Paul Robeson-Wiggins-Hamilton corridor study, which seeks to make improvements to the corridor that would make it safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

While the Princeton Council “accepted” traffic consultant WSP’s report at its Jan. 27 meeting, Mayor Mark Freda said he wanted to make it clear that the council would not make any decisions on the report’s findings and recommendations at the meeting.

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The study reviewed the existing conditions along the one-mile-long corridor between Bayard Lane and North Harrison Street – including the varying street widths, crashes and traffic volumes.

The report suggested several changes to the corridor that ranged from creating a roundabout at the intersection of Paul Robeson Place and Chambers Street, to implementing traffic calming measures – raised crosswalks; shifting parking from the eastbound side of the street to the westbound side; or even eliminating on-street parking.

The consultant recommended raised crosswalks on Wiggins Street at Vandeventer Avenue, and at the intersection of Wiggins Street/Hamilton Avenue/Moore Street.

Pedestrian-activated flashing yellow lights also were recommended for installation at the Wiggins/Hamilton/Moore intersection to help pedestrians cross the street.

A raised crosswalk also was recommended for the intersection of Hamilton Avenue/Walnut Lane/Chestnut Street, as well as a traffic signal to slow down cars and to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street.

At the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Linden Lane, a raised crosswalk also was recommended to calm traffic.

Much of the discussion, however, was focused on how to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians who use the Robeson/Wiggins/Hamilton corridor. The WSP study explored four options, of which it recommended two – creating a dedicated bicycle lane or a combination pedestrian/bicyclist path.

One recommendation in WSP’s study was to create dedicated bicycle lanes on both sides of the street if the number of cars – and their speed – could be reduced through traffic-calming measures, such as raised crosswalks.

More than 11,000 cars travel on Wiggins Street on a daily basis between Witherspoon Street and Moore Street, but to safely accommodate bicycle lanes, the number of cars would have to be reduced to about 10,000 cars.

About 7,200 cars use Hamilton Avenue, between Moore Street and North Harrison Street, on a daily basis. There are about 8,000 cars per day that travel on Paul Robeson Place, between Bayard Lane and Witherspoon Street.

If the bicycle lanes were installed on the Robeson/Wiggins/Hamilton corridor, it would likely result in eliminating parking on the street. It might also require some street-widening in areas where the streets are not wide enough to handle bicycle lanes.

Alternatively, a combination bicycle/pedestrian path could be installed on the north side of the Robeson/Wiggins/Hamilton corridor in place of the existing sidewalk. It would require widening the streets, relocating utility poles and removing some street trees.

Meanwhile, Lisa Serieyssol, who chairs the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, delivered a memorandum from the committee that was adopted at its Jan. 26 meeting and which recommended dedicated bicycle lanes.

Serieyssol said the committee agrees with many – but not all – of the study’s recommendations. Making the corridor safer for pedestrians and bicyclists benefits the community, and supports those residents who live car-free, she said.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee recommends installing bicycle lanes on both sides of the street in the Robeson-Wiggins-Hamilton corridor – and it should be done this year, Serieyssol said.

More studies are not needed on that recommendation because dedicated bicycle lanes were installed on a trial basis on Wiggins Street in 2018, Serieyssol said.

Dedicated bicycle lanes would make it easier for middle school and high school students to travel on foot or by bicycle in the corridor, she said. It would also increase the number of adults who walk or ride a bicycle to the Central Business District, reducing traffic congestion, competition for parking spaces, and carbon dioxide emissions.

While the Princeton Council accepted the report overall, the resolution stated that it was being accepted with an “expressed preference” – not outright acceptance or approval – for the option of dedicated bicycle lanes on both sides of the streets.

The Princeton Permit Parking Task Force, which is already examining how to provide for resident, visitor and employee parking in several neighborhoods, also was requested to find a solution to the parking issues along the corridor.

The Princeton Engineering Department staff will look at all of the study recommendations, with the concept of the dedicated bicycle lanes in mind, Freda said. The various alternatives contain many details that need to be reviewed by the staff in anticipation of future discussions with the Princeton Council, he said.

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