This week, Hoboken was among the cities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. High winds and intense rain battered the New Jersey town, and, as of this morning, much of the city is underwater. But as Hoboken rebuilds it has a new sign to hang, a new achievement to celebrate: This month, Hoboken became a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community — and a shining example of how much can be done when a community comes together to make biking a priority instead of an after-thought.
“When it comes to bicycling in Hoboken,” says Ryan Sharp, the city’s Principal Planner and Bicycle Program Manager, “strong support can be found just about everywhere.”
It starts with Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a cycling advocate and bike commuter. It extends to the City Council — typically embroiled in contentious partisan battles — which voted unanimously for the city’s Complete Streets Policy, to adopt the Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan, and to stripe bicycle facilities on a huge percentage of Hoboken’s streets. And it ripples throughout the city, too, thanks to Bike Hoboken, the local bicycle advocacy group with more than 600 active members (an impressive membership in a city of just 50,000 people!).
“The city doesn’t begrudgingly consider bicycle accommodation only after vocal members of the community rally to action,” Sharp explains. “Instead, bicycles are at the forefront of every transportation project the city engages in.”
Hoboken has gone innovative, enticing some of its former car-hungry residents to the lighter side of transit. When faced with a car parking problem downtown, instead of looking to build more parking that would eventually just cause more congestion, the city unveiled essentially an Adopt-a-Rack program. In exchange for a small donation, local residents and businesses can have a bike rack installed at their request. And parking will get even more convenient in coming months: This summer Hoboken won grant money to install five bike corrals throughout the city.
Did your chain ring come loose on your way to work this morning? In Hoboken, bicyclists can stop by the bike repair station at the PATH Bus terminal, equipped with a bike stand, air and some basic tools to get them to work without waiting on the local bike shop to open. Is your parking permit incentivizing driving? Hoboken resident are declaring parking freedom by giving up their permit under the “Surrender Your Permit” program, which provides perks like discounts at bike stores, a free helmet, bike commuter classes and bike safety gear.
Helmets and gear certainly comes in handy for the “Summer Streets” program, which makes the roads car-free and open to all types of physical activity every Sunday from June through August. Everyday cycling is getting more comfortable too. Cycle tracks are planned for Observer Boulevard and the city has also committed to having 75 percent of Hoboken streets marked with bike lanes or sharrows.
Hoboken is an illustration of how great leadership, under former DOT Director Ian Sacs and Mayor Dawn Zimmer, can pedal a troubled city forward and win accolades like “The Most Walkable City” (Walkscore), the #1 Transportation City and now a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community. We are looking forward to an even more pedal friendly Hoboken soon to come. It’s achievements like these that allow Mayor Dawn Zimmer to say: “In just a few years, Hoboken has raised the bar for what it means to be bike-friendly in New Jersey.”
And, according to Sharp, the achievements have only just begun. “Having such strong support and leadership for bicycling from top-to-bottom,” he says, “ensures that progress will continue to be made for years to come.”
Our thoughts are with the residents of Hoboken as they rebuild – and we hope they’ll be out on two wheels, soon!
Hamzat SaniHamzat joined the League in September 2012 after working with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. Before working in biking, Hamzat worked with Martin Luther King Jr.’s son as a Program Associate at The King Center in Atlanta. A founder of the Red, Bike and Green chapter in Atlanta, Hamzat sees biking as a hub for change on the communal level.
Equity and Outreach Fellow