Dangerous roadways for N.J. cyclists identified

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The number of bicyclists involved in crashes per capita was highest at the Shore, possibly due to increased tourism in the summer, according to a Tri-State Transportation Campaign study. This scene was in Brant Beach. (Elizabeth Robertson, File / Staff Photographer)

Cape May County has the most dangerous roadways for bicyclists in South Jersey, according to the findings of a transportation advocacy group.

And Atlantic, Cumberland, and Ocean Counties aren't much better, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

Between 2000 and 2010, about 8,300 bikers were involved in crashes - 63 of whom died - in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean, and Salem Counties, according to the nonprofit group, which works to provide better transportation systems in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Using numbers provided by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, researchers found the number of bicyclists involved in crashes per capita was highest at the Shore, said Matthew Norris, a spokesman for the group.

Particularly dangerous, according to the analysis, was busy Route 30, where vehicles often exceed the 55 m.p.h. speed limit on the four-lane stretch in Camden and Atlantic Counties. There were 65 bicycle crashes there between 2008 and 2010.

Route 47, another popular Shore artery, was the site of 58 bike collisions during the period and ranked as the most dangerous road in Cape May, Cumberland, and Gloucester Counties, the group found.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that increased bike riding by tourists and more traffic volume in the summer may contribute to the high number of accidents in the coastal counties, Norris said.

In Cape May County, an average of 84 bicyclists were involved in accidents each year between 2000 and 2010 - roughly 8.4 per 10,000 residents, the highest rate in the region, according to Tri-State.

During the same period, Atlantic County averaged 143 bikers in crashes or 5.4 per 10,000 residents, and the bay-shore county of Cumberland averaged 64 bicyclists in accidents or 4.2 per 10,000 residents. Ocean County averaged 213 annually or 3.9 per 10,000 residents.

Gloucester County had the area's lowest bicyclist crash rate with 1.87 per 10,000 residents, a near tie with Burlington County's rate of 1.91. Camden County's rate was 3.5 per 10,000 residents.

The numbers illustrate the need for motorists to learn to share the road with bicyclists and pedestrians, and for New Jersey's county and state governments to provide roads that serve everyone, Norris said.

"South Jersey, specifically, has a lot of roads that are outdated and built with only autos in mind," he said.

Jeanne Bradley, owner of the Pro Pedals bicycle shop in Hammonton, agreed.

Many of her customers ride in nearby state parklands and forest trails to avoid congested Route 30, just outside her shop, Bradley said.

"But there are other areas where you may want to ride, where you just can't avoid sharing the road," she said.

"The roads need to change to include room for everyone, but the attitude of the drivers needs to change, too," said Bradley, who recalled a recent trip to Italy where motorists and bicyclists coexisted easily on the narrow roads.

John Boyle, research director at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, noted that Dutch bicyclists aren't required to wear helmets but have an injury rate about a quarter that of their U.S. counterparts.

"Dutch roads are designed to accommodate bicycles safely and motorists are held accountable for their actions," he said.

Boyle and Norris said they hoped the study's findings would help persuade officials to fix dangerous roadways, and create more bike lanes and sidewalks.

"That would also encourage healthier, more active lifestyles," Bradley said.

The DOT approved a Complete Streets policy in December 2009 requiring the state and counties to build or rehabilitate roads with all users in mind, including drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders.

New Jersey was among the first states to adopt such a policy, and its plan is ranked No. 1 among 210 nationwide by the National Complete Streets Coalition, said Tim Greeley, a state DOT spokesman.

The program has already resulted in road improvements, Greeley said. About 5,000 feet of sidewalks have been installed on the busy Routes 40/322 corridor in Mays Landing, Atlantic County, and there are plans to reconfigure Route 45 in Woodbury Township to add a bike/pedestrian lane, he said.

 


Contact staff writer Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or jurgo@phillynews.com.