162 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed in New Jersey in 2007, 9 percent fewer than in 2006. But the good news is overshadowed by the devastating toll of those tragic deaths, and New Jersey’s inability to make sustained progress on reducing bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities. In 1998, then-Gov. Whitman pledged to halve New Jersey’s pedestrian fatalities from the 145 killed in 1997 by 2010. As a new TSTC report, Skimping on Sidewalks 2008, points out, the state is nowhere near meeting that goal.
Within the state, Middlesex, Essex and Bergen counties were the most dangerous places to walk or bicycle, with 19, 18 and 15 fatalities respectively in 2007. Hudson, Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties had the highest share of total traffic fatalities who were pedestrians or cyclists. (Fact sheets breaking out bike/ped fatality and funding data are available at TSTC’s reports page.)
Older New Jersey residents were more than twice as likely to be killed as a pedestrian in a traffic collision than the population as whole. The statewide pedestrian fatality rate is 1.79 per 100,000 persons. But for New Jersey residents aged 65 and older, the fatality rate is 3.72 – and the rate is 4.62 for those aged 75 and older.
New Jersey deserves credit for making bicycle and pedestrian projects a statewide transportation investment priority. Indeed, NJDOT has more than doubled bicycle and pedestrian spending over fiscal year 2005 levels. Perhaps because of this investment, and high gas prices, the state is enjoying an increase in walking rates as measured by U.S. Census figures on commuting. The share of New Jersey commuters walking to work grew 26 percent from 2000 to 2006, compared to a 7 percent increase nationwide.
Unfortunately, in the state’s most recent capital program, funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects has fallen more than 14 percent from the previous year, and the share of total funding slated for sidewalks, bicycle lanes and paths, and other bike and pedestrian improvements has dropped 12 percent.
Even in the best years, municipal demand for bicycle and pedestrian funding has far exceeded the state’s ability to support those types of projects. Our analysis of recent applications and awards shows the number of applications outstripping awards by a margin of almost 10-to-1. New Jersey awarded just 6.4 percent of the total dollar amount requested by municipalities and other entities.
Furthermore, the state’s process for distributing its limited bicycle and pedestrian funds challenges municipalities without the ability to provide local matching funds or the staff to submit the time-consuming paperwork. As a consequence, most of the pedestrian and bicycle funding that New Jersey administers (including federal funds) goes to projects in suburban areas. New Jersey’s cash-strapped urban municipalities, with transportation and planning staffs stretched thin meeting other obligations, have little time to devote to chasing down funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, even as they tend to have the highest concentration of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths.
- Use the next reauthorization of the Transportation Trust Fund as an opportunity to increase funding for NJDOT pedestrian and bicycle programs.
- Develop a new “Safe Streets for Seniors” funding program aimed at improving pedestrian safety in places with high numbers of older adults.
- Target all bicycle and pedestrian funding to places with the highest number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths.