The League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly States 2015 rankings were released this week. Here’s how New Jersey, Connecticut and New York fared this year.
New Jersey, the highest ranked state in the region, inched up one spot to 11th place. Last year the Garden State dropped from seventh place to twelfth, the lowest ranking for New Jersey since the League began publishing the annual rankings seven years ago. And while moving up is better than continuing to slide down the list, an 11th place finish is hardly cause for celebration: the state’s overall score actually decreased from 53 points in 2014 to 48.6 points in 2015.
The League measures states’ bicycle friendliness by awarding up to 100 points based on a number of key indicators and categories, including Legislation & Enforcement, Policies & Programs, Infrastructure & Funding, Education & Encouragement and Evaluation & Planning. New Jersey continues to score low in the Legislation and Enforcement category as it has yet to enact safe passing legislation or a vulnerable user law. These bills exist, but they’re not making much progress in Trenton. Last year, a committee substitute bill made it to the Senate Transportation Committee, but was held up by Chairman Nicholas Sacco, despite the best efforts of Tri-State and the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition.
Connecticut has slipped in the rankings for a third straight year: the Nutmeg State was ranked 18th in 2013, fell to 21st in 2014, and is now ranked 22nd, with 41.4 points out of a possible 100 (40 in 2014). Connecticut gained points for passing a vulnerable user law, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace with what some other states are doing.
This year’s report card recommends updating legislation which requires bicyclists to ride “as far to the right as practicable.” Fortunately, the “Bike Bill” — which cleared the Senate last week — does exactly that. Passage of this bill should help Connecticut keep from backsliding even further, but in order to move up the rankings, more must be done. For example, the League now asks whether a state has endorsed NACTO’s design guides, if it has mode share goals, and if the state has a “dooring” law. That’d be a “no” to all three in the Land of Steady Habits.
New York made incredible progress in last year’s rankings, jumping 14 spots from 43rd to 29th. This year, however, the Empire State made just enough progress to stay put. New York was awarded 35 points this year, an increase of 1.1 points.
Although New York finished last in the region, there’s reason to believe it can climb up the rankings in the coming years. The New York State Department of Transportation has a new pedestrian and bicycle unit manager, Thomas Benware, and is expected to release a complete streets checklist soon. Beyond that, perhaps NYSDOT will take the League’s recommendations to heart and officially endorse the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, adopt a safe passing law and dedicate funding for bicycle infrastructure.