While the Circuit Trails network expands throughout southern New Jersey, the City of Camden is striving to make its streets safer for bicyclists. Last week, Tri-State staff joined other South Jersey bicycle advocates on a 10-mile ride through South Camden to assess existing strengths and challenges for bike riders in the city.
Like neighboring Philadelphia, much of Camden was built before cars were widely used. This presents a unique advantage to the city, since many of its streets are narrow with light traffic and slower vehicle speeds. Streets like these are much more accommodating for less confident bicyclists than the multi-lane arterials that are prevalent in other parts of the tri-state region.
Even newer neighborhoods have mostly calm, bikeable streets. Fairview, a neighborhood in South Camden originally built for shipyard workers during World War I, features a grid radiating from an urban park at Yorkship Square. This design evenly distributes traffic, creating a network of bike-friendly streets, even without dedicated infrastructure.
These low-stress streets also give the city a promising skeleton to expand upon as it continues to build out its bike network. But making connections between bike paths and bike-friendly neighborhoods remains a challenge throughout Camden. The Cooper River Trail, a recent Circuit Trail expansion, travels through Cooper River Park, but dead ends in a parking lot across from Route 130. Future improvements to the trail could include a safe connection to the larger parks system nearby in Cherry Hill.
After leaving Fairview, our trip took us on Morgan Boulevard over Newton Creek. One of the few roads connecting Fairview with the rest of the city, Morgan Boulevard is a wide two-lane street that narrows as it approaches the bridge, forcing cyclists and fast-moving drivers closer together. The lack of bike infrastructure makes for an uncomfortable situation for people biking.
Camden also has a number of low-visibility intersections where it is difficult to see oncoming traffic. One particularly dangerous example is the six-way intersection at Pine Street, South Seventh Street and Newton Avenue.
Even with all its challenges to overcome, Camden has great potential as a biking city, especially with the Circuit Trails network expansion throughout South Jersey and Greater Philadelphia. Added bike lanes will enhance Camden’s existing bike-friendly streets and neighborhoods while fostering safe connections throughout the city.