Will NJDOT’s New Complete Streets Guidelines Lead to Increased Complete Streets Implementation?

Image: Joseph Cutrufo/TSTC

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has just released the New Jersey Complete Streets Design Guide. This guidance updates the 21-year-old NJ DOT Bicycle Compatible Roadways and Bikeways guide created long before many of today’s modern bicycle facilities, such as protected lanes.

When the 1996 Bicycle Compatible Roadways guide was created, its bicycle compatibility charts filled a void of any bicycle facility guidance. However, this guide led to standards that included sharing 15 foot travel lanes as an “acceptable condition.” At the time, the standards also allocated bicycling in many cases to roadway shoulders, which have very different standards of maintenance and liability than bicycle lanes.

Image: NJDOT Bicycle Compatible Roadways and Bikeways

Fortunately, the new 2017 guide formally introduces complete streets elements as NJDOT guidance. In addition to explaining design features such as bike parking and bicycle facility types, it also introduces a new bicycle planning approach which focuses on different types of roadway designs rather than giving prescriptive lane widths. This approach also allows for flexibility based on context.

These guidelines have serious implications for roadways in the state. For example:

4,000 Average Daily Traffic at 45 Miles an Hour
1996 Guidelines  15 Foot Travel Shared Travel Lane
2017 Guidelines Buffered bicycle lane, Separated bicycle lane, shared use path


Image: NJDOT Bicycle Compatible Roadways and Bikeways

The previous NJDOT guidance suggested dangerous conditions, such as very wide roads, that we now know can encourage faster speeds. Along with creating better new facilities, New Jersey is also now trying to fix these over-wide roads with road diets (see Route 130 in Burlington City and Route 71 in Asbury Park).

With new guidance based on desired bicycle facilities rather than travel lane width standards, New Jersey now has better tools to implement its statewide complete streets policy, as well as those complete streets policies passed in 135 municipalities and eight counties.

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