Borough of Glen Ridge seeks to make roads safer for pedestrians, bicyclists

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Jackovino
Glen Ridge Director of Planning and Development Erik DeLine is seeking a Safe Routes to Schools grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Glen Ridge is looking at multiple ways to make streets safer for its residents. Chief among them is an application for a New Jersey Department of Transportation Safe Routes to Schools grant aimed at motivating children to walk and bike to school. According to borough Director of Planning and Development Erik DeLine, the DOT would like to encourage middle and elementary school pupils to participate. The effort is being made, he said, to foster independence in children and reduce vehicular congestion. DeLine noted that many children in Glen Ridge already walk to school.

The borough is asking for $800,000, DeLine said during a Feb. 11 interview. The funding would go to making streets near schools safer for children. But the monies would pay only for construction; engineering would come out of the capital budget. Grant applicants will be notified of grant awards in June. 

If the borough’s application is accepted, some new features residents would see are curb extensions near the train station; pedestrian flashing signals in the area; and high-visibility crosswalks. These features would benefit students at three schools, post office patrons and rail commuters. The borough was provided with consultation from Bright View Engineering. 

Ordinarily, a “school arrival tally” — of the number of children arriving and departing school by walking, biking or automobile — is required with the application for a Safe Routes to Schools grant. But DeLine said that, because student numbers were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, no tally is required until a grant is received.

According to the program’s website, the benefits for children are healthy habits, independence, and pedestrian and bicycling skills. There would also be reduced traffic and congestion near schools. 

“People don’t do things if they would be unsafe,” DeLine said. “Once they see improvements, that can create a physiological shift. Some schools do a walk-to-school day.” 

DeLine said the grant, offered only every several years, is usually oversubscribed and is very competitive. If the borough does not receive a grant, DeLine said that perhaps some goals can be reached periodically with county support.

At Lincoln Street and Douglas Road, DeLine said a flash-in-motion warning signal has been installed. These solar-powered signs are activated by a moving vehicle and do not emit “visual pollution,” according to DeLine. The more people see a flashing sign, the more they ignore it, he said, but there are numerous ways to reinforce a driver’s good behavior. There is currently a traffic study being considered for Lincoln Street and Douglas Road.

“Right now, Lincoln Street is an uncontrolled intersection,” he said. “But now we’re looking at it as a four-way stop.”

The study will consider the sight distances, crash statistics, vehicle speeds, and the number of pedestrians and vehicles using the intersection.

Two bump-outs would be added at Clark Street and Woodland Road. He also said speed bumps would be installed on Midland Avenue between Carteret Street and the East Orange border, and on High Street between Belleville and Bloomfield avenues.

DeLine said the borough was “looking forward to the creation of the Essex–Hudson Greenway, anything that improves our walking and biking environment.”

The greenway is an approved linear park traveling from Montclair, through Glen Ridge, to Jersey City, along an unused railroad track bed. If realized, it would contain land measuring some 135 acres, 100 feet in width and nearly 9 miles long.

“It’s important to maintain focus on safety,” DeLine said. “We’re taking an incremental approach. We have great partners with the police, council and county. It takes time, but we’re addressing our safety issues.” 

A street-smarts campaign publicizing the responsibilities of pedestrians and drivers was done years ago but is also worth exploring again, he said.