Volunteers helped install temporary bike lines in Princeton. The lanes will be in place through May 29.

I found out on my birthday — May 20 — that I count, because I was counted. Unbeknownst to me, I stepped on a counter on the sidewalk along Wiggins Street, and I became a data point in a Princeton initiative that turned out to be hands-down (or more accurately feet-down) the best gift of the day — a celebration of biking and walking.

The gift, inspired by the Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee, comprised about 16,000 feet of black-and-yellow-and-white tape, dozens of cans of white spray paint, and several laminated signs. The cost was $5,000, a relative bargain, even by Amazon standards, because, for the most part, it was a one-day, free delivery by Princeton volunteers.

Forty volunteers, including Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, plus two members of the Princeton Engineering Department, spent six hours on Sunday installing temporary bike lanes on Wiggins Street from Sylvia Beach Way (the road behind the library) to Walnut/Chestnut lane. The bike lanes will stay in place through May 29 , but the counters that count pedestrians on the sidewalks, bikes in the bike lanes, and cars on the roadway, were put into place May 11 and will remain until the first week of June. The data collection, facilitated by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, will report the before, during, and after transportation use of the half-mile of roadway.

I hope this is a gift that keeps on giving. The pilot program of temporary bike lanes in a high-traffic area may pilot the town’s way to a permanent installation. I urge bikers and walkers to get out there and be counted on Wiggins and contribute to my birthday celebration. Residents can make sure they count by taking the online survey on the town’s website www.princetonnj.gov.

A smaller group of volunteers worked two weeks ago to canvass the homeowners along Wiggins to get their reaction to the installation of temporary bike lanes that will lead to the elimination of that precious Princeton commodity, parking spaces. According to Lempert and Princeton Engineer Deanna Stockton, the response was overwhelmingly positive. The people living in the neighborhood are fans of walking and biking around town and are willing to live with parking space deprivation in order to get the bikes off the sidewalks and into a safe lane of transit on the roadway.

The planning for my gift began last September on International Parking Day, a day when parking spaces can be repurposed for pedestrian lifestyle uses, such as temporary outdoor seating and/or entertainment spaces. “But this repurposing only lasts one day, and the Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee decided to adopt a goal to create a longer parking-space-takeover project in the form of bike lanes," Stockton said. "The engineering department embraced the concept, as did the mayor and elected officials, even though no formal council resolution was required to implement this temporary data-collection."

This project is a perfect fit for the PBAC whose goals are to:

  • Promote and accommodate walking and bicycling as modes of transportation
  • Advise the mayor and council about the character, safety and location of future pedestrian and bicycle facilities and/or accommodations.

Since I am a member of the Princeton Complete Streets Committee, this birthday present was no surprise. It was originally scheduled for installation on May 19 , but Mother Nature made sure the work took place on my birthday. The surprise element of the initiative was related to the starting point of the bike lanes at Sylvia Beach Way. Why would a street be named after this woman Sylvia Beach? Is she a Princetonian whom I never heard of? (It is hard to believe there is someone in town that is unfamiliar to me). The wife of a road contractor? A major library donor?

I did what every good researcher does and Googled her. Professor Google told me Sylvia Beach (March 14, 1887 – October 5, 1962), born Nancy Woodbridge Beach, was an American-born bookseller and publisher who lived most of her life in Paris, where she was one of the leading expatriate figures between World War I and II. She is known for her Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, where she published James Joyce's controversial book, "Ulysses" (1922), and encouraged the publication and sold copies of Hemingway's first book, "Three Stories and Ten Poems" (1923). The Sylvia Beach Papers — a collection that documents the life and activities of Sylvia Beach (1887-1962), particularly relating to Shakespeare & Company — is housed at the Princeton University Library.

When they start naming bike lanes, I want to be first on the list. This might serve as a fund-raising tactic to pay for the permanent installation and would be a great birthday present to honor those who love walking and biking. It lasts longer and is healthier than my favorite gifts after bike lanes: chocolate and Cheetos.


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