15 spaces. That is the exact cost of the Boulevard East bike lane, according to county engineer Tom Malavasi, who confirmed this number via email today.
To clarify, the total parking loss number is 101 spaces in Weehawken. Of these, 66 spaces are due to pedestrian safety improvements such as curb bump-outs, and 20 are due to longer bus stops.
So let’s talk about those 101 spaces. That is the total cost of pedestrian and bicycle safety on Boulevard East.
Last week, a 17-year-old Weehawken resident was walking across Boulevard East with a bicycle when he was struck by a motorist making a right on red. Michael Radoian. Max Haas-Heger. Ricardo Gonzalez-Rivera. Antonio Irizarry. Salleyh Ortega. Oscar Monroy-Quiroz. These are just a few of the names of people who have been struck by vehicles on Boulevard East since 2019, their names gathered from endless news articles about road violence in our area. And these are only the cyclists. At the next town hall, I would happy to bring you the list of pedestrians and drivers killed, maimed or injured on Boulevard East.
I am here today because I have a deep appreciation for Weehawken. I live in Hoboken, the mile-square city, and I can be in Weehawken in under 10 minutes. For that reason, I find myself frequently in neighboring towns, just as Weehawken residents come south and Union City residents come east to enjoy Hoboken. This is because, like thousands of other Hudson County residents, and hundreds of Weehawken residents, we own a car and we also own and ride two bicycles.
I was not always someone who rode a bicycle. In fact, for most of my adult life until my early 40s, I never rode one and considered it an activity best reserved for holidays at the beach.
But all that changed in 2020. Since the pandemic, cycling has increased 50%. Bike sales have increased 121%, despite supply chain shortages. Why? We can only guess at the reasons. Whether it’s convenience, pleasure, the environment, or efficiency—bikes are not going away.
And to be honest, people on bikes have always been here. In 1873, it was a group of cyclists—the Associated Cycling Clubs of New-Jersey who petitioned Trenton to build Boulevard East. Even today, children and adults can be seen riding bikes on streets, sidewalks, and driveways all over Weehawken.
So. It is up to you whether or not you want to provide them the safety they are entitled to—certainly as much as any driver is entirely to free street parking.
It’s up to you whether or not you want to accept $19 million in federal funding, or turn it down and continue to enjoy your streets as they are today.
It’s up to you whether to preserve the charm, history and a prime open space in Weehawken and Hudson County by inviting residents and visitors to bike, ebike, scooter, skateboard, and ride any other mobility devices coming on your streets, or continue to risk their safety for the cost of 15 parking spaces.
And ultimately it’s up to you whether 101 spaces on Boulevard East are worth the cost to preserve human life.