BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

Planning board members are again voicing their concerns with the creation of bike paths in Montclair, this time even with a temporary measure.

Attempting to create a temporary demonstration bike and pedestrian path to collect data, the township plans to apply for a technical assistance grant to implement the project.

Bike&Walk Montclair officials said the project would give a push in the direction of  the adoption of the Montclair SAFE Complete Streets Implementation Plan, which has been stalled at the planning board level since 2017.

But planning board members sent a memo to the council on Dec. 16 stating that input from the town traffic engineer is needed before all SAFE Street plans are implemented, that only the widest streets be chosen for the project, and where no loss of parking will occur. Members said they lacked information on what streets were to be chosen for the project.

The town has until today, Dec. 19, to apply to the Complete Streets Technical Assistance Program to receive free direct technical assistance services to implement a temporary demonstration project that would provide data on potential improvements identified in the Montclair SAFE Complete Streets Implementation Plan. The federal program would provide up to $20,000 in assistance, and the town would incur the cost of setting up the temporary project, coordinating with Sustainable Jersey.

According to planner Janice Talley, the three areas cited in the grant — of which one will be picked by the funders — are the Watchung Avenue area from Park Street to Grove Street, the Glenridge Avenue area from Forest Street to Pine Street, and from North Mountain Avenue to Bellevue Avenue.

After hearing of the town’s intention to apply for the grant, the Master Plan subcommittee of the planning board comprised of Carole Willis, Carmel Loughman and Dan Gilmer met on Saturday Dec. 7. 

A group which included planning board member Loughman, planner Janice Talley, a representative from Neglia Engineer and Bike&Walk Montclair and Traffic Bureau Commander Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo also met on Dec. 10 to discuss the grant and plans for a demonstration project 

During the Dec. 16 planning board meeting member Martin Schwartz reminded Talley that the planning board has had difficulties with the bike portion of the SAFE Streets initiative and that the planning board did not agree to a demonstration project. 

Loughman said that losing parking for a “small contingency” of bike riders should not be supported.

Members voted to forward to the council the planning board sub-committee’s recommendations on the SAFE Streets implementation plan. The memo stated support on some safety initiatives: “All of the pedestrian safety measures are supported and could be incorporated into the Master Plan and that bike sharrows are deemed to be a safety measure that alert drivers to the possibility of cyclists sharing the streets and may be painted on all streets that are being resurfaced,” with notice to homeowners and business owners that abut the streets having newly painted sharrows.

As for the project, the committee recommended that only the widest streets in Montclair should be selected and no streets should should be chosen where a loss of on-street parking would occur for businesses, residences and churches.

Bike&Walk president Debra Kagan said the grant allows the town to get further consulting services and to collect data and community input at a low cost, but that the grant must include safety measures for bicyclists as well as pedestrians. 

“It’s temporary,” she said. “It’s not an attempt to put in bike lanes without input. But it would give us information, which is what the planning board has been asking for.”