By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN – Cyclists should be able to ride safely through the Two River area, Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli says.
This week, Lucarelli, Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande and borough engineers sat down with Monmouth County administrator Teri O’Connor, county engineers and county planning board members to discuss a proposal that would establish a dedicated bike lane that would loop from Red Bank, along either River Road or Ridge Road to Sea Bright and Monmouth Beach, through Oceanport and then back to Red Bank.
“This would be not just for the serious rider, for those guys in the tights,” said Lucarelli, who is a longtime cycling enthusiast.
“This would be for recreation and for those who are going to work” offering them some safety as they compete with pedestrians and vehicles for the roadways.
In theory, Lucarelli’s plan is simple enough: Work with county officials – most of the roads involved would be county roads –and gain the support from the municipal officials of the towns the lanes would cross.
Red Bank’s Chestnut Street on the borough’s west side already has existing striping to designate a bike lane. The same is true for a portion of Oceanport’s Port au Peck Avenue and Asbury Park’s Grand Avenue, he noted.
“What there isn’t, is a coordinated effort,” to connect areas, he said.
His proposal involves using 3 or 4 feet of the designated roadways that are – on average – about 14 feet wide and mark off the lanes.
The route could run from Red Bank going east along either River or Ridge roads, through Fair Haven and Rumson to Sea Bright along Ocean Avenue/Route 36 to Monmouth Beach. There the route would head west to Oceanport and along Seven Bridges Road, through Little Silver and back to Red Bank.
This is an idea that should have been done long before this because of the proliferation of bike users in the area and that so many other areas have done this to accommodate and protect cyclists, the mayor said.
“Guys, have you been to Europe? Have you gotten outside the country and looked around what’s going on in the world?” he said rhetorical in response to some of the feedback he has received from county representatives.
It may seem simply a matter of painting the roads, but, in reality, it’s more complex than that.
“I think it’s a work in progress, given it interlocks a lot of municipalities” making coordinating efforts more complicated, Freeholder Thomas Arnone said.
Lucarelli and Arnone have discussed the proposal. Even with the obstacles, Arnone said, “I think it’s a good vision. It definitely would be a good asset, an advantage to the region,” if the engineering and safety considerations can be properly addressed.
“The logistics of it have to play into place,” Arnone said. “That’s where the engineers come into play.”
The response from other county representatives he met with was not as encouraging, however, Lucarelli said. They told him he should look to pursue this, get engineering work done and look for the available funding.
“I got to tell you, I was very disappointed” with the response, he said.
Lucarelli said he told those involved, “Hey guys, the bicycles are already on the road of every different type … It’s happening already.”
Lucarelli isn’t giving up. The Fair Haven Borough Council already has passed a resolution in support of the proposal and Lucarelli plans to reach out to neighboring communities to get their support. He will broach the topic after the summer hiatus of the Two River Council of Mayors, an informal gathering of area mayors that usually meets once a month to discuss area issues.
The proposal could be the starting point for trails that will connect the county’s eastern and western portions, coordinating with the Henry Hudson Trail and be done in conjuncture with a safety education initiative, Lucarelli said.
Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna isn’t waiting. He said this week he’s onboard.
“I just refuse to accept the premise that some people have already proffered that our streets are too congested, too narrow, to have bike lanes that would be in harmony with motorists,” Menna said.
Menna, who just returned from England, said bike routes seem to work well there. “What you have to do … is to create a climate that motorists have to accept that they have to share the road.”
Arnone is offering his assistance to Lucarelli to win support from the neighboring towns.