Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Horse Sense: Saving government from itself

Why the proposed narrowing of Washington St. is a massive government overreach and needs to stop

The character and tradition of Washington St. isn't strictly archaic other than the disastrous condition of the roadway surface itself. Hoboken's "Main St." is renown both locally and nationally, so the burden of any transformation falls clearly on the would be transformer.

Here the proposed transformation to drastically narrow Hoboken's main drag by way of two bike lanes comes from Mayor Zimmer. Her plan as currently presented to the public is wrong for Hoboken least of all that it heralds a potential major impediment to the will of the people on its most important and symbolic thoroughfare.

There's no sufficient argument here to counter the clear will of the people. For numerous reasons, Mayor Zimmer should heed their voice and act accordingly in concert with a revitalized and reconstituted City Council where actual policy differences urged by the public may be incorporated.

Safety is the major argument advanced by the administration, either outwardly or discreetly. The desire to "moderate" Hoboken's main thoroughfare is the clear motivation behind adding the desirous but ruinous bike lanes. It's a tool to an end and one the public sensed, smelled out and rejects.

While 300 accidents on Washington St. have been highlighted in recent years, the vast majority as it turns out are at intersections with one fatality involving a senior the past year. This speaks to individual judgment, inadequate lighting, signals and signage as much if not more than the frequently overblown references to the dangers of double parking.

If double parking were the source of most accidents on Washington St., a certain midtown pizzeria would be the location of a graveyard. The data supporting the double parking dangers is simply fantasy regardless of one's aversion to its ungainly appearance.

A cyclist has the same right to the roadways as cars, truck or any other vehicle. Nothing precludes cyclists from riding on Washington St. or any other. As poor analogies abound, the solution is multiple and simple. Bikes can ride wherever they like (but preferably not on sidewalks). They simply don't conform on the whole to ride at the speed of pedestrians as law dictates.

Sinatra Drive is the perfect place for cyclists to access all points north and south of town. It intersects with Hudson at 11th Street and similarly at 4th. Both access points allow simple uptown and downtown availability to Washington St. Using the safest and widest roadway brings cyclists to any point in the Mile Square's central point of activity in seconds. For cripes sake, you're on a bike!

Other options on streets west of Washington St. can be encouraged for traversing points north and south. The cost and impact to the vast majority of residents there is slight and should be quickly incorporated.

The weekend fire on Washington St. took out an entire floor of a building at fifth. Fortunately, no residents were hurt. Hoboken's superb public safety efforts are predicated on access and speed to the location.  Who's to say when a narrowed vision of Washington St. will come into play with deadly consequence? Never is the best time to see it doesn't happen.

At last week's special meeting, neither of Hoboken's public safety heads appeared to laud the merits of narrowing Washington St. via bike lanes. No letter of endorsement has appeared with their respective signatures. That silence speaks volumes and comes after a potentially deadly fire on Washington St. only last weekend.

Back in 2010, MSV called out all Hoboken elected officials when the decades old St. Patrick's Day parade degenerated into something akin to mardi gras and Germany's New Year's Eve crime spree. Severe injuries and an unfair reliance on overwhelmed public safety led to scores of crimes, injuries and reported rapes before sanity and public order was restored with its cancellation.

This time, it's not government inaction but a potential overreach which may land up destroying numerous businesses on Washington St. and the historic thoroughfare's vitality not to mention its century old charm.

The government overreach to first narrow the roadway with bike lanes and now delay finalizing Washington Street's redesign is that bad. As the mayor's letter to the City Council requests revisiting bike lanes on Washington St. at a later time, the public may decide to take matters into their own hands.

How long do you think it would require before the public submit thousands of signatures putting the issue onto the ballot in a referendum? Taking the matter into their hands will put the issue to a vote this November but needlessly stall the overdue progress the overwhelming public will demands.

The City Council should take note and act decisively and conclude the redesign and funding of Washington St. tomorrow. The easiest manner to do so is by amending the resolution and delete item F with any mention of bike lanes on Washington St.

Sometimes, it becomes a necessity to save government from itself. The public is fed up with the delay, subterfuge and patronizing condescension it take its medicine.

On Wednesday night, get it done.  Or risk seeing the public take it out of your hands and finish the job of Washington Street's redesign itself.

Proponents of bike lanes on Washington St. could allow for "bikers" to take their dogs along in a sidecar. Actually, that isn't the case as the width doesn't meet any US guidelines. The six foot proposed width for two bike lanes on the curbed side of parked cars doesn't meet US guidelines either. Time to get over it and allow progress the vast majority of the Hoboken public wants.

Talking Ed Note: The Hoboken Chamber of Commerce and its members are avidly against narrowing Washington St. and adding bike lanes. A letter from June last year to Mayor Zimmer voiced their concern parking would be the loser on Washington St. in the proposed plan and the cost would prevent funding for those concerns.

The current resolution on the Washington St. redesign incorrectly names the Chamber as in support of the administration's proposed redesign.

At the prior special meeting on first introduction of the redesign plan, MSV spoke in favor thinking the opposition premature and the idea workable to the satisfaction of all parties. That was then, this is now and the public has made all its preferences adequately clear.

Time to vote, put the matter to rest and move on.