by Ashley Bouwense
The people of Chester Township and Borough agree that there should be better paths for bikers and pedestrians, and their concerns were heard.
Members of the Bicycle & Pedestrian Planning Project Team held a public meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wed., April 27 at the Chester Township Municipal Building where they presented and planned elements on better cycling and walking conditions and receive public input on the recommendations. About 40 people showed for the public forum.
A year ago, 12 citizens formed a steering committee to decide how to improve the public mobility and safety in Chester. The group sent an online survey to the people of Chester to collect input on current feelings about walking and cycling conditions in town. Overall, people wanted to see better conditions for bicyclers and pedestrians.
“[The Project Team] hired the consulting firm from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to analyze the public data, look at our current conditions,” borough resident and president of the Chester Historical society, Ed Ng, said.
Over 400 people answered the survey. Sixty-three percent called for improvements in pedestrian safety and walkway connectivity, and 66 percent called for improvements in bicycle infrastructure, safety and bike lane connectivity.
With the help of NJDOT, the Project Team was able to develop a set of recommendations for the Chester bicycle and pedestrian plan. These recommendations include: more sidewalks, multi-use paths and trails for pedestrians; increased multi-use, bike lanes, shoulder use, shared lanes and high speed routes for the bicycle network; signalized crossings on Route 206 and Main Street; and un-signalized crossings on Route 24 at Seward’s Hill and Main Street at Hillside.
While the plan is being developed by the Borough of Chester and Chester Township, NJDOT is providing the local technical assistance and Urban Engineers, Inc. is providing consulting.
The Bicycle & Pedestrian Planning Project Team is very excited about the plan they put together for the town. The team wrote on its website, “[The plan] creates a bicycle and pedestrian network that links parks, schools and neighborhoods with the center of town. The plan will improve safety and mobility of non-motorized travel in our community, and serve as the basis for implementing future bicycle and pedestrian projects in Chester.”
Project recommendations will be taken into consideration and then the steering group will take the recommendations to the township and borough’s governing bodies. Now, the biggest priority for the Project Team is to apply for available grants.
Maxine Finney, Chester Recreation director and a participant on the steering committee, commented on the good the bicycle and pedestrian plan will have on the town.
“This plan will preserve [Chester’s] countryside and beauty,” she said. “People like to come here for that. We are changing with the times as well as keeping the town more friendlily, where more people can visit and residents can enjoy the town safely.”
Some improvements on park trails are already taking place, like the additions of more signage and kiosks.
For more information about the Chester Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan or to sign up for a project email, visit chesterstudy.com.