Safety concerns are being raised over proposed bike lanes for Route 35 north in Lavallette, though a controversial plan that generated the most ire from local residents has been scrapped.
As part of a $265 million plan to reconstruct the state highway along Ocean County's northern barrier island, bike lanes will be designated on both Route 35's northbound and southbound lanes. The lane running along the northbound side, however, has led to safety concerns since vehicles in Lavallette's busy downtown area would be pulling into and backing out of spaces by crossing the lane itself.
Some residents have raised concerns that a designated lane could lead to heavier bicycle traffic, and also to those on bicycles being less cautious of vehicles pulling in and out of parking spaces, leading to more accidents.
"We're not sure putting bike paths on Route 35 is the best thing to do," said Paul Jeffrey, president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association, in nearby Ortley Beach.
Jeffrey said a better option would be to include a bike lane along Bay Boulevard, which runs between Lavallette and Ortley Beach along Barnegat Bay. That route would be safer, he said, and still provide a north-sound corridor for bicycle riders.
A large portion of Bay Boulevard is currently being reconstructed following damage from Superstorm Sandy.
As local residents' concerns linger, the most controversial aspect of the originally proposed bike lane plan has been scrapped by officials with the state Department of Transportation, according to Lavallette Mayor Walter LaCicero.
The plan as originally proposed included a rarely-used tactic to force vehicles to back into parking spaces on a diagonal by reversing the direction of the lines on all of the parking spaces along the state highway. Vehicles would have had to pass their desired space, then line up their vehicle on a diagonal and back in.
The governing bodies of both Lavallette and Toms River rejected resolutions supporting the plan.
"They proposed that to us, and it was rejected by the council," said LaCicero.
Current plans from the state, LaCicero said, include a "well-marked, well-striped" bike lane in between the existing parking and the existing roadway edge.
The lane will run along the easternmost side of the northbound roadway. Another bike lane will run along the right side of the southbound roadway.