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OPINION: New 7-Eleven on Wall/Belmar Boundary Dangerous For Pedestrians

By Mark Richert
I am not one to employ hyperbole, however, aside from over-sized sugary drinks the new 7-11 on Belmar Boulevard and Route 35 in Wall will have another certain product: dead pedestrians.  

This site on the south-west corner of Route 35 and Belmar Blvd. is on an intersection that has NO crosswalk markings, NO signage or signals to indicate to motorists that people may be crossing the street, and NO walk/don't walk lights. This is a four-lane road, and there is NO pedestrian island in the middle. You must cross Route 35 to to access the 7-11 store from Belmar.

The speed limit on Route 35 as it approaches Belmar Blvd. is a rarely enforced 35 miles an hour -- and has a blind turn heading south towards the intersection. Already, during the summer and peak pedestrian/bicycle usage times, people -- particularly teens -- cross Route 35 on Belmar Blvd. They display the typical N.J. lack of education on how to cross a street -- running, crossing against the light (including the left turn signal), and/or bicycling against traffic. In summers, this intersection is jammed with traffic, much of it having just left a highway.

My simple attempts at inquiry into bicycle lanes in Belmar -- including an OPRA on the repaving of highway 71 -- resulted in my learning one fact: NJDOT did not employ any aspect of it's Complete Streets program. Contacts to Belmar officials resulted in curt replies to contact NJDOT -- despite the fact that local action has resulted in bicycle lanes -- such as the lanes for the soon to be repaved Main Street in Asbury Park.

While bicycle lanes on Route 71 are crucial to both economic development and public safety, the Route 35 and Belmar Blvd. intersection is an urgent, serious, public safety issue. Adding increased foot and bicycle traffic will worsen the matter -- particularly in summer. 

On Thursday, July 22, 2010 the Monmouth Board of Freeholders established a Complete Streets policy -- a policy that is clearly ignored today. This profound ignorance was illustrated by the small bridge on Belmar Blvd -- just west of this site -- when it was rebuilt. The bridge has no sidewalk, no accommodation for a bicycle lane, not even a shared sidewalk that can be used. It does have a metal barrier installed in the middle of what would be the paved walkway. And the intersection just east of there (at Route 35) received no safety updates for bicycles/pedestrians. 

In short, Wall Twp. approved this magnet for foot and bicycle traffic -- without any consideration for safety or the value of human life. This worsened Monmouth County -- and NJDOT's -- failure to make this a safe intersection. This is the ONLY eastern access from Wall (Glendola, etc.) via. foot/bicycle to the Boro of Belmar and the shore. As opposed to creating an economic development tool and a safe facility, all the entities responsible for the Route 35--Belmar Blvd. have turned a blind eye. The result is a blatant threat to all those who chose to walk or bicycle, and combined with the new 7-11, essentially guarantee that somebody will lose their life at this intersection. 

Mark Richert
Belmar NJ
First Rate November 24, 2013 at 07:53 AM
I applaud the ideas in the article, but the whole concept of pedestrian safety and bike safety are lost in this area. There is zero enforcement of basic bike laws. People are free to ride against traffic (also against the law) and to do so at night with no lights. The laws should be enforced. It is hazardous to walk, bike and drive in this area.
Fred Grygiel November 24, 2013 at 09:21 AM
Mark/First Rate: You both have highlighted an ongoing lack of sufficient community concerns over the virtual absence of compliance and enforcement of bicycle/pedestrian laws. This lawlessness on the streets/roads & highways is accepted behavior in most areas. The police say they don't have the resources to enforce, the schools say they try but kids are kids, some parents enforce others assume and highway departments have programs like Complete/Safe Streets that sometimes are not enforced. Lastly, all of these problems are exacerbated by the technology/devices of the "Distracted Generation." Distracted bikers/pedestrians/drivers/passengers make for a toxic mix on our roads. Just one more: speeding laws on streets are the last to be enforced given the heavy traffic problems on the major roads 35/34/138/195 along with serious criminal activity. So be prepared!

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