By Whitney Miller
Over the past few years, the City of Camden has taken strides toward implementing its Complete Streets policy and making a more bicycle friendly community. The city plans to link its existing bicycle paths to each other as well as create a way for them to connect to Philadelphia via the Ben Franklin Bridge. This will create one continuous circuit of bicycling and walking paths. In 2012, an organization called The Circuit was formed for this specific purpose as well to connect to bicycle paths to surrounding townships such as Cherry Hill and Woodlynne. One is able to see what has been completed, in progress, and proposed on their interactive map. When complete, The Circuit will be 750 miles in total, stretching between nine counties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The City of Philadelphia and Camden’s Cooper’s Ferry Development Association are working together to specifically connect Camden and Philadelphia together by bicycle. Part of their goal is to connect trails in Cooper River Park to those in Camden. This is being referred to as The Camden Greenway. The Cooper River Park trails do not yet directly connect to paths in Camden City, but it will eventually have paths leading to the to the Ben Franklin Bridge, which will also be part of The Circuit. Cooper River Park is located in Pennsauken, Cherry Hill, Collingswood and Haddon Township. The U.S. Department of Transportation gave Camden $5.8 million TIGER grant, from a total of $23.2 million that is going toward the Circuit. The money will go toward construction and planning costs. With these funds, the City of Camden was able to construct the Pearl Street Pedestrian/Bicycle Improvement Project (Ben Franklin Bridge Connector), Martin Luther King Boulevard Waterfront Connection, and Pine Street Greenway Enhancement Project. In 2014, Camden received the Safe Routes to School Grant from the New Jersey Department of Transportation for the Haddon Avenue Transit Village. Part of the redevelopment of the area is centered on pedestrian and bicyclist friendly improvements, which will include bike lanes, new traffic signals, crosswalks, and ADA-accessible sidewalks. The hope is that these improvements, along with the construction of new future paths, in will increase bicycle and pedestrian activity and spur redevelopment in the surrounding areas.
The completion of The Circuit will make it possible for those residing in the Camden area to safely bicycle recreationally and use bicycling as means of transportation. Through this initiative, access to public transit via walking and bicycling will be improved. This is especially true for the recently completed paths along MLK Boulevard, which is the location of multiple public transportation hubs. The Walter Rand Transportation Center provides access to PATCO, NJ TRANSIT, and the RiverLINE light rail. There will also be increased access to green space and connectivity from one neighborhood to the next.
The Circuit will hopefully change people’s views of Camden not being a bicycle city, not only in the minds of residents but for those who live in surrounding towns. Bicycling has many benefits such as being a healthy form of exercise and being a less costly mode of transportation. Having a safe and designated place to bicycle is important in increasing the number of people who partake in the activity. Also, this project will be important for the Camden’s overall public perception, which is often tainted with news stories that emphasize the city’s struggles.