City of Plainfield Aims to Improve Bike & Pedestrian Safety and Access to Healthy Food Options

The estimated median income in Plainfield in 2015 was $55,729, which was 23 percent lower than the statewide median of $72,222. The city is currently home to 19 schools which include four charter schools. The Plainfield school district is one of 31 former Abbott districts statewide, which are now referred to as "School Development Authority (SDA) Districts" which requires the state to cover all costs school building and renovation projects under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.

98% Reduction in pedestrian crashes
$329,000 New funding
4 Stores participating - Access to healthy food initiative

The Situation

Pedestrian and bike safety are a concern in Plainfield. For the period from 2005 to 2015 there were 494 collisions involving pedestrians in Plainfield and they account for 12 percent of the 4,091 pedestrian crashes in the whole of Union County for the same time period. Children under the age of 18 were involved in 107 of the 494 incidents in Plainfield and most of them occurred when walking to and from school. This represents 21.6% of the total incidents there were 494 pedestrian crashes for all age groups. A student travel mode tally conducted in the Spring of 2016 at eight of the 19 schools suggested that approximately 20 percent of students walked and one percent biked to school. The City of Plainfield and the Plainfield School District forged a partnership with EZ Ride and multiple stakeholders to improve bike & pedestrian safety.

The Solution

EZ Ride decided to focus its efforts on the City’s 12 elementary and middle schools with a total of more than 5,500 students. The goal was to reach students at a young age to encourage safe walking and biking to school.

EZ Ride established a two year action plan with the following goals:

  • Reduce the number of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists by at least 50 percent
  • Increase the number of students who walk and bike to school by 35 percent.
  • Help secure federal grants of $200,000 for infrastructure improvements to improve safety
  • Incorporate policies that encourage walking and biking in the city’s Master plan.

Forging a Partnership

To help accomplish these goals, EZ Ride forged a partnership with various stakeholders and helped to convene multiple meetings to increase awareness about bike & pedestrian safety.

  • Summer of 2015: EZ Ride partnered with numerous organizations including Plainfield Salvation Army, Union County Police Department, Union County Police’s Traffic Safety Education Program, NJ Ambassadors in Motion, AAA Northeast NJ Division, Boys and Girls Club of Plainfield and the Voorhees Transportation Center to provide bicycle safety education to 64 local children at Salvation Army’s “Christmas in July” bike giveaway event.
  • September 15, 2015: EZ Ride met with the Board of Education in the Plainfield Public School District to present a proposal to conduct a walkability audit for each school in conjunction with VTC and Rutgers Bloustein School of Planning.
  • November 4, 2015: The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) team from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Voorhees Transportation Center and EZ Ride received approval from the Plainfield Public Schools and the City of Plainfield to move forward with developing a District Walkability Assessment and School Travel Plan.

Secure Funding

  • March 2016: EZ Ride was awarded a two year $20,000 Healthy Communities Network Grant to implement SRTS activities and to assist with the District Wide walkability audit which could be used by township planners and civil engineers to improve the streetscape and environmental conditions to support walking and bicycling in the community and also work with community corner stores to provide healthier snacks and drinks to customers. The Bloustein School at Rutgers’ University volunteered to develop the school travel plan (STP) as part of a Planning Studio class in the fall of 2016.
  • January 2017: EZ Ride was awarded an additional $5,000 Healthy Corner Store Initiative mini grant to continue our work promoting healthier food access for residents and students in local Plainfield corner stores.
  • March 2017: Plainfield was one of 11 communities selected to receive $304,000 in federal funds for infrastructure improvements.

“We are thrilled that the City of Plainfield was awarded the 2016 Safe Routes to School Infrastructure grant.  Education has many components outside of the classroom and it’s something that I am passionate about, and we take very seriously. We look forward to continuing our partnership with EZ Ride and their Bike & Pedestrian programs team.  Their efforts to support our community by partnering with corner store owners and local schools to promote healthier eating and walking/biking for our children and residents is innovative and appreciated.“

Adrian O. Mapp