Chris Christie Sticks It to Pedestrians for No Discernible Reason

In 2014, 170 people were killed while walking on New Jersey streets, accounting for 31 percent of total traffic deaths in the state (about double the national share). In addition, 13 people were killed while biking that year.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

To address the problem, lawmakers and advocates in New Jersey have been working on a bill to establish a Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Council to advise multiple agencies in state government.

The measure sailed through the state legislature, but Governor Chris Christie had other ideas. Cyndi Steiner and Aaron Hyndman at New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition report that Christie, the same guy who stopped the ARC transit tunnel, issued a “pocket veto” to kill the measure:

Legislation sponsored by state Senators Nia Gill and Diane Allen, as well as Pamela R. Lampitt, Daniel R. Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Tim Eustace in the Assembly, to create a Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Council had won unanimous approval from the Senate (October 2015) and Assembly (January 2016), and with the Governor’s signature, would have established a new commission designed to carry on the work of the NJDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council (BPAC). The new Council would have examined issues related to pedestrian and bicycle safety and would advise the governor, legislature, NJ Department of Transportation and other state agencies on solutions that will make New Jersey communities safer and friendlier for bicyclists and pedestrians.

While New Jersey’s DOT has had a BPAC for more than 20 years, and in September 2014 introduced a new version that included other stakeholder agencies, this is the first time that the state legislature would have mandated such a commission and codified it by statute, demonstrating the need for such a council not only within DOT but across transportation, planning, and health agencies. As a result, bicycle and pedestrian safety would have now been elevated to the forefront of state-level policymaking. In other words, we thought we had arrived. We were wrong.

With the previous legislative session having come to a close, Governor Christie had the option of signing the bill into law by today’s noon deadline, or allowing the bill to expire without action: the so-called “pocket veto.” Unlike the standard veto, which carries with it an explanatory statement describing the rationale behind the action, a pocket veto lets the legislation expire with no explanation from the executive, more or less letting it fade away without a trace.

Unfortunately, Governor Christie’s decision (or indecision) today was to let this valuable piece of legislation, one seen as so useful and well-constructed that it passed the ENTIRE legislature — Senate AND Assembly — without a single “no” vote, go unsigned. As a result, it’s back to square one.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington shares big news from DC — a zoning update to make housing more affordable and the city more walkable won final approval this week. And Twin Cities Sidewalks, reflecting on a bizarre op-ed that endorses aggressive driving, delves into the strange ways getting behind the wheel of a car affects human behavior.

  • Doug

    I guess it is because Chris Christie has done so little walking himself that he chooses to stick it to pedestrians. Just look at his waistline.

  • Chicagoan

    Well said. I was going to say, does this look like a man who cares about pedestrian safety? To care about such a thing, I suppose one has to actually be a pedestrian every now and then.

  • PP

    Chris Christie is the same guy who stunned food bank operators and anti-poverty groups with the announcement that a temporary food stamp program for 11,000 unemployed people was ending on New Years Eve 2015. T
    he guy just loves sticking it to the “little people” while claiming to be their defender.

  • Frank Dell

    Chris Christie is under the delusion that the people of Iowa and New Hampshire are his constituents.

  • Mike

    There is an easily discernible reason — he’s running in a presidential primary in the party that doesn’t like any new government councils, agencies, etc… and wants to get rid of many of the existing ones.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    Lets face it. A government agency would not have solved the problem. Matter of fact, it may have increased the time to solve it. The quickest way to solve it is through the budget process. Identify the problem areas, increase funding to the areas, give them five years to fix it. If the problem areas are not fixed within five years, then withhold all funding until the area is fixed. Carrot = Increased funding / Stick = No funding if not fixed within five years.

  • And how exactly does that happen? Perhaps if there was some type of council to advise on how the budget should be used to fix these problems. Etc. You even used “identify the problem areas” in your statement, who does that exactly.

  • If the House and Senate passed the bill unanimously can they not override the veto?

  • WoodyinNYC

    Driven to extremes, sadly I’ve begun to hope Christie becomes the Repub nominee for president. Loathsome as he may be, he’s not half as crazy as Cruz or Trump or Rubio or Fiorina or Huckabee or Santorum, no worse than Kasich or Paul or the recycled Bush Brother or Carson. (Am I forgetting one of the forgettable ones?)

    Is even one of that large field suspected of having pro-pedestrain, pro-cyclist, or pro-transit sympathies? Not one.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Of course, in terms of nominees, it’s likely that Trump would be easier to beat in the General than the more moderate Christie.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    Identifying the problem areas can be done either by the NJ DOT or at the local area. It does not require a new government agency to determine that Main Street has a higher than the national average for accidents and fatalities. A college intern can compile that in Excel in an afternoon.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    That’s why it is called a Pocket Veto. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocket_veto

  • Its not an agency, its a council. And besides, DOT is focused on DOT things, not pedestrian or cycling issues. The whole point of this idea is to create a body that’s focused on the issue.

  • I’m not understanding what it being a Pocket Veto relates to the question. Isn’t it simply veto by ignoring? I was under the impression that a veto could be override by some level of supermajority of the house and senate. But I’m not that familiar with NJ government.

  • Jason

    Christie is a guy who had lap band surgery and managed to regain the weight afterward, whose stated reasons for supporting marijuana prohibition include potheads supposedly having no self-control and thus needing the government to enforce self-control on them.

    Just sit back and let that one sink in for a moment.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    It cannot be overridden because the House and Senate have adjourned. They is nobody there to override it. For example, say you had your clothes dry cleaned. A week later you pull out a garment and it still has stains. You go back to the dry cleaners to have it redone, but discover they went out of business. All you can do is take it to a new dry cleaners and start over.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    DOT = Department of Transportation. Pedestrians and cyclists are transportation. Safe infrastructure for all road users is a DOT issue.

  • Are you being intentionally obtuse? Do you really believe state DOTs deal with this? The point is, there’s a problem, nobody’s addressing it. Lets fix that. Sitting back in your arm chair and stating well the DOT should be responsible is pointless. They AREN’T, so lets move on from there.

  • So……they reconvene right? It can be passed then right?

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    I did not say the problem doesn’t need to be addressed. All I am saying is expanding government when existing staff is available is not the answer. Here is how the problem can bee solved:

    1) Christie calls Richard T, Hammer to his office.
    2) Christie tells Hammer to present to him in one week a list of all problem roads.
    3) One week later, Christie tells Hammer that state funds will be prioritized for public safety and he has one year to submit a plan to fix any area that is above national averages.
    4) One year later, funds are allocated to the projects. Any municipality that does not go along will see all of their funding cut.

    Of course, this will get tied up in the courts; but then again, do you really want to sue to stop public safety? Legal issues will be dismissed in about two years.

  • John Samoilis

    what the article fails to mention is that Christie has already passed the strictest pedestrian safety laws in the United States already. Most states require vehicles to yield to pedestrians in cross walks. In NJ under Christie leadership (I’m not a Christie fan) he passed a law requiring vehicles to make a complete stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. If pedestrians are Jaywalking, in public intoxicated, or if the driver is intoxicated, or not following the pedestrian safety laws. That is up to our police departments to enforce. I lived in NJ all my life and have walked through its cities, suburbs, mountain towns, and beach towns. I have never been hit by a car because I watch my surroundings. We have plenty of pedestrian safety laws on the books. Its up to the police to enforce it. Why do we need new councils/agencies created so they can spend more of the tax payers money? The laws on the books need to be enforced.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    Exactly. An intern on Hammer’s staff can compile in Excel the most dangerous roads and intersections. Hammer then can direct DOT discretionary funds to build sidewalks, guardrails, better traffic signals, etc. No new committee needed.

  • Aaron Hyndman

    exactly.

  • Aaron Hyndman

    John, the laws on the books are utterly deficient. I have no idea how you can justify saying that NJ has the strictest pedestrian safety laws in the US when it’s the only state in the region that hasn’t passed a specific law to protect vulnerable road users. Title 39 in its present state is vague and ambiguous at best and presents law enforcement officers with incredible difficulties in enforcing traffic statues as they relate to pedestrians and especially bicyclists.

    For this reason, an advisory council is sorely needed, one that has the statutory authority to make policy recommendations to lawmakers. Note that this would not have been an agency siphoning off taxpayer dollars as you claim, but an advisory council of active transportation policy experts, most of them volunteering their time and efforts without little-to-no compensation from the state.

    And if our current laws are as strong as you infer, the fact that the FHWA has classified NJ as one of the worst states for fatalities related to unsafe intersections and bike/ped infrastructure means that the problems are rooted in roadway planning and design as well, which makes it all the more important to have a council of qualified advisers helping shape statewide policy. I’m glad you’ve been fortunate enough never to have been hit by a car. But let’s not let anecdotes get in the way of the facts. Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths are abnormally high in New Jersey, at a rate significantly greater than their respective mode share percentages.

    The bill to create the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Council would have been a vital, effective, and inexpensive first step in fixing this tragic problem. Instead, the Governor turned his back on sound policymaking, progress, and the safety of the citizens of his own state, for reasons he refuses to make known.

    TL;DR – Pedestrian and bike fatalities ARE a serious problem in NJ. We had a bi-partisan unanimously-approved solution, and Chris Christie killed it.

  • Aaron Hyndman

    I’m not sure where you’re from, but it’s absolutely not that simple here in NJ. If the planning process is that streamlined in your state, I envy you greatly. Also, the NJ Transportation Trust Fund is insolvent, and soon to be bankrupt. No discretionary funds will be available from the state unless a political solution is found to the TTF crisis. Chances of that happening any time soon are slim to none.

  • Tyson White

    I guess the fact that you weren’t hit means we have no need to improve pedestrian safety. Congratulations!

  • That simply isn’t the way government works. Maybe it should work that way, but it doesn’t. Simple as that.

  • Bernard Finucane
  • CeeTee55

    I don’t like the guy, but could you have found a worse looking picture of Christie? 🙂

  • farazs

    Care to explain how complete stop is any better than yielding? Do you know what yielding means?

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Presumably in the next session they can pass it again, and Christie can veto it again. I don’t know if he has a deadline to veto, or if he can just “leave it in his pocket” all session and still prevent them from overriding.

  • But my point is, with a unanimous vote, the house and senate can override a veto. In theory the only reason they are not doing it now, is they are out of session. When they go back in session, they can pass the same bill right away, wait the 10 days for the veto period to pass, then override the veto. At least that is my understanding of the legislative process, however I am not an expert, I might be wrong.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Ah, if it’s just a 10 day veto period then that’s completely right! (I don’t know the details of which states allow how long.)

  • Yeah, neither do I, I just know its extremely rare to have a bill pass by enough to override a veto, let alone unanimously.

  • neroden

    Christie is basically a bad person.

  • neroden

    Trump’s a real estate developer, and real estate actually depends on public transportation, so honestly I expect he’d be less hostile than the ideologues who constitute the rest of the Republican field.

    Trump isn’t an ideologue; in fact he has no ideas or principles whatsoever, with the possible exception of wanting power and money — he just says whatever he thinks people want to hear.

    Anyway, vote Bernie Sanders. He can beat the lot of ’em and he has a solid platform.

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