Suffolk County Ranked Worst Place for Bicyclists by Bicycling Magazine

“While people may think of flat, wide-open suburbs as conducive to cycling, the roads are really not built for cyclists.” | Photo: Newsday

New York City has been receiving great praise this week for securing first place in Bicycling Magazine‘s America’s Best Bike Cities 2014, but there’s another side to this Best Bike Cities list that hasn’t been as widely reported. The nation’s worst place for biking is also here in the tri-state region, and despite not being a city per se, its reputation is bad enough to land it the title of “worst place to ride:”

So where is the worst place to ride? Well, it’s right near New York — Suffolk County, Long Island. Again, the magazine’s thinking was counter-intuitive, Strickland said: While people may think of flat, wide-open suburbs as conducive to cycling, the roads are really not built for cyclists.

“Really, right now, the worst city is in the suburbs,” Strickland said. “We picked Suffolk to be emblematic of that.”

“Suburban streets were made to move people out of their homes to stores, or out to work,” not for bicycles, he said.

The magazine found that Suffolk County is always one of the most dangerous places in the United States to ride a bicycle. In 2008, the county was the site of 23.8 percent of  all fatalities to cyclists in New York state, despite having less than 8 percent of the state’s population.

The ranking was revealed in a Washington Post interview with Bicycling Magazine’s Editor in Chief Bill Strickland last week. The ranking is likely no surprise to anyone who rides a bike or walks in Suffolk County. Suffolk roadways repeatedly top Tri-State’s annual Most Dangerous Roads for Walking list of the most dangerous roads in the tri-state region, and some of the County’s elected officials blame their own bike riding constituents for getting hit by motorists without actually offering any solutions to make riding safer.

The good news is that there are other county elected officials who are diligently working to improve Suffolk County’s bike-friendliness ranking. In December of 2012, Suffolk County adopted the first countywide Complete Streets policy on Long Island and this just past June, Legislator Steve Calarco and Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory were victorious in establishing a Complete Streets Implementation Fund for Suffolk County as a means of guaranteeing funding for street safety improvements. Suffolk County is also planning a ‘Bike Summit’ as part of the second annual Car Free Day Long Island later this month as well.

Despite these strong shows of leadership, Suffolk County can’t successfully turn its reputation as a haven for unsafe cycling and walking without a demonstrated commitment to safer streets by the New York State Department of Transportation. NYSDOT has yet to adopt the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide, and is instead operating under the antiquated Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guidelines. This hesitation to move forward into the 21st century of safe streets engineering means that NYSDOT’s outdated policies are actually interfering with Suffolk County’s move to implement its Complete Streets laws, and municipalities are clamoring for a greater show of institutional support.

3 Comments on "Suffolk County Ranked Worst Place for Bicyclists by Bicycling Magazine"

  1. I grew up in Suffolk County, Stony Brook to be exact. I rode my bike a everywhere. During high school and college years I road my bike nearly 20 miles a day on Rout 25 A, Nicolls Road etc. That was in the 1970s and early 1980s. I’d never do that today. I have several friends who still live in the area who have been hit. Today I live in Manhattan and ride every day.
    What has happened to make riding a bike so dangerous in Suffolk is a new found culture of distracted driving, distracted drivers, larger cars and increased prescription drug use and a new attitude that “stuff like this just happens.”

  2. Your post struck a chord with me, Matt, because I live in largely suburban Staten Island, and I remember a time in the 1970’s and 80’s when I used to ride my bike all over my community. I would frequently ride all day Saturday or Sunday for pleasure. No more.

    It’s not the streets, they’re not changed much. I don’t think it’s the amount of traffic, I ride in Manhattan and Brooklyn and up 9W in Jersey and NY State with heavy traffic without much problem. In the suburbs today, it’s the drivers that have changed. They think they own the road.

  3. But Suffolk traffic is so much better to pedestrians than NYC.

    Again, maybe all the experienced pedalcyclists have moved to Manhattan?

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