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.

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Speed Camera Controversy in Nassau County Shows Speeding Bigger Problem than Realized

A “mobile unit” speed camera on patrol in Bethpage. | Photo: Newsday

Late last month, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano dismissed almost $2.5 million in speed camera violations because roughly a quarter of the 40,000 tickets issued were found to be issued in error. The 56 speed cameras are to be active during [...]

Capitalizing on Existing Infrastructure: LIE HOV Potential

LIE HOVLast month, the Long Island Business News included a special section about the Long Island Expressway, analyzing the history of the project, to the land use patterns it fostered along the corridor

The special report examines the history of the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane which turned 20 years old this year. Over the past three decades, the nearly $900 million HOV lane has helped encourage carpooling along the notoriously congested I-495 corridor by requiring cars to have at least two occupants. Additionally, it has encouraged greener vehicle options allowing access to the HOV lane for single drivers displaying a ‘Clean Pass Vehicle’ sticker.

But as we look towards the next twenty years for the HOV lane, how can this nearly billion dollar investment be better utilized?

According to 2013 NYS Department of Transportation data counts at Exit 50 (Bagatelle Road), the HOV2+ lane during the 9 restricted hours (6-10am and 3-8pm) accommodated 31 percent of all people moving along the LIE on 25 percent of lanes designated as HOV.

While this number may seem impressive, what is more heartening is that these lanes can accommodate a much greater percentage of people. While 31 percent of people using the LIE avail themselves of the HOV lanes during restricted times, only 16.6 percent of vehicles are using the HOV lane.

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NICE Bus Riders Calling for a ‘Fair’ Increase

An anonymous rider, with three children, shares their desire for how they’d like to see their extra 25 cents be invested in the NICE bus system. | Photo: Long Island Bus Riders Union

It took a dire financial deficit in the Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) Bus budget to finally persuade Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano [...]

NYSDOT Advances Balanced Route 112 Plan, But Better Bike Infrastructure Needed

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

NYSDOT says no to painted bike lanes.

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) is advancing a project on Route 112 from Granny Road to New York State Route 25 in the Town of Brookhaven that will serve to better balance the roadway for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike. The roughly 1.5 mile project, entering its final design phase, will:

  • build out connected sidewalk infrastructure on both sides of the roadway
  • enhance pedestrian crossings
  • implement landscaped medians and
  • include a five- to six-foot bike shoulder

In early June, TSTC submitted comments supporting the project as a “good example of a ‘fix-it-first’ initiative that maintains existing road infrastructure [and] improv[es] mobility by redesigning Route 112 into a more complete street”, but also called for a more progressive vision for bicycling infrastructure.

While shoulders are a welcome first step to encourage cycling, TSTC suggested further steps to improve safety for cyclists along this corridor, such as implementing plastic bollards or paint-buffered bike lanes. Either of these treatments would better delineate space for cyclists and enhance their safety, and the safety of other road users by creating a traffic calming effect. Increased safety will also lead to increased ridership.  According to a study of road injuries in Vancouver and Toronto conducted by the American Journal of Public Health, roads with protected bicycle infrastructure saw the risk of injury reduced by 90 percent when compared to wide roads with no cycling infrastructure. And a study by Portland State University’s National Institute of Transportation and Communities found that protected bicycle lanes increased ridership by an average of 75 percent.

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An Open Letter to the People of Nassau County

TSTC recently received an email with the attached letter from Westbury, Long Island resident Kevin Lucas, along with a note informing us that it had been sent to “a number of public officials, interest groups, and media organizations” with the hope of creating an opportunity for dialogue on the subject.

Though local leaders are pursuing policies to increase road safety across Nassau County, the true challenge is how to bring about cultural change. While Complete Streets policies are a politically visible means of demonstrating commitment to the cause, they are not as visible to motorists as the installation of dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, which serve to convey to drivers the message that the roadway is for sharing. It’s time for the state and local governments to hit the pavement and start walking their Complete Streets talk.

A couple of weeks ago my wife began joining me on my daily runs, except she follows along on her bicycle. And even though the run is only a mile, and is over in less than ten minutes, it has been a fulfilling and fun bonding experience for us. The runs instantly stopped feeling like a daily chore, and I looked forward to them. The way she encouraged me every day made me feel like we were Rocky and Mickey. This was going to be our daily routine. That is until July 12, 2014, at 8AM, when a man pulled up beside my wife in his car to tell her she was stupid for riding her bike in the street.

We moved to Long Island, Westbury to be exact, in February and for the most part we’ve enjoyed it here. We do not drive, by choice, and we knew that the area was suburban in nature before arriving. And although this has proved somewhat difficult we enjoy walking and the increased distances between necessities has not deterred us from walking to them. In fact, we’ve found certain stretches to be enjoyable on foot, despite being poorly designed for pedestrians. Mostly, the only consistent issues we’ve faced are lawn sprinklers spraying directly onto the sidewalks, pushing us into the street; and inattentive drivers failing to yield, particularly when turning right.

With this in mind I thought it would be nice for us to get bikes. Neither of us are cyclists, and only I had ever even really used a bike to get around before at any point in my life. She was nervous, but I assured her that it would be fine, that in a way it was safer than walking because drivers can see you better in the road. After all, everyone who drives learned how to properly give way to bicycles and pedestrians, to properly and safely pass, and to share the road. Plus, we would keep to the neighborhood streets. There would be no braving the traffic on Old Country Road. We just wanted to get around a little quicker, not make a statement. The busiest road on which we would travel was Maple/Westbury Avenue. Anything more than that and we would get off and walk our bikes. Once we got our bikes the apprehension quickly gave way to excitement. This was going to be fun, or so we thought.
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AARP Long Island Seeks Grant Applicants

TSTC’s partners at AARP Long Island are seeking Long Island-based applicants for two grants of $5,000 each. AARP has been a strong advocate for safer streets and livable communities on Long Island. The organization was instrumental in the recent adoption of a complete streets implementation fund in Suffolk County.

Grant proposals should explain in 500 words or less:

• Alignment with AARP’s mission and [...]

Long Island Elected Officials Call for Safety Improvements on Dangerous Roadways

Last week, Newsday published two separate articles about local elected officials in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties calling for safety improvements on fatal roads.

In response to two fatal crashes in the last three months along a stretch of Roslyn Road in the Town of North Hempstead, Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs is calling for a uniform speed limit of 30 [...]

Lack of Additional Funding from Suffolk State Legislators Leaves County Transit Riders Out to Dry

Suffolk County Transit riders were left in a lurch after New York State’s legislative session ended without securing funding for expanded bus service last week.

Suffolk County State Senators and Assembly members failed to deliver for bus riders, despite a letter from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature, calls from advocates [...]

Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

WINNERS

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo – This morning Governor Cuomo signed into law a piece of legislation that authorizes the expansion of speed camera use on Long Island, saying that “By empowering Nassau and Suffolk Counties to install dozens of speed cameras in school zones, we are helping to protect our students and ultimately save lives. This should send a message to all drivers – slow down and obey the speed limit, especially when passing by a school.”

Hopewell Township, NJ – The township became the 100th municipality in the Garden State to embrace Complete Streets and the first municipality to do so by way of a Complete Streets ordinance. According to the Township Administrator/Engineer Paul Pogorzelski, “we decided that this policy should be in the form of an ordinance and have the weight of law rather than simply be part of a resolution which does not transcend governing body changes. “

Amtrak - Amtrak announced that they have begun testing new bike-friendly baggage cars to alleviate passengers of the hassle of boxing and checking their bikes as luggage. These baggage cars, which are manufactured in New York state, are expected to be put into service on all 15 long-distance routes by the end of this year.

New Jersey Transit – The agency has unofficially launched its first-ever one seat ride summer shore rail service from Penn Station to Bay Head using new energy-efficient dual-powered locomotives. Riders will save 25 minutes by not having to change trains at Long Branch, which will likely boost ridership to the shore and alleviate summer parking in shore towns. » Continue reading…