Written by Jill Nossa Thursday, 08 August 2013 00:00
Local residents may soon have safer streets for walking and biking, pending adoption of a bill that is meant to go to vote this week.
At the July 29 committee session of Nassau County Legislature a new bill was discussed that is aimed at keeping bike and pedestrian safety in mind. The basics of the law called “Complete Streets” have been adopted by other governments such as New York State and New York City.
Since last year, when cyclists and runners voiced concerns about traffic safety on West Shore Road, Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton has met with advocates like Tri-State Transportation Campaign and CLIMB (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists). She hosted many such groups in her office and met with them on location out on dangerous streets.
Ryan Lynch, associate director for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, says that after talking to DeRiggi-Whitton, he proposed the road have a “shared road marking” which codifies the law in paint. He said they discussed the need for the Complete Streets policy in Nassau County, which he said has some of the deadliest roads for pedestrians and cyclists.
“A lot of roadways prohibit people from walking or biking safely,” Lynch says. “This provides them with options,” adding that it also reduces congestion and makes for a safer environment on the roads.
Lynch says that while the state law was passed in February 2012, it contains a loophole that exempts county roads from having to comply. Tri-State Transportation Campaign is working with municipalities and counties to create safer roads, and Lynch said Suffolk County adopted the bill last winter. He says that he is hopeful, after meeting with county legislators and County Executive Ed Mangano, that the bill will be adopted in Nassau as well.
Lynch explained that the Complete Streets policy is designed to promote a more balanced transportation system that will accommodate all users of the road.
Since West Shore Road has little to no shoulder, biking along the road is not safe. The law will require “sharrows” or pictures of bicycles with arrows educating drivers on the fact that is a shared road.
Legislator DeRiggi-Whitton said she first pushed the Nassau County Administration and Legislature to consider Complete Streets after talking to the advocacy groups last year.
“I am glad to see that this is likely to become reality now in Nassau,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “I do wish they had included more safety provision in the West Shore Road design, however. I am advised that ‘easements’ could have been used to do more for cyclists and runners. In my opinion, they neglected West Shore Road until it fell in the water and then put out a contract that worked best for their connected road construction company. At least that road is slowly on the way to repair and at least this law looks like it will
create better cycling areas in the future.”
“This is long overdue,” says Michael Vitti, CLIMB president, who says he has biked along West Shore road and it is “less than ideal.” He says they have asked for a reduced speed limit along the road, noting that a bicyclist’s “chance of survival is 80 percent if you get hit at 25 mph, and decreases with every speed increase.”
About the Complete Streets policy, he says “Nassau County is slow to adopt. The state of Oregon adopted the policy in 1971; this is not something new.”
He added his group is also advocating for a Complete Streets policy for the Town of Oyster Bay.