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Bicycling Requires Safe Places

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 12:22

From our vantage point overlooking Main Street, electric bicycles seem to have arrived, along with an increase in the number of traditional, pedal-powered bikes. We’ve seen a couple of electric scooters, too, which look like fun, but we are not sure that any of these belong on the sidewalk.

 It’s not surprising that many riders prefer the sidewalks given the chaos of cars and trucks on the roads. This puts both cyclists and pedestrians at unacceptable risk. We might go on at length about the law and how New York State fails to view bicycles the same way it does cars, even though one assumes that both should follow the rules of the road and stay off sidewalks. But in reality the near-total absence of bicycle lanes is to blame.

As for biking with children, there are few comfortable options. There is a small, oval track at the East Hampton Town Youth Park on Abraham’s Path. Kids who are lucky enough to live on dead ends or deep in the woods can ride in relative safety. Parents of children in the village or hamlet centers often are no longer comfortable allowing them to bike on the roads.

No level of government is exempt from responsibility in this. Town and village roads generally do not even have shoulders on which one could ride or get out of the way of an inattentive driver. New York State and Suffolk County, masters of the larger routes, such as 27, Route 114, and a portion of Three Mile Harbor Road, are unwilling to make changes. Hotels and inns add to the sense that the sidewalks are no longer just for pedestrians, sending their guests off wobbling helmetless on borrowed bikes.

Making the situation even more alarming for bikers and runners, many roadsides have been cordoned off with rocks or wooden or metal stakes by homeowners protecting extensions of their lawns, which they see as their own. Along Further Lane, for example, a wealthy part-time resident actually had a soil berm installed to stop anyone from going onto “his” grass. During the work, officials apparently averted their eyes. In East Hampton Village, the public portion of West End Road is as fenced off as the Mona Lisa is at the Louvre.

We believe law enforcement should either deal with the unsafe conditions bicycles and their speedy electric versions create on sidewalks or pressure officials to make adequate accommodations for them on the roads. There are simply too many people walking and on two wheels for there not to be meaningful changes in order to prevent accidents to bikers and walkers alike. There has been talk on bike trails for almost as long as we can remember; nothing much has come to realization.

Going toward town elections this fall and East Hampton Village elections next spring, we would like to hear what all the candidates would hope to do to make everyone safer, no matter where they drive, bike, jog, or walk.


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