Monday, February 24, 2014

News: Suffolk County, NY legislator wants no bicyclists or motorcyclists on his roads

Here is a new twist in the 2-wheel vs 4-wheel debate.

Matthew Cutrone, a young concerned citizen wrote to his legislator about the recent accident that involved his mother, who was riding a bicycle, being hit by a work van whose driver claims he did not see her (an all too common excuse, unfortunately). In the letter, young Matthew asks for the addition of a bike lane or signs in the area to raise driver awareness of the presence of bicyclists. The request seems like a perfectly legitimate one and would hardly have been difficult to implement plus would have likely had widespread support given that Suffolk County, which comprises the majority of Long Island, is popular with cyclists for its many miles of coastal roads.

The response from one Thomas Barraga, however, could not have been any more absurd. Instead of replying in a diplomatic manner, he chooses to talk about how he actively tells people not to take up bicycling and that "drivers expect to see other drivers on the road not bicyclists and motorcyclists." He goes on to talk about how signs and bike lanes are worthless because they do not have much effect since drivers ignore them. It seems that Mr. Barraga has it in his head that nobody but drivers have rights in Suffolk County and that, just because he personally seems to dislike them, everyone else should stay off his roads. Perhaps while we are at it, we should remove crosswalks and sidewalks too since drivers would not expect to pedestrians either.

I have never heard such an utterly outrageous response and, as a bicyclist and motorcyclist, will be all too happy to stay away from Suffolk County and never bring my hard earned dollars to that part of New York. However, if this is how local legislators think about the 2-wheel vs 4-wheel issue, then it is no wonder we cannot make any progress and have civil discussions about real solutions. I hope that most people are smarter than West Islip's village idiot and can see the absurdity of his narrow world view.

Here is his letter, word for word:

Dear Mr. Cutrone,

Thank you for your recent letter concerning bicycle safety and bicycle lanes. Let me at the outset express the hope that your mother will have a complete recovery from her accident in September while riding a bicycle in West Islip.

I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that metter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and execise. I have told them not to do so but they usually do not listen - 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries. 

I have heard the suggestion of bicycle lanes and additional signage but unfortunately this would do little to solve the problem. Suffolk County is a suburban automobile community - drivers expect to see other drives on the road not bicyclists and motorcyclists. Even those areas outside of Suffolk County where a portion of the road is for bicyclists - they still get hit by motorists. Signage has limited effects - there are currently 135 signs between Montauk Highway and Sunrise Highway on Higbie Lane and Udall Road - most of them are ignored by drivers.

Reality at time can be difficult for some to come to grips with, but giving false hope would be inappropriate.

Very Truly Yours,
Thomas F Barraga
County Legislator

Source: Visordown

Tags: automotive, bicycle, bike lanes, legislator, Matthew Cutrone, motorcycle, New York, Suffolk County, Thomas Barraga