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Curbing Reckless Biking in Suffolk County

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone recently made headlines for exercising his veto power to block Resolution 1767-2020, a bill aimed at preventing reckless biking in Suffolk County.

In his March 8 veto message, Bellone explained his reasoning for blocking the bill, stating “this resolution is overly broad,” and citing the broad spectrum of offenses for which penalties such as a $250 fine or impounding may be imposed. He also went on to address the bill’s potential negative effects on the relationship between law enforcement and the communities in which they serve.

Bike advocates have praised Bellone for blocking the bill.

This veto came just days before the passage of Suffolk County’s first ever three-foot law (Resolution 1830-2020), under which drivers could be fined anywhere from $225 to $425 if they fail to leave at least 3 feet between their cars and cyclists when passing them. Many bike advocates are long-time proponents of the three-foot law— the standard in many other states— and advocates have been working to enact this law in New York for years. County Executive Bellone must sign the bill before it becomes law.

“The passage of the three-foot law is a significant step toward improving cyclist safety in Suffolk County,” says Cynthia Brown, Executive Director of the New York Coalition for Transportation Safety. “Bellone’s veto is an opportunity for the county to take another step in the right direction by revisiting what’s been proposed, and producing a revised piece of legislation to address the issue of reckless biking in its communities.”

These bills are just two pieces of a much larger, long-standing conversation about bike safety on Long Island.

Data collected by The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research shows that Nassau and Suffolk were the second and third deadliest counties in New York for cyclists in 2019, with 26 cyclists and 120 pedestrians killed on Long Island that year. The New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee cites the top three contributing factors to bicycle crashes as failure to yield the right of way (ROW), driver inattention/distraction, and bicyclist error/confusion in its New York State 2020 Highway Safety Annual Report.

New York State is taking numerous measures to tackle the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety, all of which culminate in the New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP). The plan emphasizes making streets safer by implementing the “Three Es—” engineering, enforcement, and education.

Walk Safe Long Island is part of the third “E,” education. Check the News page of our website for information about upcoming installments of our “Staying Safe on Our Streets” Virtual Workshop Series, which aims to educate our local communities about cyclist and pedestrian safety.

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