Growing up, Town Supervisor Laura Gillen often struggled to find a parking spot near the Long Island Rail Road. “Once you get past those early morning trains it’s so difficult to find a spot,” Gillen said. And for people like her husband who choose to bike to the train, there are no safe ways to park their bike. “He got home one day and found his chain and his wheel, but not his bike,” she said.
Now, the town hopes to have found a way to encourage healthier commutes while giving bikers peace of mind. Gillen joined Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky on Oct. 9 to unveil the first bike lockers to be placed at LIRR stations throughout Hempstead town. “These bike lockers are an incredibly great asset for our community,” Gillen said. “Because they serve our environment, because they give our residents an alternative way to come down to the station.”
Ownership of the lockers was transferred to the town from the state Department of Transportation, with the help of Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach. “Anyone who lives in the suburbs knows there are more commuters than there are parking spots,” he said. “When it comes to commuting, it’s the small things that count sometimes.”
Residents from Baldwin, Oceanside, Wantagh, Woodmere, Bellmore and Merrick were able to sign up for a locker through a lottery system — Bellmore resident Scott Hammer was the first one to be picked for one. Right now there are 36 lockers throughout the town, but officials said that number could grow if more people become interested in it. “It may seem like a small number, some cynical person may say,” Kaminsky said, “but the state is very interested in knowing how subscribed these are and how well used they are.”
East Meadow resident Bill Selsky, president of the Long Island Bike Club, said he hopes the program is successful and that the town will be able to add more lockers. “I think it’s a good thing,” Selsky said in a telephone interview. “If there were more lockers I think more people would use them.”
Residents picked for a locker must pay a $40 key deposit and get to keep the locker for a year, after which they will get their deposit back and must return the key. Each is 4-feet tall and 6-feet long, capable of fitting most standard bicycles, and is weatherproof.
Cabana said biking to work is not just good for the environment, but people’s well being. “You relieve stress and you’re getting exercise,” she said. “Riding your bicycle to the train station is much healthier for you and obviously much better for the environment.”