Long Beach school officials are calling on Town of Hempstead and Nassau County officials to reduce the speed limit on a stretch of Lido Boulevard, saying that the road is dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Schools Superintendent David Weiss is pushing to have the 40 mph speed limit, between the Loop Parkway and Prescott Street, in Lido Beach, lowered to 30 mph in an effort to slow drivers who, Weiss said, speed down the road and make nearby streets unsafe, especially for children heading to and from school.
Weiss sent a letter to Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino in July, requesting the change on behalf of the Long Beach School District and the Board of Education.
The request to improve safety on a road that officials and residents say is notorious for collisions comes after a child was struck by a car on May 19 at the intersection of Lido Boulevard and Blackheath Road, according to local community Facebook group Project 11561. It follows years of complaints about the dangers of fast driving on Lido Boulevard, which leads into Park Avenue in Long Beach.
“More than 700 of our middle and high school students travel on foot and bicycle during rush hours — the most common times for vehicles to exceed the maximum permitted speed,” Weiss said. “Drivers continue to overlook the posted signs, and speed-related automobile accidents are a longstanding issue.”
Members of the Central Council PTA Safety Committee, including Chairwoman Katie Artz, have been working with the school district to use public campaigns and education, such as the federally funded Safe Routes to School program, to make the city’s streets safer. “We recognize that safety education is essential in a community where bicycle travel is widely used,” Weiss said. “We actively promote cyclist education. However, no amount of education produces safe travel if drivers create dangerous situations.”
Artz agreed. “We can educate our kids how to be safe pedestrians and bicyclists all day long,” she said, “but without safe street design with vulnerable road users in mind, our kids will never truly be safe.”
Because Lido Boulevard falls under Nassau County’s jurisdiction, and the surrounding roads are part of the Town of Hempstead, school officials and committee members have been discussing the issue with County Legislator Denise Ford, who lives in Long Beach, and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino. “If you reduce the speed [limit], it should make it safer for people on bicycles,” Ford told the Herald last month.
“There is heavy traffic along Lido Boulevard, and I support reducing the speed limit from 40 miles per hour to 30 in order to enhance safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists,” Santino said in a statement on Aug. 9. “Accordingly, I have directed my staff to complete a traffic study and secure required county approvals so the Town Board can act on the matter.”
The Lido/Point Lookout Fire District and the Point Lookout Civic Association have also called for lowering the speed limit, and sent letters to Santino and Ford, respectively. Town Councilwoman Erin King-Sweeney also supports the effort.
“This district has responded to many accidents along the portion of Lido Boulevard cited by Weiss,” Fire Commissioner Chas Thompson wrote in a letter to Santino, urging him to pursue the speed limit change. “…[A] reduction of the speed limit with enforcement will help render the area safer for all concerned, particularly the children of our community.”
Three years ago, Lido Boulevard was equipped with cameras that enforced the speed limit, Ford said, in an attempt to slow down fast drivers, but residents complained, and within months they were taken down. “We were supportive of the speed cameras when they did that,” Weiss said. “That slowed traffic and increased safety for kids, even though many of us got tickets.”
With the cameras long gone, the school district is using the speed limit approach to address the problem. “We believe a lowering of the speed limit will change the mindset of drivers as they pass through this area,” Weiss said.
In 2013, Long Beach city officials lowered the speed limit on major roads, including Park Avenue, from 35 to 30 mph. Two years ago, city officials reduced the speed limit on side streets from 30 to 25 to reduce speeding and to make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Earlier this year, Long Beach resident Debra Batus was struck and killed by a car while crossing Park Avenue at Pacific Boulevard. In 2014, Lido Beach resident Sean McCarthy died after being hit by a westbound car on Park Avenue as he walked along Maple Boulevard to his job at the school district. Five years ago, 14-year-old student Abdul Bird was struck by a car while skateboarding around the intersection of Lido Boulevard and Greenway Road, and suffered a serious head injury.
Allison Blanchette, a former coordinator of the New York Bicycling Coalition’s Long Island chapter and a Green Party candidate for City Council, emphasized the need to focus on other measures the city could take to make streets safer.
“We’d like more intersections painted, and protected bike lanes,” Blanchette said. “Injuries and fatalities have kicked upward — it’s been a trend over the past 10 years. … A helmet isn’t going to save your kid, smart policy is.”