With most people confined to their homes by the coronavirus pandemic and itching to get out into open space, it becomes abundantly clear that Nassau County is lacking when it comes to bike trails.
The county has fewer than 50 miles of bike trails, compared with New York City, which has 450, and Suffolk County, which has 370. So Nassau residents have long had a hard time finding a place to ride freely, unconcerned about the presence of cars. Now, as the weather (finally) warms, and with people unable to work out at their gyms, many are turning to cycling for exercise.
But too many are forced to ride on streets, unprotected from the vehicles around them. True, there are fewer cars on the roads, but it’s still much safer to ride on trails, away from traffic. It’s also better for motorists. Many drivers now find themselves navigating among pedestrians, runners, cyclists, inline skaters and skateboarders.
What cyclists need are safe places to ride, removed from suburban streets.
Historically, Nassau lawmakers have not seen the importance of bike trails, as those in New York City and Suffolk County have. The thinking has been, people drive, so why bother with bike trails?
Those trails give people a place to exercise and enjoy themselves in a safe setting. That’s all the reasoning needed. The coronavirus crisis only further illustrates how important they are.
The five-mile-long Wantagh Parkway bike trail, which leads down to Jones Beach, was crowded last weekend, but most users managed to keep a safe distance from one another (see story inside). It is one of just a handful of bike trails in the county. The only other major trail loops for 10 miles around the Hub, in the center of the county.
New York state has committed to a 10-mile, $16.2 million extension of the existing three-mile-long Ocean Parkway bike trail, itself an extension of the Wantagh Parkway trail. Let’s hope, given the current economic crisis, the state is still able to build it.