The westernmost portion of Long Island contains the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, but when we say "Long Island" we usually mean Nassau and Suffolk counties. Nassau County comprises roughly the middle-ish portion of the Island, and Suffolk County is the easternmost portion, all the way to the Montauk Lighthouse, in the very shadow of which your humble blogger was felled by a vicious case of the hives.
(Your humble blogger, hivin' it up on Monauk Highway.)
All of this is merely to give those of you who are unfamiliar with the region geographical context for the letter a Suffolk County teenager received from his local legislator, which I learned about via Twitter yesterday and which has since gone "viral." Here's the background:
Sandy Heins Cutrone
My son wrote a letter to the county legislature about making roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians. He has had 4 classmates struck by cars 3 were walking to school 2 did not survive the 4th class mate was purposely hit on New Year's Eve 2013. He still has a long way to go. So when I was hit by a driver who didn't see me that was the last straw. This is the response he got. I would love opinions if you can read it.
And here's the letter:
Dear Mr. Cutrone
Thank you for your recent letter concerning bicycle safety and bicycle lanes. Let me at the outset express the hope that you 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 matter 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 exercise. 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 drivers on the road not bicyclists and motorcyclists. Even in 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 a time can be difficult for some to come to grips with but giving false hope would be inappropriate.
Very Truly Yours,
Thomas F. Barraga
That's a whole lotta words just to say "Fuck you, kid. Tough shit about your mom. She had it coming." Then again, it has to be difficult being Thomas F. Barraga (the "F" is for "Fucktard"), the lone voice of reason in Suffolk County. Yes, day after day his constituents come to him saying, "I'm taking up this biking thing, what do you think?"
"Don't do it!," implores Barraga, but alas, they don't listen.
Yes, 90% of the people who, for some reason, are consulting Barraga with regard to their cycling aspirations are invariably felled by automobiles. From this, I can only conclude one thing, which is that Thomas F. Barraga is an evil warlock who casts a deadly spell over all who would dare straddle the hated velocipede within the county of Suffolk.
Additionally, as he correctly points out, people on bicycles also get hit by motorists outside Suffolk--though obviously no drivers of motor vehicles are ever harmed or killed anywhere at all. It's safe as houses. (Houses on top of sinkholes, but still.)
And how about the idea that nobody should ride a bicycle or a motorcycle in Suffolk County at all? Suffolk County, as I mentioned, is the home of the Montauk Lighthouse, a beacon which attracts legions of Freds, tridorks, lawyers astride farty Harley-Davidsons, and pretty much every kind of two-wheeled recreational doofus you can imagine. According to Barraga, though, we should all somehow resist the allure of this noble, historical beacon--including Billy Joel, prototypical Long Island douchebag, Suffolk County resident, and motorcycle enthusiast:
Actually, now that I think of it, Thomas F. Barraga's warlockian powers are probably what caused my hives.
Of course, it is worth noting that, statistically, Suffolk County actually does suck ass for cycling:
The bicycle crash death rate on Long Island far exceeds that of New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to a Newsday analysis of federal crash data. Forty-three cyclists have been killed in Suffolk County and 21 in Nassau since 2005, records from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Nassau and Suffolk police departments and Newsday's archive show.
Suffolk is particularly dangerous for travelers on two wheels: There are 4.6 bicyclists' deaths per million people in the county -- more than double the New York State average.
WHEREAS, bicycling and walking are important forms of transportation and recreation in Suffolk County, and walking and bicycling contribute to health, fitness, and economic development...
RESOLVED, that the Department of Public Works shall, in the planning stages of each project, evaluate the feasibility of implementing the Complete Streets design features which may include: sidewalks, paved shoulders suitable for use by bicyclists, lane striping, bicycle lanes, share the road signs, crosswalks, road diets, pedestrian control signalization, bus pull outs, pedestrian curb ramps, and traffic calming measures, and recognize that the needs of users of the road network vary according to a rural, urban and suburban context...
Obviously as far as Barraga's concerned this is a load of crap, right? I mean, clearly he'd vote "no" on any measure to encourage cycling. This is a "suburban automobile community" after all. Surprisingly though, as a Tweeterer informs me, Barraga actually voted "yes!"
Though at 71 years old, it's likely he thought they were all sending out for Chinese and that he was simply ordering the spare ribs.
(Thomas Barraga: loves the spare ribs.)
What other explanation can there be? If there were still a functional brain in his head, clearly he'd have replied to this kid along the lines of, "You are right, Suffolk County is too dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians, which is why we've adopted a Complete Streets resolution and are moving towards a safer, healthier--and, most importantly, Fredlier--Suffolk."
Then again, I suppose it's possible that Suffolk County did indeed "evaluate the feasibility of implementing the Complete Streets design features" as per the resolution, and came to the conclusion that it's not feasible, so fuck it.
This would explain the county's new motto: "Suffolk County: Drive or Die."
Anyway, I hope this Cutrone kid sent Barraga another letter telling him not to break a hip trying to blow himself.
Meanwhile, in other news, fat bikes have made the local news in Cleveland:
With our 500th snowstorm still raging as I type this, I'm this close [indicates tiny distance with fingers] to ordering one from Walmart.