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Bike safety: Staying safe while enjoying the ride on Long Island

Bike riders like Abdul Siddiquee, of Bethpage, know

Bike riders like Abdul Siddiquee, of Bethpage, know how important it is to be safe while biking on Long Island. At Trek Bicycle of Plainview, riders can ensure they have the proper safety gear. Credit: Johnny Milano

Considering the popularity of biking as a pastime, sport and exercise modality, it’s little surprise mishaps and unforeseen accidents occur from time to time. Fortunately, Long Island biking experts point out, observing basic cycling safety rules and making yourself more aware of potential pitfalls can significantly decrease your odds of injury or accident, both on local roads and in off-road or mountain biking situations.

"No doubt biking has gained in popularity here on Long Island in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic," points out Nick A. Koridis, 33, a mechanic at Rocky Point Cycle bike shop. "But more people riding bikes can mean a greater chance of accidents occurring, especially with so many new and inexperienced riders involved these days."

Even if you are just starting out, cycling is a safe form of exercise and entertainment if you wear appropriate safety gear and follow basic rules of the road, Koridis adds.

TIPS FOR SAFER RIDES

For starters, Koridis recommends all cyclists wear a safety helmet, install safety lighting on their bikes, wear eye protection at all times, and talk to staff at their local bike shop if they have questions concerning the technical aspects of biking, choosing suitable routes or selecting additional safety gear.

"If you’re just starting out, or accompanying a beginner," he advises, "choose an age-appropriate bike trail or route, preferably one with little or no traffic."

Abdul Siddiquee, of Bethpage, also stresses the importance of wearing a helmet at all times and talking safety with bike shop staff. "I average between 20 and 50 miles of riding a week, but sometimes top 100 miles," revealed Siddiquee, "and I’m real big on safety." Aside from the helmet and lights, Siddiquee, 35 and a CPA, likes to wear "loud-colored" reflective clothing. "Especially if riding in the evening or after dark. The more people can see you, the less the chance of having an accident."

Siddiquee also suggests cyclists ride in the same direction as traffic to the extent possible, and try to reduce how much time they spend on public roads if they have access to bike trails, paths or park areas. "It’s also important to learn the signs that indicate to cars which direction you plan to turn," he adds. "Proper hand signals are a great way for bike riders to clearly communicate their intentions."

LOCAL STATS

While biking may be considered a relatively "safe" activity, don’t blow off the town safety guidelines, advises Daniel Flanzig, 53, of Seacliff, a board member of the New York Bicycling Coalition, which advocates for safer cycling throughout New York State, and an attorney whose practice specializes in representing injured cyclists and pedestrians.

According to a Newsday analysis of preliminary data from the Albany-based Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, at least 135 pedestrians and cyclists died after they were hit by vehicles in Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2019 and 2020.

"Nassau and Suffolk counties are among the most dangerous in New York State for biker riders and pedestrians," states Flanzig. "We really need more buffered and safer, separated bike lanes -- plus better driver education for those operating motorized vehicles. My experience has been that motor vehicle operators are very unpredictable, so always keep your safety in mind. Don’t expect drivers to come to a full stop at red lights or in a right-on-red situation. Keep your guard up at all times."

Flanzig offers one final word of advice for cyclists: "Wear a Go-Pro or similar camera while biking" as an added precaution.

Happy Trails To You

Many veteran bike riders like to map out their own routes and trails that highlight the kind of riding they most prefer. There are, however, dozens of bike and multi-purpose trails available within state, county and local parklands. These can be great places for budding and intermediate cyclists to get started.

Belmont Lake State Park: This 3-mile flat loop circles Belmont Lake, cuts through some woods and explores much of the park. Perfect for family outings. No parking fees charged during the winter months.

Bethpage State Park: This two-way multi-use trail connects to Bethpage Bikeway, offering both hills and flats. A family-friendly flat stretch begins at the Bethpage State Park picnic area and heads north through the park. No parking fees during late fall and winter months.

Cathedral Pines County Park, Middle Island: Offers up to 8 miles of mountain biking trails with both hilly and flatter routes. A fun challenge for families with older kids. Helmets required; eye protection recommended. Weekdays are free. $7 on weekends for Green Key Holders; $15 for everyone else.

Rocky Point Mountain Biking Trail: Numerous trails covering up to 13 miles for off-road/mountain biking within the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest. Access trailheads from Route 25A and Rocky Point Road. No fees.

Coming Soon: North Shore Rail Trail: Expected to be open to the public in the spring of 2022, this new 10-mile, multi-use recreational path is under construction on a former Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) right-of-way owned by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). When complete, it will stretch from Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mt. Sinai east to Wading River Manor Road in Wading River. For details and updates, contact Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.

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