The family of an avid cyclist who was killed on the Wantagh State Parkway bike path and a concerned mother are spearheading an effort to get a guardrail installed between the popular path and busy road.
Adam Scarpati contacted his local state representative after his brother, Matthew, 19, was hit and killed while repairing a bicycle tire on the path on July 20. An intoxicated motorcyclist veered off the roadway, crossed into the path and struck him, State Police said.
State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), who said he himself rides, runs and walks on the bike path, agreed a guardrail is needed.
Fuschillo said he's been in contact with representatives from the governor's office and the state Department of Transportation and hopes to use stimulus transportation dollars for the safety feature. Fuschillo, who is a ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee and a member of the MTA Capital Review Board, plans to meet with the Scarpati family and representatives of Gov. David A. Paterson's office this week.
"The DOT is taking a serious look; so is the governor's office," Fuschillo said. "This tragic event highlighted the need for the safety measure of guardrails."
The 4.5-mile-long bike path is the most popular on a Long Island state facility and is used by an average of 1,000 riders per day, according to the DOT. On the average, the bike path comes to within 10 to 12 feet of the busy parkway.
The Scarpati family said they didn't want to yet speak publicly about the safety effort.
Gina Russo of Jericho was also impacted by Scarpati's death.
In February, she started a Facebook group called LIFun4Kids.com to campaign for some path protection, after she took her two children - ages 7 and 10 - for a bike ride and realized there was often nothing between the kids and vehicles traveling at high speeds. She said she knew something horrible would happen one day, and six months later it did.
"On some parts of the bike path, a 3- or 4-foot patch of grass is all that's between you and cars going 60 miles per hour. I thought, eventually, one will cross over and kill someone."
Since Scarpati was killed, Russo's group membership has risen from 60 to 1,000. She has collected 1,800 signatures and dozens more on online petitions. She's also been in touch with several bike groups, one of which is planning a charity event in Scarpati's honor. People at several bike stores around Nassau also are collecting signatures, she said.
Russo is helped by Matthew Scarpati's former high school English teacher, Lauren De Stefano, and Lisa Day of Wantagh.
DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters said the agency is "reviewing the accident and looking into all feasible and safe alternatives."
Russo, in a prepared statement, said: "It is our belief a safety barrier would have saved Matthew's life. Does another life have to be lost before we take action?"
"I won't go back there until something is done," Russo said earlier this month.