New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey speaks at a...

New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey speaks at a press conference on plans to expand the Wantagh Parkway Bike Path from the cusp of the Jones Beach Theater parking lot and extend it by 3/4 of a mile to the Jones Beach Boardwalk. (June 28, 2012) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Cyclists on Long Island can look forward to more state-financed bike pathways in the near future.

State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald joined state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey on a tour of three new bicycle-pedestrian path project sites Thursday and promised more.

"New York State is committed to expanding these opportunities," McDonald said at Jones Beach, adding that bike paths meet Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's priority of encouraging sustainability and promoting infrastructure investment while creating local jobs.

McDonald and Harvey chose Jones Beach to announce state plans to build a 0.7-mile path connecting the end of the Wantagh State Parkway bike path with beach access at the East Bath House. It will be ready for use by next summer.

McDonald said she was committed to accelerating a 20-year-old project to build a 14.4-mile bike path along Ocean Parkway from Wantagh State Parkway to Captree State Park. "It's not going to happen this year but it will happen in the very near future -- the sooner the better."

Michael Vitti, a Glen Head resident who has pushed for more bike paths, said the Ocean Parkway route would be "a great tourism draw and a real asset for the community . . . Bike paths are good for the planet, good for the body and good for the economy."

He cautioned that village, town, county and state government officials need to communicate better to ensure "we don't keep building bike paths to nowhere."

"To get people using a bike for transportation, to truly get cars off the road, you have to figure out people's habits and accommodate them so you know you're providing bike paths where they feel safe so they can use them to get to work, get to school, and do their shopping," he said.

The DOT's analysis of the Ocean Parkway bike path proposal found that pedestrians, joggers and cyclists frequently use the parkway pavement and grass shoulders, particularly along the Gilgo Beach, West Gilgo Beach and Oak Beach communities and that as many as 2,000 cyclists use the Wantagh State Parkway path on some days.

"The lack of a designated facility for nonmotorized transportation along the Ocean Parkway is a safety concern and has long been recognized as a deficiency in Long Island's comprehensive regional transportation plan," the analysis concluded.

In June 2008, the DOT estimated the cost of the full Ocean Parkway project at $12.6 million. The 0.7-mile link between the southern end of the Wantagh bike path and the beach is estimated to cost $1 million.

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