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Suffolk safer roadways bill nears approval

The car may no longer be king on Suffolk roadways of the future.

Pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit users also will be required to get prominent consideration in any road improvement plan, under a bill expected to be approved Tuesday by the county Legislature.

The proposal by Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) and Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is based on the transportation design model Complete Streets. It emphasizes planning for more sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bus pullouts and pedestrian curb ramps -- features "more conducive to the public life and efficient movement of people than streets designed primarily to move automobiles and trucks," according to the proposal.

In Suffolk County, public works officials who now use Complete Streets designs on an informal basis would have to evaluate its feasibility during every new roadwork project. New York State and several Long Island towns have already adopted similar plans.

"We have to start looking at how we plan for the future, and start moving away from the strictly automobile culture that has led counties like Suffolk into gridlock," Calarco said.

Newsday earlier this year published a series of stories on pedestrian safety on Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County, a 16-mile stretch running from the Queens border to Suffolk.

Following the stories, state officials adopted many Complete Streets-type changes.

Ryan Lynch, associate director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit aiming to reduce car dependency, said Suffolk roads are also among the region's most dangerous for walkers and cyclists.

"This institutionalizes the idea that pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit users have an equal right to use our roadways in a safe way," Lynch said.

The state Complete Streets law, passed last year, applies only to roads receiving state and federal funds. Lynch said Suffolk's proposal fills in a gap between the state and towns.

Mike Martino, a Nassau County Public Works spokesman, said all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and people of all ages, are considered in all "new road construction projects." He would not elaborate, but did add that Nassau has developed a plan to rent bicycles in county parks.

With Sid Cassese

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