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Bellone takes bike, bus to work for Car Free Day Long Island

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone rides his bicycle

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone rides his bicycle along Deer Park Avenue as he heads to the bus stop by Grand Boulevard in Babylon Monday morning, Sept. 22, 2014, on his way to work. Bellone was among more than 2,500 people who pledged to participate in Long Island's second annual Car Free Day on Monday. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone left the car at home Monday morning and opted for his bicycle and the bus to promote Car Free Day Long Island.

The result: a two-hour trip from Babylon to Hauppauge. Along the way, Bellone got in his exercise, dodged some traffic and met a fan on a Suffolk County Transit bus.

Bellone said he wanted to remind people that there are alternatives to cars.

"We want to encourage people to think beyond cars, where possible," he said.

Wearing khakis, a blue button-down shirt and a blue and black helmet, Bellone set off on his 21-speed Trek mountain bike about 7:15 a.m. at a brisk pace, with his spokesman Justin Meyers and a reporter trailing behind. He rode east on Park Avenue, then north on Deer Park Avenue, past his alma mater North Babylon High School, and north into Deer Park, where he was to catch the bus to Hauppauge.

Bellone showed little compunction about hopping onto the sidewalk in places where the roads narrowed, noting that there were no pedestrians. At the Southern State Parkway on-ramps, though, even Bellone paused and peered warily as a steady flow of cars sped up to get onto the highway.

About 4.4 miles later, he arrived at the bus stop at Deer Park Avenue and Grand Boulevard. "And we didn't almost get killed, which is good," he said.

A volunteer fire department van pulled up. "Need a ride?" the driver yelled to Bellone, who ran into the street to shake his hand.

"They won't hit me. This is my town," Bellone said.

When the S33 came at 8:29, 4 minutes late, Bellone put his bike on a rack in the front and paid his $2 fare.

A young man in a Jimi Hendrix shirt looked up at him.

"You look very familiar," said Seamus Eareckson of West Babylon.

"Steve Bellone," Bellone said, putting out his hand.

"I was like, no way is that Steve Bellone riding the bus," Eareckson said.

Eareckson suggested the county get more direct bus routes to Suffolk Community College's Brentwood campus, where he's a student, to cut down on the 50-minute ride time.

Bellone has a plan for a quicker transit system, called Connect Long Island. Three north-south rapid-bus corridors would link downtowns, businesses and research centers. The county has received $3.6 million in grant funding so far. The three routes are estimated to cost $78 million to implement, according to a county study released in July.

"If we're going to grow our economy in a sustainable way, we can't do it by adding more cars to the roadways," he said.

At 9:17 a.m., Bellone stepped off the bus at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. At a news conference later, Bellone said he was proud to be part of the second annual Car Free Day Long Island, organized by Transit Solutions, a program of the MTA and Long Island Rail Road aimed at improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion.

Bellone had another news conference in Huntington later in the afternoon. For that and the trip home, he wasn't going to bike it.

"I'll probably hop into a Prius at some point today. It's the reality of living on Long Island," he said.

Brian Nevin, spokesman for Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, would not say whether Mangano did anything yesterday to mark Car Free Day.

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