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The future of travel on LI: Biking, hiking and flying

THE PROBLEM:Most of Long Island's roads were designed to move cars quickly, and can be uninviting and dangerous for bicyclists.

THE FIX:Make roads safer and friendlier for cyclists with road markings and barriers; create new, dedicated bike paths.

There are 39 miles of state-shared walking/biking paths on the Island. By 2035, more than 62 miles are to be added by the state, and more than 114 miles by county and local governments.

On roadways, bike riders and walkers can use 149 miles of bicycle lanes or shared road lanes. And the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council envisions nearly 1,000 additional miles of on-road bikeways.

As the state adds a travel lane on 16 miles of Route 347, "we're also installing a shared-use path with landscaping and bus stop enhancements to make it much more appealing and safe," said Eileen Peters, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation. "That will pretty much be the blueprint for future projects on Long Island." Construction is to begin this year.

Lee Koppelman, director of the Center for Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University, said he is optimistic more accommodations will be made for bicycles because it's "relatively inexpensive."

"You can see this right now in Manhattan, where the last 18 months or so a new industry has been created where you have rental bicycle operations at street corners." He and other planners say similar operations could work on the Island, particularly on the East End in the summer.

To encourage people to leave their cars at home, the state has set up 180 bicycle lockers at 20 Long Island Rail Road stations. They rent for $60 per year and some are still available.

THE PROBLEM:Studies consistently have ranked Long Island as having some of the most dangerous roads in the metropolitan area for pedestrians.

THE FIX:Build more sidewalks, make it easier to cross roads and build dedicated walkways.The state wants to make it easier and safer for you to walk around Long Island. "Sidewalks are a given for every [DOT] project wherever they are feasible," Peters said. "We are now putting in countdown timers that make it perfectly clear how much time you have to cross a road."

And Jeffrey Zupan, senior fellow for transportation at the Regional Plan Association, said the shift to creating denser development in downtowns and around mass transit centers with higher-density housing combined with retail will boost the fortunes of the pedestrian. "Creating a more walkable environment within a half-mile of a railroad station is a very important thing," he said.

THE PROBLEM: Long Islanders traveling by air often have to contend with delays at Kennedy or LaGuardia airports.

THE FIX:Expand MacArthur to make it easier and more convenient to fly out of Long Island to more destinations.

Two commercial airlines serve MacArthur, which sees 30 arrivals and departures a day. Officials are trying to lure other carriers and triple the number of flights to serve 3.5 million passengers annually by 2025 compared with 1.95 million last year.

"The three airports in the New York region are among the most congested in the country," said Jeffrey Zupan of the Regional Plan Association, who sees MacArthur as playing a significant role in reducing that congestion.

Airport officials have improved the facilities and increased marketing to airlines and potential customers. More than $60 million in investment has begun or is scheduled, including a $25-million Federal Aviation Administration control tower to be completed this year; a more-than-$10-million Islip Town project to reconfigure the roads outside the terminal that will begin this year; and a more-than-$20-million town project to redevelop the general aviation section on the western side.

The airport in the past two years has added free Wi-Fi throughout the terminal, a Web site where customers can track flights, a Mother's Room and a "pet relief area."

Last year the airport began a campaign to encourage more Long Islanders to use MacArthur; the tagline "We Make Flying a Breeze" has been placed on billboards and used in print and radio ads.

- Bill Bleyer and Alfonso Castillo

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