The sun sets behind a cyclist in a bike lane...

The sun sets behind a cyclist in a bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2023. Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster

Remember the freedom you gained when you got your first bike? The fear you felt when you biked to your friend’s house for the first time? When you almost got run over going to the grocery store? Is it worth the risk?

For the safety and wellbeing of our youth, we need to make suburbs more bikeable with protected bike lanes.

I live in Syosset, a typical Long Island suburb with a train station, shops, restaurants and parks. These are great places to spend time. However, they are not easy to get to without a car. As someone who didn’t have a license until October 2022, it put the burden on my parents to drive me everywhere.

In 2020, 322 bicyclists were killed or injured in Nassau County, an increase of 0.9% from 2019, which makes it the highest-risk county in the state outside of New York City, according to New York’s 2023 Highway Safety Strategic Plan.

The report also notes that 27% of bicyclists killed or injured in crashes are between 14 and 24 years old, with an additional 27% being between 25 and 34. Being just 17, I am in the former group, putting myself at a higher risk.

I enjoy biking on my own, but I rarely go outside my neighborhood because I don’t feel comfortable on major roads with no separation from cars. However, a few years ago, I rode on the Bethpage Bikeway with my dad. To get to the trail, I could have biked down Woodbury Road, a major road that has a conventional bike lane, but with cars driving past at upwards of 50 miles per hour, my parents and I felt the risk was too great. Instead, we loaded my bike into the back of our minivan and drove the three measly miles to it.

On the ride, we went to Bethpage State Park, and on the way back, I got hurt. Going down a large hill at a high rate of speed proved to be a learning experience. I completely lost control of the bike and got cuts. I can only imagine if that was on a major road. It could have put me in the way of traffic and I could have been added to the list of bicyclist fatalities.

When I was making plans with a friend not too long ago, he had the idea of biking to downtown Syosset to eat. This would require biking on major roads such as Woodbury Road and South Oyster Bay Road, and I still am not comfortable being that close to cars. So we continued to face the tedious task of orchestrating whose parents will take us to and pick us up from our plans.

On days I have to stay after school for clubs, they usually finish around 3 p.m. But the late bus doesn’t come until 3:50 on a good day, and having one of the last stops, I would be lucky to get home by 4:30. It’s too far to walk but biking would make perfect sense as the school is about three miles from my house. I have to ask my mom to pick me up those days, which is extremely annoying and inconvenient for her. There are no alternatives to driving.

From cyclists who are exercising to people like me who are simply going from point A to point B, protected bike lanes would increase safety, mobility and freedom among young people across Long Island.


 THIS GUEST ESSAY reflects the views of Adam Davidson, a senior at Syosset High School.

This guest essay reflects the views of Adam Davidson, a senior at Syosset High School.

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