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Suffolk bike path is progress, but we need more to keep cyclists safe

The PSEG right of way in Miller Place

The PSEG right of way in Miller Place on Tuesday. In August, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced federal funding for a Rails to Trails project which will create a 10-mile bike path along the right of way from Port Jefferson to Wading River. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Suffolk County is making progress on its first bike path, a 10-mile trail from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River that could be ready in 2021. That’s terrific news, as is Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget proposal for a 750-mile biking and hiking trail to run from Manhattan to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo. Making it easier for people to get outdoors and exercise safely is always a good idea.

But these kinds of trails do little to reduce the dangers faced by Long Island cyclists every day. That was hammered home again last week when a sport utility vehicle struck and killed a teen cyclist from Miller Place, one of the communities along Suffolk’s proposed bike trail. Crashes involving Long Island cyclists and motorists exceeded 2,800 from 2013 to October 2016, according to state data obtained by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. That’s unacceptable.

Dedicated bike lanes, especially when physically separated from car lanes, make a big difference, particularly when connected in a network. Lower speed limits and more awareness also help. There’s been progress, in line with state and local “complete streets” legislation requiring that transportation projects consider all users, including cyclists. Long Beach is adding downtown bike paths, reconstructed sections of state Route 347 have bike trails, and the rebuilt Nassau Expressway will add a bike lane.

Encouraging Long Islanders to start pedaling is a great idea. Making sure they can do it safely is even better.— The editorial board