On Long Island, we drive. We walk. And we bike. Far too often, it’s a dangerous mix.
Despite many efforts to improve safety, cars still hit pedestrians, often with catastrophic consequences. The death Wednesday of Cari Widmyer, 43, of Hicksville, occurred when an SUV veered across New South Road there while she was out with her father for an afternoon bicycle ride. The SUV hit both. Residents in the neighborhood say speeding on the road is a problem.
Such incidents illustrate why a new state plan to dedicate $110 million over five years to make our streets safer can’t start soon enough. The money for engineering and education will be spread across New York, but given our long history of traffic safety problems, a good chunk of it must come to Long Island.
Nassau and Suffolk top a distressing state list — first and third among counties outside New York City in crashes involving pedestrians, almost 30 percent of the total in 2009-13. The local data are no better: Long Island has eight of the most hazardous 20 communities, with Hempstead Town’s 2,139 pedestrian crashes nearly double second-place Buffalo’s 1,254.
The state’s priority is dangerous intersections on state roads. Improvements will include better pavement markings, countdown timers and extended crossing times to better protect pedestrians. Then local communities will propose projects for their roads. Long Island’s counties, towns, cities and villages must respond. The tragedy in Hicksville is a reminder that bike lanes must be considered as well. Additional funding is an opportunity local governments must seize.
Markings and countdown times are good steps, but the education component is critical. We are our own worst enemy. We speed, try to beat lights, take corners too quickly and text. We step into the street without looking, cross in the middle of the block, wear dark clothes at night and text. We don’t anticipate obstacles hidden around bends in the road.
The state needs to be creative and use TV, radio and social media to reach as many people as possible, especially kids and senior citizens.
In the end, safety is up to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. That’s us. Better engineering is great, but it won’t matter if we don’t change.
— The editorial board