Build the path, they will come
Long Island, a land of roads and highways, is sorely lacking in another type of artery: bike lanes.
Safe and scenic paths could provide two-wheeled options to and from and along beaches, connecting parks and community hubs. And it’s not just biking: Shared-use paths would allow for hiking and running and rollerblading and walking, new chances for exercise and recreation as well as new ways to get around.
These are just some of the ambitious transportation ideas planners and dreamers have for Long Island, expressed in projects like the Long Island Greenway and Suffolk County’s Hike and Bike Master Plan.
Some of the proposals are coming to fruition, like the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, which links up with a trail that runs from Cedar Creek County Park in Seaford along Wantagh State Parkway to Jones Beach, and then goes all the way along Ocean Parkway to Captree State Park. The final section of the route was completed by the state this spring.
Now an addition to that stretch needs help over the finish line: a path from Captree to Gardiner County Park in Bay Shore.
The connection has a lot to admire. It would provide Suffolk residents with a link to a bike route with a view of a whole host of beaches including Jones, Tobay, and Gilgo, an advantage that Nassau residents already have with the Ocean Parkway path. The Robert Moses Causeway bridge’s southbound span has two lanes versus three lanes going north, one of which could be used for a spacious path to be shared by bikers, runners and walkers.
There are tourism and economic boons galore to be found in an uninterrupted biking stretch, including rentals and stops for rest and refreshments along the way for riders seeking great views of the Great South Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, osprey nests and sand dunes, and the New York City skyline.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone estimates that the 5.5-mile stretch over the bridge from Captree to Gardiner would cost some $14.5 million in design and construction costs, and is urging the state to take on the work. Now add to that the Trust for Public Land's push for an east-west Long Island Greenway, including an initial segment from Eisenhower Park in Nassau through Bethpage State Park and on to Brentwood State Park in Suffolk.
More and more Long Islanders found or returned to biking during the pandemic, and it should be easier for them to continue the healthy habit. Slowly but surely, New York is knitting itself together with trails, including the heavily used greenway on the West Side of Manhattan and the Empire State Trail reaching up to Canada and stretching from Albany to Buffalo. But the trail skips Long Island.
Nassau and Suffolk counties deserve a chance to pedal into the future, too.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.