Categorized | A Conversation With

John Shaka

Posted on 05 December 2012

By Annette Hinkle

John Shaka, a Sag Harbor resident and Save Sag Harbor board member, will host a meeting at his home on Monday, December 17 2012 to discuss ways the village can be more bike and pedestrian friendly.

What’s the December 17 meeting all about?

Susan Mead, another Save Sag Harbor board member, is very active with me on this. In conversation with other board members we talk about what we can do that is proactive rather than reactive. People were very upset by the ferry [to Greenport] this summer. We thought let’s monitor what’s happening — both the positive and negative. Out of that I thought I’d like to see bike lanes, others want to calm traffic.

We talked to a planner who said the village needs a comprehensive plan with traffic calming and a biking infrastructure to make it safe and effective. There’s no reason in a village like this we can’t make that happen.

This is a Save Sag Harbor initiative, but we want input and contribution from all corners of the village — including the Chamber of Commerce, schools and public officials. Because it’s early in the process, we plan to meet in my home. We do want everyone to get involved, and if there is enough interest we will look for a public meeting place for this or future meetings.

Of course, there have been many efforts to improve things for bikers and walkers in Sag Harbor over the years. What’s different this time?

Lots of people have been involved in working on traffic and traffic calming over the years. There was CONPOSH, Five Towns Rural Transit, Safe Routes to School. Maybe we can get it together. These ideas are out there but not connected. I want everyone to come to the table.

You’re a bicyclist and a runner who lives in the village — what are some Sag Harbor’s problems from your perspective?

In the village all you have is “thou shalt not” — there’s nothing that says you should. The Route 114 bike lane is good, but the village should make it easier for people by saying where they can and should bike, like if they want to go to the post office, the school or library. It’s elementary stuff.

There’s no comprehensive bike areas within the village, no bike lanes or share roads. From North Haven to East Hampton if you’re an average guy you know where the bike lane is, but not how to navigate streets, say around the school. It should be evident. On Jermain Avenue  you have sidewalks that turn into lawns, parking spaces that cut off sidewalks, and you need ramps so wheelchairs and small kids on bikes can access them.  Those are obvious.

 It would be great to have safer roads for kids on bikes and foot, but how do you change the mindset that keeps parents shuttling their kids to school and every activity by car?

I think a lot that mentality does exist — I would love to have the school board and PTA involved and get the kids interested. Once the kids are excited and they see it’s fun they might ask their parents to let them walk or bike with a friend to school.

People figure out solutions. The mentality has shifted in New York which has had bike lanes for two or three years. People ride to the office and in lots of cities it’s considered normal. The sense of autonomy is incredible.

What’s the ultimate vision for this effort?

We want lots of talented people doing what they know best and bringing what they can. We want to keep the focus on rethinking how we use public roads, both motorized and non-motorized, so it benefits everyone as a whole. We have a local, experienced planner, but we need funding to compensate him for his time and out of this, we hope there will be a comprehensive plan we can bring to the village board and say “Let’s do this.”

The December 17, 2012 meeting at John Shaka’s home will be at 1 p.m. Those interested in attending should email him at johnshaka@aol.com for location details. 

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