Sinead Fitzgibbon

Posted on 25 December 2008

The local bicycle advocate and physical therapist on her initiative to allow bikes on Main Street, finding safe routes through the village and the need for cars and bikes to exist peacefully.

 

When did you become a bike enthusiast?

I was a competitive swimmer in Ireland throughout my childhood and in college. When I went to university, I started cycling mainly for transportation. In Ireland, when I was 21-years-old, it cost almost $2,000 dollars to insure your car, and this was almost 20 years ago. So it was too expensive for me to have a car.

When I moved here [Sag Harbor], in 1996, I was living on a sailboat because I was managing Pat Malloy’s boat, Challenge. The only way I got around was by sailing, when I was at sea, or biking, when I was in the village. Then, I became interested in bike racing when I started competing in triathlons. I competed for about 10 years. I still compete but less so now. Then, I discovered my passion for mountain biking and trail biking.

 

When you first moved here did you notice that motorists had a different relationship to cyclists compared to Ireland?

In Europe, there is a very different relationship between cyclists and motorists. There aren’t defined bicycle lanes, but there is more road sharing between bikes and cars. That is noticeably absent here. [America] is a car culture, by virtue of the vastness of expanses people travel and the design of American towns.

 

Tell me a little more about your new cyclist advocacy group, Spokes People, which you helped start.

We have a bunch of enthusiastic people. There are almost 210 people on our email list and it is growing daily, and we just started four weeks ago. They are all locals, and are cyclists and non-cyclists. Our group has come out of a passion for cycling, and seeing this perfectly flat area of Sag Harbor not being used for that purpose.

I think a whole group of cycling enthusiasts feel threatened by the difficulties of negotiating traffic here. We all started talking about how we could contribute to the solution instead of just complaining about it, and then our little group was born.

 

Do you think promoting bike use in Sag Harbor is one way to make Sag Harbor a more green friendly community?

I think [Sag Harbor Village Mayor] Greg Ferraris has a vision of Sag Harbor as a beacon for green and sustainable living on the East End. He has promoted the growth of those kinds of organizations here. He initiated the 725Green committee. So he, along with 725Green and other groups like Save Sag Harbor, all have the same goal of improving the demand for parking in the village, reducing congestion, and improving access to village businesses for bikes. I really feel that my organization’s mission dovetails with many of these organizations and we hope to work with them. I think we share a common goal, along with the mayor and the chief of police, to find ways that we can improve the village.

 

What are some of Spokes Peoples ideas for increasing bike accessibility in the village?

We are trying to draft a multi-pronged proposal that involves the creation of a bike route around and through the village, with many bike park sites where people can safely lock their bikes, which would facilitate access to Main Street and adjacent streets.

 

What do you think about criticisms of allowing bikes on Main Streets?

I think peoples’ fear of more accidents is born out of unfamiliarity with traffic systems where bikes and cars can co-exist. We feel that with a system of chevron markings [arrows with a caricature of a bike rider, like the ones on Route 114] which is the official road marking of the New York State Department of Transportation, we’ll improve the safe transit of cyclists through difficult intersections.

Three of the main feeder roads into the village all have dedicated bike lanes. These roads spill into the village and in the village there is no bike route. There is no system to address the lack of cycling routes connecting those dots.

We feel that a coordinated approach between our organization and the village to review the cycling routes will join these dots and facilitate a safe passage into and through the town.

 

Do you think the diagonal parking along Main Street presents unique problems for allowing bikes to ride through the street?

It is a unique situation but it is one that other cities have come up against and have dealt with in different ways. We want to look at all viable solutions for dealing with this issue.

 

Are you the first organization to try and repeal this local law?

This isn’t a new idea. [Sag Harbor resident] Ken Dorph presented a proposal to repeal this law back in 1997, with a similar design and approach to improving cycling in the village.

Everyone sites the lack of funding as being an obstacle, but often there is also a lack of political will for something new to happen if the money does become available.

We feel that our proposal is coming about at an important time. It is in confluence with many other movements and issues, like gas prices, Safe Routes to School, and under-active children, that will make this group more effective in our attempts to facilitate cycling. We are bringing this proposal to the village when there is a much greater awareness of sustainable transportation that can assist all of these issues.

 

Do you expect a big turnout at the public hearing, on January 23, on repealing the local law banning bike riding through Main Street?

I guarantee that we will have at least 30 to 50 cyclists at that hearing. We have emailed all of our members this week and are going to try and coordinate with the Save Sag Harbor group. 

 

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2 Responses to “Sinead Fitzgibbon”

  1. Richard Smith says:

    I am pleased to see this story and hear about Spokes People. I didn’t know there were others out there like me. For years I’ve complained to the mayor’s office and the young police men and women who enforce the no bikes law on Main St. that, as a taxpayer, I feel discriminated against on Main St. by laws that give motorists priority over bikers for no reason other than longstanding predjudice. This needs to change. We need to get people out of their cars, off their duffs, encourage kids to ride bikes to school instead of being chauffered by their parents. I don’t see this as an issue requiring significant expense. Painting bike lanes can’t cost that much. God knows the village wastes much more money on unnecessary trifles like that ridiculous clock at one intersection, paving crosswalks with faux cobblestone, and so on. Frankly, I don’t see the need to paint a separate lane down mainstreet for bikes. Just post signs telling drivers to share the street equally with bikes. We’re only talking about a strip of street perhaps 3 blocks long. No one should be driving faster than 15 miles per hour there anyway. And people do back out of diagonal parking extremely slowly already. So why can’t bikes share the same street equally? Why need we be shunted off to some separate lane on Main St. We need that on Route 114 but on Main St.? Please sign me up for your email listserve and I will be there Jan. 23rd. Good luck!

    B

  2. Brent Timbol says:

    Kindly clarify… I see the hearing date listed as 1/23/09 here, but 1/13/09 in a recent Save Sag Harbor email. Sinead, thanks for your tremendous efforts!

    Excellent Wishes for ’09,


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