An Appeal for Bikes on Main Street

Posted on 12 December 2008


Sag Harbor residents might see cyclists riding down Main Street in the coming year, at least Sag Harbor resident and bike enthusiast Sinead Fitzgibbon hopes so. Fitzgibbon worked in association with Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano to request from the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees a repeal of a village law that forbids bicyclists from riding on Main Street, during the board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, December 9. The law also inhibits joggers from jogging on Main Street sidewalks.

Fitzgibbon met with Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris, and Sara Gordon, a member of the Sag Harbor green committee “725-Green,” two weeks ago to discuss ways of making Sag Harbor more bike friendly, to promote a greener village community. Ferraris then connected Fitzgibbon with Fabiano, who believes the bike regulation is hard to enforce law.
She has also seemed to rally significant local support. Fitzgibbon’s cyclists advocacy group, named “Spokes People,” had 30 attendees at its last meeting, and she has a list of 200 members from Riverhead to Montauk.
Fitzgibbon compiled a dossier of research for the board on potential Main Street bicyclists markings. Fitzgibbon suggests that bikers ride in the center of the lane. She would also like bicycling markings, of either a series of pointing arrows or a caricature of a cyclist contained in a larger arrow, to be clearly painted on the street in Thermoplastic paint. Residents will recognize similar markings on the bike lane of Route 114.
“The concept of a Main Street bike route with designated markings encourages motorists to share the road with cyclists,” Fitzgibbon later said. Through her research, she also found that a greater percentage of cyclists on the road lowers the percentage of accidents between bikes and cars.
At the meeting, Fitzgibbon added that she believed the town law disallowing bike travel down Main Street was in fact a violation of state law that allows bikes on all public roads.
“That is simply not true,” countered Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred Thiele, Jr. later. “There is a provision in the general municipal law which is a state law that gives the authority to towns and cities to regulate the use of bicycles within their municipalities. The village has the authority to regulate bike usage, as long as those regulations are reasonable.”
Some feel that these regulations were put in place as a safety precaution.
“That is why the law was enacted, over concerns with bikes and the village parking situation. Maybe people [in cars] wouldn’t see the bicyclists,” said village trustee Ed Deyermond. “I think people jogging in the summertime on the sidewalk when it is very crowded is opening up a can of worms.”
The relationship between the village’s parking and cyclists was an issue that concerned board member Tiffany Scarlato, who attested to seeing many accidents between bicycles and cars in the downtown area of the village.
Police Chief Tom Fabiano said that he understood that the law had been enacted as a safety measure. He added that the law had been created a long time ago, in the late 1980s, and that today, even with more traffic control officers on the streets of the village it remains an extremely difficult law to enforce.
“I think [a bike plan] could be done on a trial basis,” continued Fabiano “I am willing to try anything. We should look into trying different things.”
Scarlato suggested that this was a good opportunity to explore alternative options, such as allowing bikes to ride on streets in the village which run parallel to Main Street. Fitzgibbon hopes to arrange a meeting with some of the board members, or on an individual basis, to clarify her suggestions for the markings down Main Street.
“The plan may not be as inherently dangerous as they perceive it to be,” said Fitzgibbon.
There will be a public hearing on this issue at next month’s board of trustees meeting, on January 13. The public is encouraged to come to the meeting and express their views on this issue. The village attorney, Fred Thiele, Jr. will also come to the meeting with prepared legislation for the repeal of the law.


Above Image: An unknown female cyclist whizzes through Sag Harbor Village. 

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15 Responses to “An Appeal for Bikes on Main Street”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is hardly unreasonable to restrict a couple of blocks to automobile traffic. The traffic along Main Street is crazy for a number of months out of the year. I often feel unsafe even in my car! Allowing bicyclists along that stretch of Main Street is inviting injuries.

  2. Charles Whalen says:

    They’re so dangerous, those crazy bikers wearing all the colorful clothing bright, how could we ever allow them on such a dangerous road as main street in Sag Harbor? We’ll never see them.

    C’mon, Main street is how many blocks long? We’re not talking about Broadway and 42nd street…and the last time I looked bikes were allowed throughout the city.

    I thought the east end was “green” open to environmental solutions to “carbon pollution”. Oh wait, but not in my backyard.

    Honestly if you think it’s dangerous to drive a car on Main Street during the summer you shouldn’t be driving in the first place.

  3. simply anonymous says:

    I do not think they should be allowed to ride right on Main Street. The bikers as it is are so rude & ride right in the middle of the street- to add them to Main Street is asking for trouble. I have yet to see one use signals when they are going to turn, etc.

  4. we could run this town says:

    Although I’m a cyclist I’m not a big fan of bikes on Main Street. The reason is simple: Although cyclists are aware of THEIR surroundings nobody else is! Pedestrians are yakking into cellphones and checking out the booty while drivers are doing those things AND trying to negotiate the clusterf**k that is Sag Harbor Main Street. Most definitely they should not be allowed on sidewalks. Maybe permitted on the street.

  5. harbordad says:

    Conceptually, it sounds like a great thing. Logistically however, I don’t think we should be considering ANYTHING that could potentially add to an already extremely frustrating thing like trying to move around Main Street. As a year round family we already make great efforts to avoid that area of town in the summer months. Couldn’t imagine it getting worse, but I think adding seasonal duffers would not only cause everything to halt, but I would suggest it would have the opposite effect desired, having cars stopped in more traffic wouldn’t be so green at all.

  6. Jay says:

    C’mon, folks, let’s be open minded and give it a try… the more bikes there are, the more aware the drivers will have to be… and cars aren’t supposed to be in the middle of the street where the bikes would be.. Now if we could enforce the no u turn rule, that would really make Main Street safe.

  7. Bill says:

    I remember the accident that brought the bike ban to Main Street quite clearly. It wasn’t the first of its kind but it did result in serious injury to the rider of the bike.

    My father was waiting for a car to leave a parking space when a cyclist passed his stopped car on the inside and rode right into side of the other car as it was cautiously backing out of the space. Shortly thereafter the ban was enacted.

    I’ve seen no change in the behavior of cyclists that would lead me to believe that it would be prudent to lift the ban. On the contrary…I think it would be best for the village’s liability exposure if a more serious attempt were made to enforce the existing law.

  8. Kurt Pfund says:

    As I read all the letters explaining why it is a bad idea to allow bicycles to use main street in Sag Harbor, I am looking out the window of an internet cafe in Fontainebleau, France. I watch bicycles, pedestrians, cars and buses sharing a medieval road system planned (if that is what happened) in the 12th century for horse and foot traffic. The town itself is about six or seven times the size of Sag Harbor and derives quite a bit of tourist traffic from the Château de Fontainebleau, the oldest and largest of the French royal palaces.
    If you asked a local here if they thought the traffic situation would be improved by banning bicycles, you would likely be laughed at. You would have to explain how it is that eliminating low impact, high efficiency and very small footprint vehicles and only permitting high impact, low efficiency, large footprint vehicles will reduce congestion and improve safety.
    I suppose you could argue that traffic, which is moving at about 6 mph, would be slowed by a vehicle with a top speed of 20 mph. But you might sound kind of foolish.
    I suppose you could argue car drivers are too unsafe to allow bicyclers around them, but if you actually believe this, then I would ask you why you are not doing something about those drivers. After all, they are driving on your street around your children.
    Mixed traffic solutions exist everywhere else in the world and work as fine as anything else humans can do.

  9. Kurt Pfund says:

    To Simply Anonymous-
    I agree with part of your statement. I don’t know why it is, but it is true that most cyclists don’t signal. They are selfish and foolish for this. But I have not otherwise observed that most people riding bikes behave as you describe.

  10. Kurt Pfund says:

    Sounds like it was a terrible accident. People sometimes take unreasonable risks and do not adequately consider the consequences of their actions.
    However, the fact that you describe does not logically lead to your conclusion. There have been many more serious accidents between cars on Main Street. And we all occasionally see car drivers behaving in the most peculiar ways. It does not make any more sense to ban cars because of this than it does to ban bicycles.

  11. Bob says:

    The way the law is enforced now requires bike riders to dangerously walk their bicycle down a crowded sidewalk trying to avoid taking someone’s shin out with a pointed sharp pedal. How safe is that?

  12. Bob says:

    I believe that the reason cyclists don’t signal is because it can add to the safety risk cyclists already face. With the terrible roads we have here try making a turn with only one hand on the handlebar! Also, when it comes down to intersections I think cyclists need to ride aggressively for their own protection and this sometimes involves breaking some V&T laws. Again if there were more cyclists vehicles would be more accustomed and better able deal with typical cycling behaviors.

  13. Kurt Pfund says:

    I am inclined to believe that riders don’t signal for the same reasons that many car drivers don’t. They are just not in the habit. It really isn’t dangerous to take your hands off the bars for a moment to signal you intentions and then make your maneuver.
    I suppose there are rare moments when it is dangerous to take your hands off the bars, but not signaling is the default mode, rather than the exception.
    It is the one most universally valid complaint motorists make against bike riders, and there really is no reason for it. It makes riders seem far more unpredictable and unsafe than they really are.

  14. squeaky says:

    There are just some places you can be too stupid to ride a bike. Yes, most cyclists I have encountered on our roads are very arrogant or just ignorant. They are required to signal and stop at stop signs and traffic lights. Rules of the road ladies! But if you are dumb enough to ride on Main St. Sag Harbor , have at it!

  15. Malik says:

    Who cares?

    I bike all the time, and I could care less about this issue.

    Meanwhile… There are stretches of noyack road that are DEADLY to cylclists– the road shoulders are almost non-existant, and strewn with construction debris and potholes. Cyclists should be focusing on this stuff, not Main street.

    The area where biking isnt alowed is only 1 block; you can easily go around it, via Division street, its not really much of an inconvenience.

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