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Street Beat: Sign Says Drive, Walk, Bike…Respectfully

Safety Campaign Encourages Best Practices On
Two Feet, Two Wheels, and Four Wheels

by Dave Zornow

With many activities limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, bicycling has seen a surge in popularity as a social, family-friendly activity where people of all ages can get exercise while remaining safely spaced. The Rockland County river villages, long a popular destination for tri-state area cycling enthusiasts, have seen increased usage of its roads and rail trails since the June 2020 opening of The Path for cyclists and pedestrians on the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge. In recognition of this trend, village and town police departments, local bicycling clubs and Rockland County officials have created a safety campaign using street banners in Piermont, South Nyack and Nyack to promote greater respect and awareness among pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

“It is a challenge for the river villages to balance the flow of residents, weekend visitors to the villages, and users of the The Path on the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge,” said Piermont Mayor Bruce Tucker. Using funding provided by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), the Rockland County Health Department worked with community bike/ped advocates to develop messaging to address these concerns. “Traffic crashes on our roads are a major cause of injury in the county,’ says Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert. “Safety education is a vital step to reducing crashes and increasing roadway respect.”

Transportation planners say Complete Streets that are safe for pedestrians and cyclists require three E’s: Engineering, Enforcement…and Education. Police Departments, who are chiefly responsible for the second E, have endorsed this outreach effort. “Enforcing New York Vehicle and Traffic Laws is important but can only go so far, especially in our popular corridor,” says Chief Daniel Wilson of the South Nyack-Grand View Police Department. “We support education efforts to not only raise awareness of the rules of the road, but also to foster considerate attitudes among motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.”

Street banners were created and hung in n Piermont, South Nyack, and Nyack with safety messages such as obeying stop signs and red lights, yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, minimizing distractions such as text messaging, and allowing safe distance when passing bicycles. In addition to the banners, a tri-fold safety brochure, How to Share the Road Respectfully, was developed with safety tips for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

Mario Cuomo Bridge Shared Use Path 200615. Photo Credit: Dave Zornow

The shared use bicycle/pedestrian path on the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge has attracted more than 200,000 visitors since its opening last June, according to the NYS Thruway.

Local cycling clubs frequently ride in Rockland because the county offers some of the best bicycling in the New York metropolitan area. However, cyclists say distracted driving and tensions between cars, bicycles and walkers competing for limited space is concerning. “Informing motorists on how to best share the road and educating our fellow bicyclists to obey New York State traffic law helps to protect everyone,” says Michael Hays, president of the Rockland Bicycling Club. Hays adds that it’s important for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to be courteous when different modes of travel share the same space. “That’s when the risk of accidents is highest,” Hays says.

“Everyone benefits when sharing the road in a courteous and responsible manner becomes the norm,” says Chuck Solomon, President of the Bicycling Touring Club of North Jersey (BTCNJ). “This long-overdue initiative will go a long way in promoting safety and mutual respect for all who travel through the Piermont and Nyack area.”

See also:

On the Roads, Think Twice...Travel Nice! On two wheels, on four wheels or on two feet
In August 2020, local law enforcement, Rockland County public health officials, and local bicycling clubs collaborated to produce a brochure listing best practices for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians when two or more modes of transportation share the road. You can download the brochure or pick up a copy at Runcible Spoon bakery, Nyack Village Hall, Nyack Bike Outfitters and the Piermont Police Department.
Q. What’s one thing that we can all do to make our streets safer?
A. Don’t get distracted while walking, driving, or bicycling! Don’t text while driving, crossing the street, or riding a bicycle. Bad things can happen in the blink of an eye when you are distracted.
Q. When is it safe to pass a bicycle?
A. Motorists must wait to pass bicycles until there is safe passing space and clear line of sight. Cyclists in groups should leave gaps in their single file to allow cars to safely pass. Motorists should not try to pass slower moving cars or bicycles when there are oncoming cars or bicycles traveling in the opposite lane. Be patient and wait. It takes only a few seconds but saves lives.
Q. When can bicyclists “take the lane”?
A. NYS Law permits bicyclists to “take the lane” when the road is narrow, where there is no shoulder, or where there are obstructions on the right. Bicycle riders should be at least three feet to the left of parked cars to avoid being hit by opening doors.
Q. When there is no sidewalk, should I walk with traffic or against traffic?
A. Against traffic and as far to the left as possible, which means you should be looking at the driver of the vehicle on your side of the street.
Q. How fast can you drive around cyclists and pedestrians?
A. The speed limit is the maximum speed for passing pedestrians or bicycle riders. It’s best to slow down for safe passing. Higher speeds shorten reaction time and increase the chance of a crash. If a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph, they have a 90% chance of living; but if hit at 40 mph, the chance of surviving is only 10%. Remember, those aren’t strangers who walk, jog, and bike on the road next to you when you drive faster than necessary: they are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles…and neighbors.
Q. What are the best practices for bicycling in a group?
A. In NYS, bicyclists may ride two-abreast except when passing, or when coming to stop signs and red lights. In Orangetown, riding single file is the law, and generally riding single file is safest. Call out obstacles so other riders aren’t forced to swerve unexpectedly.
Q. Do cars and bikes have to stop for me when I walk in the street?
A. Cars and bicyclists must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and at intersections in NY State. Pedestrians crossing midblock in a location without a crosswalk must yield the right-of-way to oncoming vehicles. Walkers and joggers should be aware of their surroundings and look both ways (left, right, and left again) before crossing the street. Make eye contact with other road users to ensure you are seen!
Q. Do bicycles need to follow the same traffic laws as cars?
A. Yes! Bicycles are vehicles and should follow the rules of the road. Stop at all red lights and stop signs and signal for turns. It’s the law and it’s what other road users expect.

Groups who collaborated to produce this brochure included the Rockland County Health Department, the Orangetown Police Department, the Piermont Police Department, the South Nyack Grand View Police Department, the Rockland Bicycling Club, the Bicycle Touring Club of North Jersey, and the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC).

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