In June 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo christened a 3.6-mile, $3.8 million extension of the Wantagh Parkway bike trail, leading east along the Ocean Parkway. That September, the Herald called on Cuomo to extend the Ocean Parkway bike trail into Suffolk County.
“We encourage the state to continue this bikeway 11 miles farther east on the Ocean Parkway, to the Captree State Park boat basin,” we wrote. “If the state were to complete the trail, it would fulfill a longtime dream of Long Island cycling enthusiasts to connect Nassau and Suffolk counties via one long trail.”
That longtime dream is about to become reality. Earlier this month, the governor announced plans for the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, a 10-mile, $16.2 million extension of the parkway’s existing bike trail. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, according Cuomo.
We can only say, bravo, Governor! You are taking the initiative to make Nassau County significantly friendlier to cyclists. As one enthusiast once put it, an Ocean Parkway bike trail would surely be among the most scenic cycling routes on the East Coast.
We believe, however, that the county and state could do better. Suffolk County now has an estimated 370 miles of bike lanes (excluding trails confined to parks), while Nassau County has just 11. A 2017 New York Times article stated that the number of daily bike trips in New York City, where there are 425 miles of bike lanes, had increased to 450,000, up from 170,000 in 2005. Similar numbers for Nassau County weren’t available.
The absence of bike lanes along most of the county’s major roads makes it evident that the cycling revolution has skipped Nassau, which clearly needs more trails. There is a roughly 10-mile bike trail through the county’s Hub, but it does not connect to any other trails, including the Wantagh/Ocean Parkway trail.
How wonderful it would be if the two trails were connected, and then the bikeway were extended to the North Shore, uniting the two ends of the county by bike. We’re seeing such interconnections being made in Suffolk, so why not in Nassau?
Bike trails require some degree of political will. There are inevitably detractors, usually homeowners who worry that bikeways near their houses might lead to increases in crime and reduce their property values. Both concerns, however, have been proven false.
So, we hope officials can continue making progress in expanding Nassau’s relatively small number of bike trails, in the hope that one day this might become a bike-friendly county.