Suffolk County lawmakers passed a bill that is aimed at increasing safety for bicyclists on roadways. The measure would penalize motorists with a fine for not keeping at least three feet away from bicyclists while on the road.
Daniel Flanzig, a board member of New York Bicycling Coalition, a group that advocates for pro-bicycle and pro-pedestrian policies, said the bill is a victory for bicyclists.
“Cyclists are already blowing up my Facebook to learn more about it,” said Flanzig, who is also a lawyer that represents the rights of bicyclists and pedestrians.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone vetoed a similar bill last week that penalized reckless bicyclists for being too broad and redundant to laws already in place. Lawmakers failed to pass a veto-override vote this week. The new bill is entirely separate from previous legislation.
Legislator Al Krupski, representing Long Island’s North Fork, questioned how practical the three-foot rule would be for motorists on older roads and whether it would keep traffic flowing.
“How would you make it safe for bicycle riders for the roads that aren’t engineered for a lot of traffic, plus bicycles, pedestrians and farm equipment that use the roads?” he asked.
Flanzig said questions like these should be considered when older roads are redeveloped with the idea in mind that the biker safety bill is already law.
“We are going to be able to have this conversation about this law being passed and educating motorists that bicyclists have a right to be there going to have to pass them with safety,” Flanzig said.
The bill would not apply to roads that have marked lanes specifically for bikes.
The legislation awaits a signature from Bellone.
Suffolk County has recorded among the highest number deaths of bicyclists in the state. However, lawmakers said it is now the first county to have such legislation protecting cyclists.
Legislator Kara Hahn, who authored the bill, has introduced additional legislation that would protect other vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and people with disabilities, and promote road safety education in schools.