A new law will now keep bicyclists safe on the roadways with its 3-foot rule.
On Tuesday, April 27, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and members of the biking community at Stony Brook’s Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn to sign it in officially.
Bellone said the legislation will help ensure the safety of bicyclists while out on the roadways requiring drivers to pass on the left and provide the riders with at least 3 feet of space. Violations of this law are punishable by a fine of $225 for the first offense, $325 for the second offense and $425 for any subsequent offenses.
It is the first of its kind in New York state.
“For us in Suffolk County, where we love the outdoors, many of the reasons why people choose to live here is because of our incredible natural resources: our parks, our open space and the beauty that we have here,” he said. “Bicycles are such a big part of that. We are committed to, and we have to be committed to, making sure that cycling can be done safely, and people are protected as much as possible.”
He added that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, bike sales have “skyrocketed.” People want to be outside more.
“We’ve obviously been working on these issues for some time,” he said. “But the pandemic has only made it even clearer how important this is to people’s lives — and quite frankly, to all of us, even if you never get on a bike.”
Hahn added that Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn attracts bicyclists from around the world who come and enjoy the area’s paths, roads and trails.
“Our roads are going to be safer now,” she said. “But there is tremendous synergy between our environment and our economy, between what we have here to enjoy where we live. And who we attract to come here as visitors, who we attract to come here as businesses, and people — especially after the pandemic — are looking for places to live, places to visit where they can recreation safely.”
Bellone noted, though, that Long Island roads can often be dangerous, and he is committed to keeping the streets safe.
“We know that bicycling on certain roads in the county can be dangerous, but we’ve been working on that issue,” he said. “We’ve taken a number of significant steps to educate drivers and improve infrastructure to create a safer environment for bicycles on the road. So, today, our efforts go one step further.”
Attorney and board member of the New York Bicycling Coalition Daniel Flanzig said that currently only 33 states have this law.
“[NY] Vehicle & Traffic Law 1122-A currently exists, but only requires a motorist to pass a cyclist at a safe distance,” he said. “What a safe distance is to me is different to you.”
Flanzig said that the new law of a 3-foot distance is a tangible, recognizable number.
“I think 3-foot distance actually makes it easier to enforce,” Hahn said. “Now there’s a set difference. Previously, the law said drivers must pass cyclists at a safe distance and that wasn’t defined.”