Suffolk County lawmakers are looking to tackle bicyclists who have been intimidating drivers across Long Island.
There have been several different reports of reckless bicyclists putting themselves and others in danger on the road, which included a group of teenagers who harassed a Terryville gym over the summer.
County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she had a “terrifying” experience first-hand a few years ago. While traveling down Route 25A at night, a person wearing all black began popping wheelies toward her car in the middle of the street.
“I wasn’t going fast,” she said. “I chose to stop in the middle of the roadway. It was really scary, and whoever it was, was recklessly trying to frighten me.”
Back in September, county Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) introduced a “reckless biking” bill, which he advanced from Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) who passed away from cancer that same month.
After talking with other towns and villages in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, Sunderman said that although he represents the South Shore, the issue is widespread across the Island.
“Other areas that we spoke to [with a bill in place] have already seen a decline in reckless biking,” he said.
If Sunderman’s bill passes, it would prohibit cyclists from trick riding or weaving through traffic. Violators could also see their bikes impounded, receive $250 fines, or spend 15 days in jail.
And on the North Shore, Hahn said she had been receiving complaints from other people from the area regarding similar concerns of packs of children doing similar things on Route 112, Nesconset Highway and Middle Country Road.
“It’s dangerous,” she said. “The police aren’t able to do very much. They need a tool to confiscate the bike to individuals who do this.”
But along with concerned residents reaching out, Hahn said she was hearing criticism over Sunderman’s bill from bicyclist groups who use their bikes recreationally.
“The intent is very good, and it is needed to curb this kind of [bad] activity,” she said. “The groups absolutely agree with the fact that anyone who rides in a pack and pops wheelies in traffic, that should happen. But because they’re experienced bicyclists, they see the real danger every day.”
Hahn said she is in full support of Sunderman’s reckless biking bill, but there were a few small pieces to his legislation that she wanted to suggest improvements. Her bill was laid out on Nov. 4.
“Suffolk County is notorious for not being safe for bicyclists,” she said. “The purpose of my law is just to make drivers aware — give the cyclists the room, close your door when someone is passing you, people are not looking out.”
Her bill, which will go to public hearing on Dec. 1, will help drivers of cars and bikes be more educated of the dangers they both could face if they choose to act irresponsibly. A decision, or amending, of Sunderman’s bill will be decided on Dec. 15.