WEST ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A teen from Long Island was prompted to contact a local lawmaker and call for the installation of bike lanes, after his mother was injured in an accident.
But as WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, the boy and his mother were shocked when the legislator responded by declaring that no one should even be riding bikes in Suffolk County.
Sandy Cutrone was hit by a van on Montauk Highway in West Islip, and broke her scapula, last Sept. 19.
Cutrone said she could have died.
“My bicycle helmet was cracked in the front,” she said.
On Dec. 16, her 17-year-old son, Matthew, decided to write a letter to Suffolk County Legislator Thomas Barraga asking the legislator to consider the possibility of putting in bike lanes.
“My mom made sure she was doing everything right, she was wearing her helmet, and she was following the proper bike laws of the road,” Matthew Cutrone wrote. “One the day she was hit, she was biking on Montauk Highway, the traffic light was green, but because the driver must have been in a hurry he jumped the on coming traffic to make a left turn and hit my mother claiming he never saw her.”
Matthew Cutrone added that some have said his mother should have been biking on the sidewalk, but such an act is illegal under New York state law – and regardless, “she still would have been hit and it still would have been the driver’s fault.”
He said drivers are often unaware of laws for bicyclists, “and that is why I think there should be some sort of bike lane or maybe even just some warning signs to put around in certain areas so that drivers can know when to be careful of bicyclists.”
Barraga returned the letter on Jan. 29. He not only said bike lanes and signage would not solve the problem, but also declared that people should not be riding bikes in Suffolk County.
“I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or motorcycle,” Barraga wrote. “I cannot tell you how many constituents over the year have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have told them not to do so but they usually do not listen – 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile, many like your mother with serious physical injuries.”
Barrage called Suffolk County “a suburban automobile community” and wrote that drivers expect to see other cars, but not bicyclists.
“Reality at time can be difficult for some to come to grips with but giving false hope would be inappropriate,” he wrote.
Sandy Cutrone could not believe what she was reading.
“I read it again, just to make sure I was understanding what I was reading,” she told Silverman.
She questioned in particular the apparent claim that 90 percent of bicyclists are hit by cars.
“Where is that statistic coming from?” she asked. “Where are you getting this from?”
Silverman asked Barraga the same.
“It’s predicated on my constituents who have contacted me over maybe a 30, 35-year period,” he said.
Barraga said there is no escaping that cars are dominant in Suffolk County.
“It’s a suburban county, and automobiles are all over the place,” he said.
Sandy Cutrone said she feels like she is being blamed for the crash.
“Almost essentially to me, it’s like saying, ‘It’s your mother’s fault because she was riding a bicycle in the road,” she said.
Barraga said that was not his intention.
“I certainly didn’t mean to imply in any way, shape or form that I was saying anything negative against his mother,” he said. “All I’m saying is that Suffolk County is a very, very tough place for bicyclists.”
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