Town: Time for road races to take a ride to the off-season

Cyclists ride along Main Road in Southold. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)
Cyclists ride along Main Road in Cutchogue as part of Tour de Cure earlier this month. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the influx of charity bike tours, races and marathons asking to use local roadways has made it too difficult to enforce town code and ensure the safety of participants — and drivers — in the events.

There’s a simple solution, he said: Ban them.

“I’m not against biking and riding,” Mr. Russell said at Tuesday’s work session meeting.  “But I think … it becomes too harrowing to accommodate 600 bikers or runners.”

The Southold Town Board is considering limiting cycling races, tours and runs to the so-called “off-season” between October 1 and May 1 over safety concerns.

“It’s the Wild West” on the roads, said board member Bill Ruland. “Someone’s going to get killed.”

Private cycling or running would still be allowed under the proposed policy change, and parades would be unaffected.

The discussion Tuesday came weeks after comments made by Police Chief Martin Flatley suggesting the events be banned during the summer months. Exacerbating the issue was a recent cycling race, during which organizers spray painted arrows on town roads in violation of the town’s policy, Mr. Russell said. Other events saw organizers stopping traffic to let bikers pass.

He declined to comment further on specific instances, citing potential legal action against the organizers.

Mr. Russell said town policy now only allows nonprofit groups to hold races or runs, but said some events may be nonprofit in name only.

“If we’re going to accommodate these races at all, it needs to be during the off-season,” he said.

Board member Jim Dinizio said if the bicyclists and runners obeyed traffic laws, there wouldn’t be much of an issue. But Mr. Russell said the town doesn’t have the budget to hire more traffic control officers or cops to keep the marathoners in check.

“Even when they’re at their best, it’s too difficult,” he said. “We have limited abilities with enforcement. We’re doing everything we can.”

The town’s code committee will discuss the proposed change next, Mr. Russell added.