Cycling enthusiasts want to make Southold more bike-friendly

A group of cycling enthusiasts have requested that the Southold Town Board help make the town more bike-friendly. 

The group Bike North Fork promotes bike safety and cycling as a healthier travel alternative that is both eco-friendly and helps reduce vehicular traffic. The group, via several letters sent in early March, has requested to establish a bike lane from Orient to Laurel, install bike racks throughout town and post “Share the Road” signs at gateway road entries in Southold.

“In their letter, it says that they’ve identified over 50 locations in Southold Town where bike racks could be installed. There’s a real lack of bike racks in places on the North Fork, especially good, functioning bike racks,” said Town Board member Sarah Nappa at Tuesday’s work session. Ms. Nappa is the Town Board liaison to the Transportation Commission.

The group has proposed a pilot bike rack program with 10 locations to start, she noted, such as the Town Hall Annex, Veteran’s Memorial Park and Orient Beach. 

“Looking at their list, I know some of these are Park District parks, so that would obviously have to go to the Park Districts, but a lot of them are town properties,” Ms. Nappa said. “Some of the things they discussed with us is that there are some bike racks but the racks that are there are kind of like an older style and really not great. Somebody was saying that if you put your bike in and it gets knocked over, because of the way it’s designed, it will actually bend the tire on your bike.” 

Town Board member Jill Doherty emphasized that the town can only authorize bike racks on town properties. 

“I think that they picked these because these are sort of the most used, so the pilot program is just supplying the bike racks, but we still would have to get permission to put them in these places,” Ms. Nappa responded.

The cost to purchase and install bike racks at all 10 locations are estimated to total around $10,000, according to Bike North Fork, which suggested three different vendors the town could use. Each rack would provide parking for four to 12 bikes each.

Ms. Doherty pointed out that the Lions Clubs and Kaits Angels are installing a bike rack at New Suffolk, in addition to several benches around town. She said the requested funds aren’t in the budget and that the town supervisor, who was not present at Tuesday’s work session, should weigh in on the idea. 

Ms. Nappa offered to ask the group to look into grants. Town Board member Brian Mealy pointed out that local Rotaries could be a resource. 

The Town Board otherwise seemed to favor the request for more bike racks around town. 

“Especially as inflation and gas prices go up and many of our communities are walkable and ridable, and maybe we have to do some community education on safety to make sure people are safe as they bike,” Mr. Mealy said.

Deputy town attorney John Burke said bike racks would not present a significant liability for the town. 

Ms. Nappa said the requested “Share the Road” signage is meant to encourage drivers to slow down and be aware they’re sharing the road with bikers and tractors. Some suggested locations include near the “Welcome to Southold” sign across from Orient State Beach Park and coming into Southold along County Route 48 and State Route 25. 

Some of the requested locations are not town roads, Ms. Nappa said. “Those are requests we could make to the county and the state,” she said.

Town Board member Louisa Evans expressed concern about littering too many signs around the town. “I don’t have a problem with it, but I know other people will have a problem with a lot of signs all over the place,” she said. 

Highway Superintendent Dan Goodwin has indicated plans to reevaluate all signs in town, Ms. Doherty pointed out. Otherwise, the town needs more information about the request, she said. 

The biking group’s final ask, Ms. Nappa said, is for the town to make a request to the state Department of Transportation for Class II bike lanes along Route 25 from Orient to Laurel. Bike North Fork has similarly asked the Village of Greenport for a letter supporting the requested bike lane. 

“Basically this would be like, just painting on the medians that we have, on the shoulders, just encouraging drivers to be aware that bicyclists are using that part of the road as well,” Ms. Nappa said, clarifying that the shoulders would not be expanded. 

The Transportation Commission approved the appeal for the Town Board to send a letter to New York State, she added. Ms. Doherty said the board can ask Supervisor Scott Russell to write a letter. 

“What a great group of bike enthusiasts we have in our neighboring towns and villages,” Mr. Mealy said.