I am seriously shaking my head over this one. I try hard to understand where people are coming from, but in this case, I just can’t. 90% of cyclists in his community are eventually hit by cars, and he thinks that’s acceptable?
After his mother was seriously injured while riding her bike, Matthew Cutrone wrote a letter to one of his county legislators asking for his help in making safer roads. His legislator, Thomas Barraga, wrote back with what I consider to be one of the most absurd responses of all time: We can’t change because people don’t expect to see bikes on the road. In his words, “No one who lives in our hamlet…should ever ride a bicycle.” (You can read the full letter here.)
I wrote a letter to Mr. Barraga urging him to reconsider his stance and asking him to question the status quo. I’ve copied my letter below. Would you please join me in writing to this very misguided elected official? Please send an email to Mr. Barranga at Thomas.Barraga@suffolkcountyny.gov
Dear Mr. Barraga,
I am writing to tell you how very disappointed I am with your thoughts about bicycling as expressed in your letter to Matthew Cutrone. I hope that you are willing to consider an alternative viewpoint, and that is change.
It may very well be true that your community is currently very car-centric. It may be true that “90 percent of [cyclists] eventually were hit by an automobile,” although I truly hope you were exaggerating to make a point. It may very well be true that people in your community do not want cyclists on the road.
But things can change. They have changed in hundreds of communities around the world, and I have no doubt that they can change in yours.
Please do not accept the status quo as the only way forward. Please do not sit back on your laurels and say that because the unacceptable is true today that it needs to remain that way forever. Moving forward can be a good thing for all of us.
I am speaking as a mother who has cycled 27,000 miles through fifteen countries with my children. Together as a family, we spent one year cycling around the USA and Mexico, and then another three years pedaling from Alaska to Argentina. Prior to heading out with my children, I cycled many additional miles through about 15 additional countries. I speak with confidence when I say that it IS possible to create a community where cycling is expected and encouraged.
You stated that more signage is not the answer, and you are absolutely right. Signs are a step in the right direction, but only a small step. The key to successful change will be a change in attitude – and I totally believe that change can occur. It will take foresight, creative thinking, and dedication from people like you, but it can happen.
You state: “Suffolk County is a suburban automobile community—drivers expect to see other drivers on the road not bicyclists and motorcyclists.” I have no doubt that is true, but why not work to change those expectations? Why not start a PR campaign to alert vehicle drivers to expect bicyclists and motorcyclists on the road? Why just accept the status quo, when the status quo is obviously unacceptable? (Or do you accept that 90% of cyclists will eventually be hit by a car?)
I urge you to reconsider your stance. Believe in your community. Believe that your constituents are capable of change. Believe that you can make the world a better place. Please don’t accept the status quo as the best you can do.