Several years ago my family set out from our house on a bicycle ride. We headed into Kennedy-Dells Park and rode our bikes along the creek, through wooded paths. It was so peaceful and we were overjoyed that our town provided us this, just steps from our house.
All was good until I happened to mention (okay, gush) to a friend that we had done this. Her response? “Really? No bikes are allowed in Kennedy-Dells Park.” No! Our idyll was ruined. She was absolutely right—we hadn’t noticed the “No Bikes” sign that was posted at the entrance.
Biking is one of the few activities that my entire family enjoys. We happen to live in a neighborhood where you can wind through the streets with little traffic to bother you. My kids used to ride their bikes to Little Tor Elementary School in the morning and except for the voices in my head that worried about Stranger Danger, it was a very safe and wonderful thing for them to do.
Growing up in New City, we rode our bikes everywhere—into town, to the general store over on Old Route 304, to Clarkstown North. We were fearless and independent and seeing kids riding their bicycles was common.
Dan Ross remembers a time when there were bike racks everywhere in town. He regularly rode to school and even over to Rockland Lake. This isn't as common as it used to be and I think part of that can be attributed to the fear that parents have about the safety of our roads.
Dan said that when they were redoing Main Street and New Hempstead Road, he brought up the idea of bike lanes to town officials but this did not seem to be a priority to them. What a great opportunity missed.
The other day, my husband Mat and I decided to ride from our house to my parents’ house. Getting out of the neighborhood was easy, but the ride down Phillips Hill to Main Street to Old Route 304 was scary. There is very little, if no, room on the shoulder and cars whiz by.
I’ve recently learned that Merrill’s Law requires motorists to “pass a bicyclist on the left at a ‘safe distance’.” Cars were coming much closer to me than that. All it would have taken is a loose stone or uneven section of pavement and I could have lost my balance and been struck by a car. Even more likely, a mildly distracted driver, reading a text or adjusting the air conditioning, could have easily clipped me.
This whole thing got me thinking about the quality of biking in New City. We have no established bike paths. As Allison Jaynes said, “We love Rockland Lake, of course, but don't like packing all the bikes on the car to get there! I would love to have more family friendly biking in and around New City. Taking the kids along Little Tor/Phillips Hill, for example, is just difficult/not fun/dangerous and we need to do that to get anywhere.”
We felt the same thing in our family. Because it’s hard to transport five bikes, we rarely did this. Last summer we finally gave in and bought a bike rack. It was a considerable expense because we felt it was easier to do it with a hitch, but well worth it.
The New York State Department of Transportation website lists three bicycle paths in Rockland: Nyack Beach Hook Mountain Greenway Trail that runs from Haverstraw to Nyack, the Joseph B. Clarke Rail Trail in Orangetown and a State Bike Route 9 which is a signed on-road trail that goes from New York City to the New York/Quebec border (probably too ambitious for most families on a Sunday afternoon!).
As drivers it’s easy to get frustrated when you have to slow down for bikers. As Mark Dabrowski, a triathlete who often bikes long distances as part of his training, said, “Drivers and cyclists need to be more considerate of each other. Cyclists have the same right to be on the road and sometimes drivers need to be patient and wait an extra few minutes before they pass.” This is very true.
The reality is that as much as I crave bike lanes and dedicated bike paths in New City, the odds of that happening are very low. It’s up to drivers to be more conscious and respectful of the bicyclists, whether they are children or adults. There’s no reason that with a little cooperation, New City can’t be a bike-friendly town.