All it ever takes is a tragedy. Or a near tragedy. In this case the New Paltz Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee was reacting to the near-fatal accident to a well-known New Paltzian who was severely injured out on the flats (Route 299 near Wallkill View Farm) a couple of weeks ago. She lost control of her bike riding along the shoulder of the heavily-traveled road and was thrown off, suffering a serious head injury. She wasn’t wearing a helmet. She is recovering, but the accident has spurred the Committee to issue its Rules of the Road recommendations to the town and village.
“It only points up the fact that everyone should wear a helmet,” says Bike/Ped Committee chairman Bill Weinstein. “But it also points out the fact that there should be bike lanes out there and at many other places in the town and village.” The committee (born out of the Transportation and Land Use Committee — consisting of Weinstein, Judy Mage, Justin Dates, Dan Lipson, Peter Kaufman, Pamela St. John and Alan Stout, with outgoing village liaison Ariana Basco and incoming liaison Rebecca Rotzler, plus Village Planner Kurt Lavalla — are all on the same page on this. “Unfortunately, regardless of this, there is no emphasis on the bicycle in our town,” adds Weinstein, “there is quite simply no room for bikes on the main roads in town. And we never see the Town liaison. You see, New Paltz and the county are behind other places in implementing pro-bicycling policies.”
So, outside of setting recommendations for Rules of the Road, what else does the Bike/Ped Committee look at as their “turf”?
“Well, we created a sidewalk master plan for the creation of new crosswalks,” says Weinstein. “And we got the South Putt Corners project — to put shoulders on both sides of the road — going again in 2010. Judy got 850 signatures for that one, sent them to Mike Hein (county executive), with Ken Wishnick (Ulster legislator) and Tom Weiner (Department of Transportation) finding Fed money for it. Working with Dennis Doyle (Ulster Planner) to also add a left-turn lane into the high school. It’s still in the design phase.”
Other projects are a crosswalk by the Mulberry Square Apartment complex off Henry DuBois Drive. “Shirley Warren and Sheyda Eversley brought it to our attention the number of senior citizens who live there and need a crosswalk. They petitioned the village and town to get this done. We’ll get it done.”
Other ideas floated and acted upon by the New Paltz Bike/Ped Committee is a letter through State Senator John Bonacic to the governor protesting the lack of clarity concerning bicycles or pedestrians in the State’s Draft Capital Planning Document for Transportation. “We called and sent letters, but there was no response from Albany until Bonacic got involved. Both the mayor and the supervisor and their boards have been supportive of this effort. But, as it is, it’s still open-ended.”
“Our main purpose is to figure out how to bring safer biking and walking into the community,” says Weinstein. “The Southern Ulster Alliance (of Town Supervisors) created a feasibility study back in the 1990’s about the ‘golden linkage — linking the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail to Highland and the Walkway Over the Hudson, which will help, but we need even more involvement from the town and village to better promote biking and walking and to institute changes. One of our main concerns is making safe routes for kids to bike or walk to school. Installing new and/or better sidewalks and a biking infrastructure, especially as regarding the schools, but we need the school district to be interested. [Police] chief Joe Snyder has also been very supportive in this, especially in setting up the electric sign at the entrance to New Paltz (by the Thruway) to stop for bikers and pedestrians and not to use cellphones while driving.”
“What we want here in New Paltz are safe bike routes around town, safe routes to the schools, more bike racks around town and committee involvement when road changes are discussed by the town and village,” adds Weinstein.