Keeping Sidewalks Safe for Pedestrians and Bikers

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Crossing Rockaway Beach Boulevard in the summer can be like the old video game Frogger. There are so many racing bikes, cars, ferry shuttles, buses and trucks to dodge. Unfortunately, the sidewalk can be just as dangerous.

In addition to children under age 13, who are legally allowed to bike on the sidewalk, teenagers and even some adults ride the concrete to avoid the busy streets. This creates dangers for pedestrians and bicyclists alike.

According to Belle Harbor resident Elda Vale, “The other day, an elderly woman was frazzled because she hadn’t realized a tween on a bike was trying to pass her on the sidewalk. Had she not “felt” that someone was beside her, she would have been hurt. Just yesterday I had a tween almost crash into me from the front. He was on his bike with earphones on, looking down at his phone while driving fast.” This is a common occurrence when bicycles do not have a bell and young riders don't know bike etiquette.

There are several things you and your children can do to keep the sidewalks safe if you need to bike on them:

Be like Captain America. There is an iconic scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where the Captain repeatedly says, “On your left!” as he zips past Sam Wilson. If you are about to pass a pedestrian on your bike, give that person notice when you are 5-10 feet away. You can say, “on your left” or “excuse me.” Better yet, if you have a bell on your handle bar, ring it. If you want to go retro, buy a bicycle horn.

Stop (or slow greatly) at corners. This is especially important if you are riding in the opposite direction of traffic. A driver emerging from a side street may not see a moving bike behind a bush or wall. If you are riding in the opposite direction of the cars, it is likely that driver won't see you until your bike is directly in front of his or her moving vehicle. If you do not want to stop or slow at the corners, then use the bike lane.

Pay attention. Just as texting and driving is a leading cause of car accidents, staring at a smart phone while biking will also lead to unfortunate events. If you are using your phone or iPod for music, follow the one earphone rule. (It really is the law.) Leave one ear open so you can hear pedestrians, other bikers and car horns.

Walk Your Bike in Commercial Districts. Busy commercial streets like Beach 129th  are difficult for bicyclists to navigate. There are too many double-parked cars, people darting out from between parked cars, and car doors opening suddenly. Riding on the sidewalk is not a good option. With all of the people coming in and out of stores, there are many places where the sidewalk is too “pinched” to enable safe transit for bicyclists and pedestrians. Walk your bike up the block. When you park it, either chain it to the curbside bicycle parking device or stand it right along the storefront. This will leave safe passage for pedestrians and other bicyclists.

It is important to note that the safety tips are not just about common sense. They can also help you avoid getting a ticket or a confiscated bike. “Parents should know that the police or Parks Department can confiscate your child’s bike for violating some of these rules,” said Linda Benigno, 2nd Executive Vice President of Belle Harbor Property Owners Association (BHPOA). To help you keep your family and pedestrians safe this season, BHPOA 1st Executive Vice President John Signorelli has posted bike safety tips on the Association’s website: (belleharbor11694.org/).

New York City also provides an excellent guide called Bike Smart. You can download the pamphlet from nyc.gov/bikesmart. If you want to see the specific rules, regulations and laws from the Department of Transportation, there is a link in the BHPOA safety tips document.

It is wonderful that more people than ever are enjoying Rockaway’s beauty via bicycle. Let’s take steps to keep everybody safe.

(Article submitted by the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association)

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