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Assemblyman working on bike lane options for the Island

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO A 'bike route' but no 'bike lanes.'
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO A ‘bike route’ without ‘bike lanes.’

When summer ends, many riding on two or four wheels around Shelter Island breathe a little easier that no one has been killed or seriously injured on Route 114. And just as many travelling that stretch of state road from North to South ferries can recall some close calls.

Designated by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) as a “State Bike Route,” from its start in Greenport and end in East Hampton, it gets an upgrade in definition when it reaches North Haven to Sag Harbor when there are “bike lanes” dedicated solely for bicycles.

Three years ago, the state worked on several improvements along the Shelter Island leg of the road for bicycle traffic, including cleaning of pavement surfaces, re-striping, replacement of signage, weeding and removal of plants encroaching on the shoulder.

According to the DOT at the time, drainage grates would undergo inspections to find out which ones need to be reset or replaced with bicycle-friendly grates.

But there has been no work done to create bike lanes on Shelter Island. When the Reporter asked Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who represents the Island, what, if anything, was happening to ensure safety of bicyclists on the state road, he said he’d look into it.

Visiting the Reporter’s offices last week, Mr. Thiele said he had some answers from the DOT, which he characterized as a state bureaucracy that often operates at a glacial pace.

But through his efforts, the state has come up with three options for the Island, only one of which, Mr. Thiele believes, is practical.

The first option is a four-foot wide paved lane running ferry to ferry on Route 114 with an estimated bill of $13 million. The state calculates that out of that, $5 million will go for land acquisition and rights of way from property owners along the route to expand the road; $6.5 million would be for construction costs; and the balance will pay for design plans, environmental review costs and miscellaneous expenses.

Option two would provide bike lanes on 30 percent of the state road and cost $2 million. The remaining 70 percent would be shared lanes — or “sharrows” — between vehicles and bicycles. These sharrows would have symbols painted on the road indicating they must be shared.

The construction cost of this option would include widening of the shoulders, construction of manholes, utility pole relocations and the new pavement markings.

The new, four-foot wide bike lanes will be at several spots along Route 114, including from Duval Avenue to the traffic circle in the Center, in front of the school, and West Neck Road to Manwaring Road.

The third option calls for no new construction of bike lanes but sharrows from ferry to ferry at a cost of $200,000.

Mr. Thiele is in favor of option two, with partial bike lanes and sharrows. He noted that the $2 million price tag would be easier to shake loose from state coffers than $13 million for full bike lanes the length of the road. In addition, he noted that with option one in place, property owners along Route 114 would resist giving up their land to the state.

“It could become an eminent domain nightmare,” the assemblyman said, whereas option two has no provision for taking property.

Mr. Thiele has had a short, preliminary discussion with Supervisor Gary Gerth and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams and expects to brief the rest of the Town Board soon on the state’s proposals.

“We’re looking for community involvement on the issue,” Mr. Thiele said. “We’d ask for their ideas and concerns,”

If a consensus is reached, he said, he would take it back to the state when the Assembly reconvenes in January.