Barraga's letter was sent to 17-year-old Matthew Cutrone, who wrote the legislator regarding his concerns about bike safety following an accident that seriously injured his mother.
In his Dec. 16 letter, Cutrone, of West Islip, wrote that he thought there should be "some sort of bike lane or maybe even just some warning signs to put around in certain areas so that drivers can know when to be careful of bicyclists.”
Cutrone's mother, Sandy, was hit by a van while biking on Montauk Highway in Babylon in September. Matthew said his mother was wearing a helmet at the time and "following the proper bike laws of the road."
Barraga, in his response dated Jan. 29, said bike lanes and additional signage "would do little to solve the problem." In fact, the West Islip Republican said no one in Suffolk should ride a bike at all.
"I cannot tell you how many constituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise," Barraga wrote. "I have told them not to do so but they usually do not listen – 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries."
With the letter picking up steam online after Sandy Cutrone posted it on her Facebook page Tuesday, Barraga told WCBS 880 that his letter was not meant to pin blame on Cutrone for the crash that broke her scapula.
“All I’m saying is that Suffolk County is a very, very tough place for bicyclists," Barraga said, according to WCBS.
PeopleForBikes, a group that works to improve bicycling in the U.S., posted an article on its website Wednesday entitled "Don't Scare Our Kids Away From Biking, Thomas Barraga."
The full letter from Barraga to Matthew Cutrone:
January 29, 2014
Dear Mr. Cutrone
Thank you for your recent letter concerning bicycle safety and bicycle lanes. Let me at the outset express the hope that you mother will have a complete recovery from her accident in September while riding a bicycle in West Islip.
I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have told them not to do so but they usually do not listen – 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries.
I have heard the suggestion of bicycle lanes and additional signage but unfortunately this would do little to solve the problem. Suffolk County is a suburban automobile community—drivers expect to see other drivers on the road not bicyclists and motorcyclists. Even in those areas outside of Suffolk County where a portion of the road is for bicyclists—they still get hit by motorists. Signage has limited effects—there are currently 135 signs between Montauk Highway and Sunrise Highway on Higbie Lane and Udall Road—most of them are ignored by drivers.
Reality at a time can be difficult for some to come to grips with but giving false hope would be inappropriate.
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