Welcome to the launching of the Car-less Long Island website! I'll take this first blog post to tell you a little bit about why Car-less Long Island was started and the projects we've started working on so far.
I decided to start Car-less Long Island in August, 2015. I am an avid bicycle commuter who occasionally enjoys a really long ride. I've been feeling like I live in a Mad Max movie cycling on the roads of Long Island, especially when I try to venture to places where recreational cyclists don't ride, which is necessary if using a bicycle as your sole means of transportation. Also, living in Hempstead, I see many bicycle commuters who navigate very dangerous roads and clearly have little choice in their means of transportation. Although I've had limited experience with the bus system on Long Island, myself, I've many friends who rely on them regularly and have been continually frustrated with late or early buses, bus service not offered to the right place or late enough. It felt more and more imperative that we change the alternative transportation environment in Long Island.
I looked around for groups that are advocating for alternative transportation in Long Island. I have ridden and raised money for NYC's Transportation Alternatives. However, although they are doing wonderful things in NYC and I still actively support them, they are not involved with Long Island issues. I have been in contact with Vision Long Island. They are also doing wonderful work advocating for Smart Growth communities and I find their emails informative. However, I wanted to do something more hands on. I talked to my local bike shop (Mike, of Merrick Bicycles) who told me of all the work Michael Vitti has been doing on increasing the number of mountain biking routes and extending the Jone's Beach bike trail. All of that is wonderful work, but, again, I am more interested in commuting issues. I also joined the Long Island Bus Riders' Union, but they are very narrowly focused on public bus issues. In short, although I want to work with all of these established groups and activists, none seemed to be actively focusing on what I wanted to focus on. Hence, Car-less Long Island.
I started with a MeetUp.com page to advertise our first meeting. The MeetUp page immediately attracted 50 members and is now up to 75. One of the MeetUp group's new members, Victor, joined me, my husband Bill and my good friend Cynthia at our first meeting. Thanks to a wonderful press release written by my friend Lyn Dobrin, as a project of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, that appeared in all of the local Anton papers, I got immediate email response and a very good turn out for the second meeting. I also received quite a few emails from people who were also incredibly interested in the issues we are working on, but could not attend the meetings. The immediate and enthusiastic response that I got from the MeetUp group and press release convinces me that there are many Long Islanders that are experiencing the same frustrations as I am and would like to change the car culture here.
Since forming the group I've met several other individuals from organizations working on similar issues who I hope to be working with. Allison from Long Beach Streets has already started the type of advocacy in Long Beach that we are hoping to do throughout Long Island. She has already compiled significant data on the dangers of cycling in Long Island and has had notable successes with her advocacy in Long Beach. Also, at the Car-Free Long Island Day rally in SUNY Farmingdale, I met Katie from 511NYRideshare and Rosemary from Transit Solutions, both of whom seem like they could be invaluable resources for us. I have been trying to reach out to Long Island Bicycle Coalition, whose webpage has the best link list that I've found so far. However, to date I've gotten no response to my emails. Our intent is to work with as many groups with similar goals as we can.
So what have we been doing so far?
Our mission is two-fold: one is to make it safer and easier to be car-less on Long Island, but the other is to encourage more people to try it. As such, we have a number of different campaigns we are looking into:
1. To encourage people to try biking to work and to call attention to the issues that prevent so many of us from doing so, we are hoping to kick off National Bike-to-Work month (May) with a "Bike-to-Work Fashion Parade and Festival" on April 30th. At this point we have applied for the parade permit and the festival permit at Eisenhower Park.
2. We are looking into two projects to call attention to how dangerous it is to be a cyclist or pedestrian in Long Island: (a) a "ghost bike" campaign, where we leave ghost bikes (or parts of bikes) as memorials where pedestrian and cyclists have been killed (proposed by Victor), and (b) a Google map that indicates all of these locations, with memorials/biographies of the victims at each site (proposed by Clayton). We have started the process of collecting data for these projects. In addition to the data we've been collecting from local police departments that span several years, on September 14th I began keeping my own list of vehicular crashes with pedestrians or cyclists that result in fatality or critical injury. That list is on this site.
3. Eva, a member of our MeetUp group who has not been able to come to our meetings so far, suggested a campaign to get local stores and business to list the nearest bus stop and bus schedule on their websites and posted in their stores to help those who might want to take the bus. We are going to discuss that at our next meeting.
4. Jessica started a twitter feed Car-less Long Island and proposed the hash tag campaign #WhereIsMyBikeLane, where we can send pictures of the scary things we end up biking through on Long Island. I also started posting pictures under the hashtag #ScaryPedXing when I see really unfortunate intersections. Follow us @CarlessLI and tweet your photos to us!
-- Sylvia Silberger, Founder Car-less Long Island