Sometimes I can’t believe what I read.
A story broke from Long Island last week about a 17-year-old who suggested to his local representative that he should push for more bike lanes on Suffolk County roads. The request came after the boy’s mother was struck by a car while on her bike.
Here’s part of the response from Suffolk County Legislator Thomas Barraga:
“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 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.”
Not exactly the response you’d expect from your elected representative.
Matthew Cutrone and his mother, Sandy, posted Barraga’s letter on Facebook, causing overwhelming censure of the Republican from West Islip.
I kept looking for a follow up story in the press that quotes Barraga saying he was mistaken, misquoted or misconstrued. Never happened.
When Newsday contacted Barraga, he stood by his earlier assertions. “I’m not going to tell them what they want to hear, a lot of fluff.”
When asked about his statistic that 90 percent of bicyclists get hit by a car, he said that everyone he knows who rides a bicycle gets hit by a car.
I would expect that a legislator who saw his constituents getting slaughtered on the road might want to do something to make the roads safer.
New York Bicycling Coalition’s Josh Wilson told Newsday that it sounded like Barraga was “placing blame on the victims.”
Newsday quoted Bike New York spokesman Samuel Slaton: “It is incumbent on lawmakers, drivers, and cyclists and pedestrians to ensure that public streets — suburban or otherwise — are safe for everyone.”
Absolutely. And that includes you, Mr. Barraga.