Statewide Trail May Arrive

The Empire State Trail, a continuous bicycling and pedestrian path that is to span the state from New York City to Canada and Buffalo to Albany upon its expected completion in 2020, may also extend to Long Island, the East Hampton Town Board was told last week, and could dovetail with a townwide goal for more cyclist and pedestrian-friendly roadways. 

As of 2016, 80 percent of the trail was complete, Andrew Drake, an environmental analyst with the town’s land acquisition department and a dedicated cyclist, told the board at its Nov. 20 meeting. In January 2017, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo approved a $200 million expenditure to complete the trail, he said, but no funding has been allocated, to date, to extend the trail to Long Island. 

Mr. Drake attended a Nov. 7 stakeholders meeting in Hauppauge, hosted by the New York Bicycling Coalition and the Trust for Public Land. There, he told the board, he participated in a preliminary discussion as to how the trail could be brought from Battery Park in Manhattan to Montauk Point. 

Should it come to fruition, the 10-to-12-foot-wide path would accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, and be wheelchair-accessible, he said. Reading from a document outlining the project’s goals and benefits, he said that its purpose is to “promote healthy lifestyles by providing safe and enjoyable outdoor recreational opportunities for New Yorkers of all ages and physical abilities. Studies show that every one dollar invested in recreation trails yields three dollars in direct medical benefit.” 

While the path travels along utility corridors in areas upstate, “on Long Island, they basically determined that’s going to prove a lot more challenging,” Mr. Drake said. “Their ultimate goal on Long Island is simply to use state roads and widen them to add protected bike lanes.” 

“I would love to try to have safer areas for individuals to bike ride, to recreate, to move within the pathways of our hamlets,” said Councilman David Lys, adding that connectivity is a recommendation in the hamlet studies being conducted now by town consultants. 

Mr. Drake said that Suffolk and Nassau Counties have the highest rate of bicycle-vehicle accidents in the state, “by a large margin.” Board members referred to Springs-Fireplace Road, where shoulders are narrow or nonexistent, as a roadway in particular need of a bicycle path. “If we give people safe alternatives, they’re going to take advantage of it,” said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. “What’s better than riding a bicycle around town in the summertime . . . if you could do it safely.”

No timeline for a Long Island extension of the trail was provided at the Nov. 7 stakeholders meeting, Mr. Drake said, but “they recognize the demand for it.”