This year’s Long Island Complete Streets Summit focused on plans to open streets for dining and other events, as well as future funding for pedestrian and biking improvements for the area’s downtowns. 

More than 250 attendees, including local business owners, traffic engineers, government officials, civic representatives and bike advocates listened to more than a dozen presenters at the two-day virtual event last week. 

Pandemic and related shutdowns increased the number of people who went out walking and shop at local merchants, while Long Island has some of the state’s most dangerous roadways. The number of people struck and killed while walking in the U.S. has gone up 45 percent in the last decade, with people of color, older adults, and people walking in low-income neighborhoods impacted at significantly higher rates, according to a study from Smart Growth America. 

The summit gave an up-to-date profile on what’s happening on Long Island roadways and what can be done to improve walking and biking conditions. 

Glenn Murrell from Planning and Program Management for Region 10 of the state Department of Transportation, discussed ongoing projects and what can be expected from the new state budget. 

“We are waiting to see how that plays out, Murrell said. “That typically funds some of these projects. With the potential federal infrastructure bill, we are talking $3 trillion.”  

Murrell also revealed that the DOT was considering new utilization of state roads, including outdoor space and signage.  

“If people submit an idea or suggestion or proposal, we will certainly look at it,” he saidObviously, our first priority is the safety of the roadway, but Greenport is an example of where we worked with them.” 

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said that throughout the pandemic, more residents have been taking up cycling and walking. 

“They are using our parks and other forms of transportation, not just necessarily driving, Curran said. “I believe there is a renewed interest in active transportation and it’s going to be here to stay and we want to encourage it as much as possible in our post COVID world.” 

Frank Wefering, director of sustainability at Greenman-Pedersen, said that while traffic volumes are down, speeding and fatalities are up, especially among cyclists and pedestrians.  

“It is a design problem, we can make it safer for people to cross and we can make it more difficult for drivers to speed,” Wefering said. “We need to separate cycling and walking infrastructure from vehicle infrastructure. That has been the key to success in other places around the world and that’s where the money has to go.” 

Local business leaders say pedestrian safety is critical for the economic growth of Long Island’s downtowns. 

“Thanks to Business Improvement Districts and chambers of commerce, we’ve been able to continue to promote and support the local economy and find ways to bring people safely to our downtowns throughout the pandemic,” said Patricia Holman of the Glen Cove BID. 

Elissa Kyle, director of placemaking for Vision Long Island, stressed that roadways in villages and towns need to be made as safe as possible for pedestrians and cyclists. 

“This summit shows how important it is that we make sure federal, state, county and local funds continue to stream to safe pedestrian and bike projects,” Kyle saidWe need to continue to be a public voice for walking and biking safety for the folks in our communities.” 

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