Bike Lanes Open in White Plains
Bicyclists were out in force Saturday morning, June 16, to mark the opening of the first-ever official bike lane route in White Plains. Mayor Tom Roach, who had arrived by bicycle, greeted members of the cycling community that gathered at the White Plains Public Library at Martin Luther King Blvd. As cyclists went by, cheered on by the crowd, Mayor Roach said, “You see, if you build it they will come.” He acknowledged members of the Westchester Cycle Club and the Bike Walk Alliance who had helped facilitate the new lanes, noting that dedicated bike lanes had been discussed in the city for over 30 years.
The bike lane route is both a commuter and recreational route connecting residents from the more suburban areas of White Plains to the downtown, train station, and Bronx River pathway. The loop encompasses Lexington Avenue, Martin Luther King Blvd. and Water Street. Mayor Roach said he hopes the bike lanes will encourage commuters to ride their bicycles to the train station.
Li Marie Cabrera, a member of the Bike Walk Alliance and a Highlands neighborhood resident, said she rides her bicycle to work every day. “It is so much easier to ride a bike than drive a car in White Plains,” she said. “Parking is always an issue here. I am happy to have a safe place to ride.” Cabrera also feels bicycle riding is a good way for teens to learn about driving safety in general. “By riding a bicycle, you learn the rules of the road,” she said.
Acknowledging that according to New York State traffic law, bicycles have a right to be on the street whether there are dedicated bicycle lanes or not, Kate Marshall, a cycling safety instructor, told the crowd that cyclists have to follow the traffic laws. “That means stopping at traffic lights, signaling when turning, following the flow of traffic and staying off the sidewalks,” Marshall said.
Intersections, where cars are making turns, were identified as the most dangerous areas for cyclists. For motorists, the bicycle lanes are off-limits except where the lines are broken to indicate that a car may merge into the bike lane to make a turn. Cyclists were advised by Marshall to always check in their rear-view mirrors and turn to look behind them before changing lanes and when making a turn. “There are more accidents between hybrid vehicles and cyclists,” she said, “because hybrid vehicles are quiet.” Most cyclists have become used to listening for approaching vehicles. Another cited hazard for riding your bicycle on the street are car doors. “Although the responsibility is with the motorist when it comes to an accident caused by opening a parked car door,” Marshall said, “cyclists should be vigilant.”
Veronica Vanterpool, Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director, was also at the event. Vanterpool noted that progressive cities such as Portland, Oregon, where cycling is common, have healthier populations. “Portland has cited $150,000 in healthcare savings due to more people cycling,” she said. Vanterpool also said that White Plains was the first municipality in Westchester County to introduce dedicated bike lanes on city streets.
A Bike Lane Map can be viewed at the city’s website cityofwhiteplains.com and tee shirts with the I Bike WP logo can be purchased for $20 from the White Plains BID. Call (914) 328-5166 for more information.