You’ve probably heard that the number of people dying every year in traffic accidents in America is on the rise.
Turns out the cause of the increase is not cars colliding with cars. It’s cars colliding with pedestrians and bike riders. I guess that’s what happens when you build bike lanes and flashing-light pedestrian crossings because, oh, America is the land of the free and so now we share the road.
This is sharing?
I mention this because in early March Suffolk County lawmakers proposed spending $10 million over the next two years putting in sidewalks on both sides of very busy and often tied up County Road 39 in Southampton between Boathouse Road and Tuckahoe Road.
Construction will begin in the fall. And they will do it at night. Oh excuse me, they will not do it at night. They will, horribly, do it during the day. But at least one traffic lane in either direction will stay open at all times, they say.
I nominate this for the worst idea of the month. County Road 39 was never supposed to have sidewalks. It was built to not have sidewalks.
Some history is in order. Around 1960, the year I started Dan’s Papers, Southampton Town had just completed the building of a bypass road around its downtown so through traffic wouldn’t be clogging up Main Street.
The bypass would be two lanes. No stores on either side of it. A great idea.
In 1980, with traffic now backing up on the bypass, then-Governor Hugh Carey, who lived on Shelter Island, proposed that we extend the six-lane Sunrise Highway through the woods from Shinnecock to Napeague.
Everybody hated the idea. I wrote that it should end not at Napeague but at Carey’s driveway on Shelter Island.
It was decided, instead, to widen County Road 39. There were plenty of stores on both sides of the bypass by then. It would be a tight fit between them. But it could be done, if you didn’t insist on sidewalks.
So they didn’t do sidewalks. And the bypass eased the traffic jams. Today, it’s crowded. But if you line both sides with sidewalks, at some places you’ll have pedestrians walking within two feet of cars traveling at 45 miles an hour.
This is nuts.