Bicycling along the scenic back roads of Southold Town may seem like an idyllic pursuit, but the hordes of organized cycling rides, with many riders flagrantly disobeying traffic rules, has sorely tried the town police department’s patience.
Southold Police Chief Marty Flatley told the town board at a work session Tuesday that bicyclists are frequently riding four to five abreast along town roads, disobeying traffic rules and even stopping traffic in the middle of Route 48, a busy divided highway, in order to let organized bicycle rides through.
He added that he believes for-profit organized bicycle groups and other sporting events that use town roads but give just a portion of their proceeds to charity should be curbed.
At an organized ride last weekend, said Councilwoman Jill Doherty, 15 to 20 bicyclists were trying to navigate their way across Route 48 at a traffic light and they “went from the right shoulder to the left turning lane. They all blew through a red light,” he said. “People who were coming down Peconic Lane with a green light had to stop.”
Ms. Doherty added that she recently had to come to a screeching halt when driving through New Suffolk when a group of bicyclists ignored a stop sign and crossed into the road in front of her car.
“It’s outrageous the way they acted,” she said. “They broke every one of our policies.”
Chief Flatley said he’s already getting requests to use Southold’s roads for sporting events next year.
“It’s not stopping, the amount of applications that we’re seeing,” he said. “I don’t know if our roads can support it anymore.”
He added that North Fork fire departments are also tired of the races.
“They’re tired of responding to aided case when people are falling off of bicycles,” he said.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said that many for-profit companies are leading bike tours throughout town, and some advertise that riders should park in municipal lots, taking up space.
Last year, a company had come into town advertising a pub on wheels — essentially a bar that could be pedaled down the road while its occupants were drinking.
“It’s as wide as a car. It takes up a whole lane,” said Chief Flatley.
Mr. Russell said he’d told the pubcycle owner that the town prohibits the public consumption of alcohol, but the state and county highway departments had told him he could use the pubcycle on their roads.
“They’re sitting on a bar stool, pedaling,” said Ms. Doherty.
Chief Flatley said he’d like to form a committee to more thoroughly vet races that want to use town roads, to make sure they are in fact making a decent contribution to a charity organization, a recently-established town policy.
Ms. Doherty added that she believes the town should be more stringent in when it choses to waive its $350 event fee.
Mr. Russell agreed.
“We should probably get out of the subsidizing business,” he said.
Short-Term Rental Law Goes Back To Committee
Southold’s proposed short-term rental law has been sent back to the code committee, after much public debate at a more than two-hour public hearing June 2. If it had been approved, the town would have prohibited owners of residentially-zoned property from renting out their houses for fewer than seven days.
Public reaction to the proposal was mixed, with many people believing the code already addresses issues of overcrowding and noise while others believed the allowed rental period should be longer.
The board unanimously agreed Tuesday night to send the draft law back to code committee.
Committee Versus Ticks
Southold is planning to briefly convene a tick committee to examine options for controlling tick populations and prepare a report later this year.
Mr. Russell said at Tuesday’s work session that he’d like to invite members of environmental organizations, the health care industry and people with experience in tick control to join the committee, which would prepare a report within the next four months.
“I’m getting a lot of calls about a four-poster program,” he said, referring to a deer feeding station that coated deer with insecticides in a program that proved effective on Shelter Island.
“There may be something different out there,” he said, referring to other tick treatment methods.
“We need to have an end-goal objective,” he said. “It wouldn’t be one of our traditional standing committees. That would be cumbersome.”
On the Comprehensive Plan….
Southold’s planning department has had its hands full this spring with a flurry of new applications for development projects, which has put the town’s nearly-completed comprehensive plan on the back burner, Planning Director Heather Lanza told the town board at Tuesday’s work session.
The planning department held a series of public outreach forums last year on the nascent land use chapter of the plan, which will include any suggested zoning changes.
Members of the planning department will present information about current zoning and ideas for future zoning in Mattituck at the Mattituck-Laurel Civic Association’s next meeting, which will be held next Wednesday, June 24, from 6:30 to p.m. at the American Legion Hall on the corner of Wickham and Pike streets in Mattituck.
Bill Toedter of the North Fork Environmental Council will also give a talk titled “What Do You Want The Entrance to Mattituck to Look Like?” at the June 24 meeting.