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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

“Driver awareness equals bicycle safety”

ALBANY, May 19, 2019 -- According to estimates, the surge in bicycling’s popularity has resulted in more than 200,000 bike riders taking to roadways daily. Census data, in fact, has revealed that New York ranks second in the number of residents who bike or walk to work.

May is National Bike Month, an event sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists ( and celebrated in states across America. According to the organization’s website, “For generations past and to come, the League represents bicyclists in the movement to create safer roads, stronger communities, and a bicycle-friendly America. Through information, advocacy and promotion, we work to celebrate and preserve the freedom cycling brings to our members everywhere.”

Last week the state Senate approved legislation (S5228) that I have long supported -- and co-sponsored in the past -- to enhance bicycle safety by requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to incorporate a “bicycle and pedestrian safety” component into the pre-licensing driver’s manual and exam.

The Senate has approved this legislation in the past, but there has been no similar action from the Assembly. Specific provisions of a new driver awareness and education component could include instruction on safely passing cyclists on the road; special considerations while driving in urban areas; the definition and designation of bicycle lanes; how to navigate an intersection with pedestrians and cyclists; and exiting a vehicle without endangering pedestrians and cyclists.

With more and more cyclists sharing our roadways, we should take every reasonable step to make all drivers more conscious of the need for safety. This legislation would help make motorists more aware of bicyclists on the road, and help prevent accidents and save lives. The Assembly should approve it.

Sadly, our region has had -- and continues to have -- more than its share of bicycling accidents and fatalities. In fact, I first pledged support for the measure at the “Awareness Ride in Memory of Matt Miller” in May 2014. Matt, an Elmira Free Academy graduate, was just 43 years old when he was struck head-on and killed by a left-turning motorist while riding his bike on Hendy Creek Road in the town of Southport in late April 2014. The motorist was ticketed for failure to yield.

Last Wednesday, as part of the worldwide annual Ride of Silence, local riders gathered in Elmira’s Wisner Park to commemorate riders who have been injured or killed in traffic accidents. This includes two accidents in the city of Elmira in April, one of which resulted in the death of 68-year-old Charles Rogers, who was hit and killed by an intoxicated driver while attempting to cross Grand Central Parkway.

These tragic accidents and deaths have led the local cycling community to get behind legislation to make our roadways safer.

In addition to the legislation the Senate approved last week, I also continue to sponsor legislation (S1439/A283) to establish a “three-feet, safe-passing zone” as the minimum distance that motorists must provide when passing bicyclists on roadways. The legislation is currently in the Senate Transportation Committee. If enacted, New York would join 32 other states that have enacted three-feet, safe-passing laws. Supporters say that as the state Department of Transportation (DOT) continues to install more and more bike lanes on roadways throughout New York, the legislation is timely and necessary to help ensure the safety of the increased bicycle traffic.

The state DOT offers the following “Bicycling in New York” web page that includes valuable safety recommendations and other educational information:

Making all drivers more aware of sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians is the most effective way to make our roadways safer.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Carl Blowers

Van Harp

Jim Howell

David M. Reed

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869