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FEINER AND LATIMER CLASH OVER BICYCLE SUNDAY DISTANCING

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By Robert Kimmel

     It is rare that Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Westchester County Executive George Latimer are in “complete disagreement” with each other over an issue. Nonetheless, that is exactly the term Latimer used this week to describe his differences with Feiner over the County’s decision to keep Bicycle Sunday open through the months of May and June.

Feiner had called for suspension of the Bicycle Sundays prior to its initial occurrence this past Sunday, claiming that bikers were in danger because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citing concerns expressed by the Greenburgh Medical Advisory Committee in its recommendations that the Bicycle Sunday be postponed, Feiner made a public appeal to the County to follow that advice. He suggested that extra weekends could be added in October, “when it would be safer.”

Westchester County disregarded that appeal. The events remain scheduled for Sundays throughout May, June and September.

“I love bicycling, and will be bicycling on the sideroads this weekend, not on the crowded bike paths or on the parkway,” Feiner related last week. He did just that on Sunday, and afterwards stated—from personal observation—that social distancing was not being followed, adding that “a minority of cyclists did not wear masks.”

While Feiner continued his disagreement with the County’s decision to maintain Bicycle Sunday, he acknowledged, “The County can do whatever it wants even if people worry that health and safety of people are jeopardized if social distancing is not practiced.”  He offered what he termed a “compromise suggestion.”

Using photos showing clustered cyclists stopped at trafficked intersections to support his argument, Feiner proposed that steps be taken to avoid such situations, possibly by finding designated pathways where stopping is not necessary.

“If the county would shorten the distance and find a section of the parkway where they don’t have to start and stop at traffic lights, there would be a better chance that more cyclists would not bunch up together and would practice social distancing,” Feiner reasoned.

County Executive Latimer responded directly, “ I think that the information and photos that were shared do not give an accurate picture of what has happened,”  attesting that he “…was out there and I went up and down the route and saw what I saw.”

Latimer acknowledged that he did see people without masks and some clusters, but, “It was not a permanent reality throughout most of the route.”

“What you see here is an effort to try and get headlines,” the County Executive opined, “rather than try to get progress done.”

He also remarked that he differed with Feiner, “and a number of other people” that parks should not be open, thinking that’s how you spread this contagion.

“If you do not have legitimate outlets to exercise and practice mental health, they will find those outlets one way or the other,” Latimer remarked, “People need to express themselves and have their release, and they’ll be far more likely of following the rules of sheltering in place.”

However, Latimer did concede, “If the situation does get out of control, then we’ll shut it down.”

Feiner also proposed that the Town’s Parks Department “put up signs in our town-owned parks and trails reminding cyclists, walkers and joggers to stay away from other people,” as recommended by the Medical Advisory Committee.

He is also asking the Greenburgh Police Department “to monitor our town parks and to emphasize to those who enjoy our beautiful trails and open space the importance of being in compliance with recommended medical social distance safety and health measures.“

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