Bethpage backs a new gear for Suffolk tourism

Let's roll: Bethpage Federal Credit Union is pumping air into Suffolk County's Bethpage Ride, Long Island's first bike-share program.

An ambitious “micro-mobility” program will look to change traffic patterns, pedestrian potential and carbon footprints in four Suffolk County communities.

County Executive Steve Bellone announced this week that Bethpage Federal Credit Union will sponsor Bethpage Ride, Suffolk’s digitally enabled rent-a-bike program, coming this summer to downtowns in Patchogue, Babylon and other county hotspots.

Billed as a first-of-its-kind for Long Island, Bethpage Ride – modeled after big-city bike-share efforts like Citi Bike – will roll out with 100 bikes and 24 docking stations, with riders securing a membership or paying per ride through a mobile app.

The idea is to reduce motor-vehicle traffic in congested downtowns with a last-leg addition that enhances mass-transit options – good news for the environment and local commerce.

Trumpeting “instant access to a comfortable, user-friendly bike,” Bellone thanked BFCU for sponsoring an effort that “will not only reduce congestion on our roadways, but will help provide the critical first- and last-mile connection when using public transit.”

“Residents throughout Suffolk will be able to go to a nearby train station, park or downtown area,” Bellone added, securing wheels “right through an app on their phone.”

Rain drops keep falling on his head: Wait, that’s not Paul Newman … it’s Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri.

Bethpage Ride will be managed by bike-sharing pioneer Zagster, which in May won a contract in response to an official Request for Proposals county officials floated in March. The venture-funded 2007 startup designs and operates “micro-mobility” programs – five miles or less, covered by e-bicycles, e-scooters and traditional pedal bikes – for cities, universities, corporate campuses and other users across the nation.

Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s undisclosed sponsorship provides Suffolk County residents with “a tremendous bike-sharing service,” according to Zagster CEO Dan Grossman, who promised “a last-mile solution” that “encourages a healthy, active lifestyle.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with Suffolk County to address all of its micro-mobility needs,” Grossman said in a statement.

Those needs figure to grow, with county officials factoring new hiking and biking options into their master vision. The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning is currently developing a Hike-Bike Network Master Plan, a comprehensive web of connected pedestrian and cyclist trails covering the county.

With well-marked bicycle lanes also factoring strategically into the county’s latest infrastructure plans, regional tourism industries could reap large benefits. Calling bike-share programs “one of the most popular and convenient forms of transportation across the country,” Discover Long Island President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin said it was “exciting to see this trend established on Long Island.”

“Providing alternative transportation options allows Long Island’s visitor economy to continue to grow and thrive,” Jarnagin noted, enabling “exposure to our vibrant downtowns” while simultaneously “decreasing traffic and environmental impacts.”

Village of Babylon Mayor Ralph Scordino also predicted positive effects for regional tourism.

“What a tremendous asset for village residents,” Scordino said, adding the bike-share program would encourage “village residents and visitors to travel through our village and experience our greenway, from Argyle Lake to Belmont Park.”

The credit union, meanwhile, is “thrilled to fund Long Island’s very first bike-share program,” according to Bethpage Federal Senior Vice President Linda Armyn.

“(It’s) a worldwide concept that millions benefit from daily, that will now be available right here on Long Island,” Armyn added. “There are countless benefits to the region, to the participating communities, to the residents and also to visitors.”