Thomas F. Barraga (R-West Islip) says people should ride bikes at all in Suffolk County New York because "Suffolk County is a suburban automobile community -- drivers expect to see other drivers on the road, not bicyclists and motorcyclists."
The anti-motorcycle/bicycle legislator made those remarks in response to a high school senior who wrote to him as a part of a government class assignment. The 17 year old, Matthew Cutrone, wrote to Barraga requesting "some sort of bike lane or maybe even warning signs in certain areas of the county" after his mother was hit by the driver of a van turning left in front of her.
After Barraga's callous response lit up social media and prompted a ton of angry responses, the legislator said he's standing by his remarks. "I'm not going to tell them what they want to hear, a lot of fluff," he said in an interview. "I tell them the truth." Barraga said he advises all his constituents not to take up bicycling because of the risk. "They usually do not listen -- 90 percent of these people eventually were hit by an automobile, many like your mother with serious physical injuries," Barraga wrote in the letter to Cutrone.
His office could not provide the source for the statistics Barraga cited. The text of the letters are below.
*in an earlier version of this story, Suffolk County is incorrectly identified as being in New Jersey.