By Jack O’Brien
Unsafe road conditions for cyclists prompted a New Hyde Park Girl Scout to raise awareness of the issue in her community.
Jasmine Kamdar, a rising senior at Herricks High School, noticed that there were no bike lanes in her area and that cars often honked at cyclists on the road. Responding to what Kamdar called a “major problem,” she decided to address the road-sharing issue as part of her Gold Award Project, the highest achievement in the Girl Scouts of America.
On June 11, Kamdar organized a 3.7-mile bike parade to “promote bike safety and biking in the community.” The parade started and ended at the Herricks Community Center, going through Albertson, New Hyde Park and Williston Park.
Kamdar said about 75 people came to the parade, which was more than she expected. Most attendees were children accompanied by their parents as they rode bicycles decorated with streamers.
The original date for the parade was May 13 but the event was postponed due to rain. This meant that the makeup parade would be held in June, coinciding with Kamdar’s finals week.
Despite the changing circumstances, Kamdar continued to work on organizing the parade, even sacrificing her lunch periods to finalize last-minute details, she said.
“I had a lot of fun working on it and I was actually kind of sad when it ended,” Kamdar said. “But I learned that hard work is a lot of fun and I hope that it will change my community.”
Kamdar promoted the parade by putting up fliers in her high school, community libraries and grocery stores. She also reached out to local bike clubs and held a group meeting for Girl Scout leaders to spread the word.
Social media was another important aspect of her project, she said, with 200 people signing her online petition to have “(Bicycles) May Use Full Lane” signs installed at major intersections in the Town of North Hempstead.
One of Kamdar’s inspirations for the project was Car-less Long Island, an organization that advocates for safer transportation and fewer cars on the road. The group previously held a bike parade at Hofstra University, which served as the primary template for Kamdar’s event.
Kris Pepper, Kamdar’s Girl Scout leader, said she did “an amazing job” dedicating herself to the parade despite the rain-out. Pepper said Kamdar’s work will continue, citing her interest in starting a youth cycling club during the summer.
“I think Jasmine saw how you go from having an idea to advocating a program,” Pepper said. “She was very involved in the planning process and I was impressed to see her meeting with both the principal and the police for permits.”
Sylvia Silberger served as Kamdar’s adviser and helped her get in touch with the police to address logistical concerns.
Silberger said the event was a success due to its high turnout and the potential to create real change.
“Parades are, in general, to encourage awareness,” Silberger said. “[Jasmine’s] hope is to help get Long Islanders thinking about the fact that there are cyclists on Long Island who would like to cycle more if it were safer. This is the first step to changing infrastructure, laws and culture in such a way that it will become safer.”