It was great to see pedestrian safety become a focus at this week’s Ocean City Mayor and Council meeting.
It’s no secret Ocean City, specifically Coastal Highway, is a dangerous place for pedestrians, and every year there are accidents, and unfortunately some years there are fatalities, to further confirm that fact.
Now is the time to discuss what sort of infrastructure changes can be made to make Coastal Highway a safer place because public safety messages on marquees and sidewalks are simply not enough. The city needs to be aggressive and force pedestrians to exercise common sense.
At this week’s meeting, a specific danger zone for pedestrians was identified because history indicates that’s where most of the accidents have occurred. According to a State Highway Administration (SHA) report, the area between 40th and 62nd streets was identified as a high-pedestrian activity area, largely a result of the numerous bayside restaurants and bars that attract a lot of people throughout the summer months.
Topping the list of proposed infrastructure changes to that designated trouble zone is a barrier of some sort to be constructed in the median to discourage pedestrians from crossing away from traffic lights. It could be fencing or shrubbery or a combination of both.
We think creating some sort of obstacle discouraging jaywalking is a smart move and long overdue, and it’s a worthwhile initiative to make this a long-term goal up and down Coastal Highway.
Other ideas suggested this week include reducing the speed limit in the trouble area; heightened safety marketing; altering traffic light timing; and instituting a “road diet,” which would eliminate travel lanes in both directions of Coastal Highway and replace it with wider sidewalks and/or a dedicated bike lane.
What was not discussed much, if at all, was further police involvement in making Coastal Highway a safer place for pedestrians.
We think hearing from the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) and what it proposes to do to enforce existing pedestrian laws and how it can hammer home safety messages is worthwhile. We all talk about public safety on the roadways in the summer months, but the concept of having police officers aggressively targeting jaywalkers and issuing citations to offenders is not often included in that conversation for the most part. We would like to see the OCPD adopt a heavy-handed approach to pedestrians and gain a reputation for cracking down on jaywalking.
The good news is it’s only November and there is time to jive together what SHA is proposing to infrastructure with an aggressive OCPD enforcement plan. No matter what comes out of the meetings in the coming months, we think the planned barrier in the median is a logical place to start. It will discourage people, even those who are under the influence, from sprinting through traffic lanes to stand on the median and then cross. That’s just dangerous, but the problem is most people don’t know that. A barrier will at least help make that clear.