OCEAN CITY – A recent problem that has constantly been
brought up before the Mayor and City Council in recent months and openly
advocated by Councilman Jay Hancock was finally discussed openly at a work
session on Tuesday.
The problem has to do with the use of banana bikes, or a
type of recumbent bicycle where the user sits down and places their feet
forward to pedal the front wheel drive vehicle. Store owners along the
Boardwalk have been driving home the fact that they have become a safety hazard
and a nuisance when riders, who are either too young or inexperienced in riding
a bike, block entrances to stores with these bikes or run into pedestrians.
According to Ocean City Police Lt. Brian Cardamone,
Maryland state legislature classifies some of these types of bikes as either
play vehicles or bicycles. However, both can legally be driven on the road but
cannot be driven on the sidewalks unless a local ordinance was to allow that to
happen. As of now, Ocean City’s current code does not distinguish between the
two different types.
“I’ve been involved with the Traffic Safety Unit since
1994,” he said. “I know of no complaints coming into our unit. I have spoke
with the chief and she has not fielded any and our communications section has
not fielded any.”
Councilman Jim Hall began the conversation on the banana
bikes, stating that the council has not been able to find a history of formal
complaints, besides the few they have received over the many years of residing
“We as a council have wrestled with this year after year,”
he said. “We just couldn’t document enough complaints to make this into a big
deal and we have since found out, according to the bike operators, that a
substantial amount of their income is derived from these bikes.”
Councilwoman Mary Knight echoed what Hall said and went
even further explaining how her research delved deeper and involved calling the
Chamber of Commerce, the Ocean City Visitor’s Bureau, City Hall and other
places that all say they have not received any complaints. She even called the
city solicitor about insurance claims that may have been taken out because of
these incidents, as well as three bike shop owners, all of which reported none.
“We did go a little further than just supposing what might
be going on,” she said.
Hancock said he believed there was a problem as he was
almost struck two times last week and blamed it on the fact that it is not the
bikes themselves that is the problem, but the lack of instruction the riders
“I think there needs to be some way that we can put some sort
of operation code on these bikes so that the people walking down the Boardwalk
aren’t jeopardized by them,” he said.
A couple storeowners then took to the microphone to
express their support for some kind of solution to the problem, such as more
rules or requirements for the renting and operation of the banana bikes.
One of the owners, Al Welling, owner of Pop’s Joke Shop on
Somerset Street, has been a strong advocate for a solution and spoke on behalf
of many other owners who operate along the Boardwalk.
“None of us want to put the bike business out of
commission,” he said. “We are not trying to chastise the bike business at all,
but when you infringe on our business that’s what bothers us. We are just
asking for more instruction.”
Don Epstein, owner of Dandy Don’s Olde Towne Bike Rentals
on 12th Street, said it seems like it is every year this problem comes up.
“Most of the owners in town use good, solid, sound
judgment when it comes renting these bikes because we know they are always a
hot topic in town,” he said. “But some renters will just rent to anybody.”
He went on to say that the renting of these bikes, and
others, are their “bread and butter” in the three hours bikes are allowed to be
ridden along the Boardwalk during the mornings of the summer season and if they
were to be banned, everyone would feel the economic impact.
Epstein then suggested the idea of having every shop owner
tag their bikes with information on how to contact the owner should someone see
a person using a banana bike in a fashion that is unsafe.
It was then that the owner of Wobbly Wheel, Dave Doxzon,
presented a well-liked solution of placing a bumper sticker along the middle
frame that told riders that riding on the streets is not allowed. This way, if
someone is found to be riding on the street with this sticker, they have no
excuse for their actions and it gives him the “teeth” needed to take action.
Hall then came up with the idea for all of the bike shop
owners to get together and draw up some guidelines, including some of the
things mentioned at the work session, that they all can agree on, a tactic he
said seemed to work for the taxi companies when problems began to arise with
them in the past.
in attendance agreed it was a good idea and that if the guidelines can be completed
as soon as possible, the faster they can be implemented as a measure for
acquiring a business license, ensuring everyone is on the same page.