The majority of the resort’s City Council was wrong when it voted last month to not include a designated bike lane on the multi-million-dollar redesign of St. Louis Avenue. The good news is that poor decision can now be excused, at least somewhat, because the council has approved a plan tweaking the design’s dimensions, allowing for the marked bike lane.
It has been interesting to read how outraged residents have been over the initial project designs. The residents, at least those who have been writing letters to the editor, were terribly annoyed a dedicated bike lane was killed from the project in favor of wider sidewalks. The critics say residents told the city a dedicated bike lane was at the top of the priority list for any facelift of the road. The council essentially said in a 4-3 vote wider sidewalks were more important than a bike-only striped lane. The thought was go with wider sidewalks and create a shared bike-vehicle lane, without lines of separation, but the council was clearly divided.
At this week’s meeting, revised conceptual plans were pitched, featuring a dedicated lane for bikes, slightly wider sidewalks than originally planned and thinner parking spots. Some on the council praised this new plan and the process that created it. It was a result of minds coming together to reach a compromise, some believe. That maybe true, but this could have been the plan all along.
Why this plan could not have been presented to the council prior to the discussion and initial vote in the first place is unknown. It could have saved a lot of heartburn for residents. Instead, the council majority voted to hastily do away with the bike-only lane and a few weeks later sided with revised plans going against what it said it wanted in the first place. That’s poor government. In this case, it shows the city was purely reacting to citizen outcry when all along it should have known eliminating the bike-only lane along St. Louis Avenue was going to be upsetting. It should have known better.
The idea of eliminating the dedicated bike path in favor of more room for pedestrians on the sidewalk does not make sense. A recent letter writer made a good point when she said St. Louis Avenue is not a major pedestrian corridor. Rarely if ever do people walk north and south on this road, but they do often bike and keeping a dedicated lane for these folks would address one of the town’s major shortcomings, alternative forms of transportation.
It has long been a desire of the town to be more bike friendly. At some point over the years, a goal of allowing folks the ability to bike safely from Assateague to Delaware has been put on paper. St. Louis Avenue was all along a part of that effort. This week’s turnabout from last month’s vote shows it’s not just lip service, but all the angst could have been avoided if the council had simply ordered the city engineer to rework the plans to allow for wider sidewalks and a dedicated bike lane. The end result does just that, but this situation was mishandled from the beginning and upset some folks unnecessarily.