The Ocean City Mayor and Council heard a proposal this week to expand the hours bikes can legally be on the Boardwalk. In a shocking 6-0 vote, the council voted to approve the change. That was a mistake.
The key issue here is whether it’s okay for bikers to legally be on the boards till 11 a.m. daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, rather than 10 a.m. currently. Currently, bikes are allowed on the Boardwalk from 2-10 a.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. From May 1-Memorial Day and Labor Day-Sept. 30, there are no restrictions from 2 a.m.-noon. The rest of the year there are no limitations.
The city’s stance has previously been the Boardwalk gets too congested with pedestrians to extend the hours beyond 10 a.m. With an eye on safety, there was a reluctance to allow bikers to continue to mingle with beach-goers and the tram beyond that time in the morning.
We understand the operators’ reasoning to propose the change. As all business folks aspire, they want to make more money and this will allow them an extra hour to rent. In many cases, these operators are facing high rents, and they could use the extra hour to collect fees from tourists. However, from an objective standpoint, the current limitations are appropriate. For what it’s worth, the Ocean City Police Department agrees the status quo is the way to go.
The council needs to reconsider this decision, and the good news is there will be at least two opportunities as the ordinance is drafted and reviewed. After this week’s vote, word around City Hall is the town may consider altering the start time for the tram, but it seems the bike hour change has the votes to pass. If it sails through as this week’s initial proposal did, the council will be showing it’s clearly out of touch with the reality of what happens on the Boardwalk every morning during the season.
We think there’s room for a compromise here. It seems to us there should be no alteration to the current setup during the peak season. It should stay at the 10 a.m. restriction from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend. However, we think it’s worth a try to see if lifting the restrictions in May before the holiday and September after the holiday would work. There was no discussion on the shoulder months this week. That’s a matter still to be discussed.
At this same meeting this week, numerous concerns were expressed about how the proliferation of Boardwalk signs make for an unsafe environment. New regulations were needed, some say, to keep the Boardwalk safe. Yet, in the same meeting, the council made a decision that jeopardizes that very safety. The council’s bike vote stinks of hypocrisy. If safety were truly a concern, there would be no additional hour.
If the council makes this change, there will be more injuries on the Boardwalk, and the town’s liability people need to address this reality. Over the years, with the proliferation of the unpredictable banana bikes and the bulky surreys, congestion on the boards has increased. Between 9 and 10 a.m., it’s a hectic place. The council apparently has no problem with expanding that frenetic pace till 11 a.m. We think that’s foolish.