OCEAN CITY – In the end, the decision to extend bike hours on the Boardwalk had as much to do with money as it did with safety.
Upon Mayor Rick Meehan’s vehement recommendation, the City Council came to a compromise Monday that will not only allow extended bike hours, but also keep almost $25,000 in revenue that could have been lost.
The council voted unanimously during the ordinance’s first reading, to allow bike riders on the Boardwalk during the summer months until 11 a.m. during the week, but kept the 10 a.m. cut off time on weekends to ensure the almost $25,000 in revenue made from the Boardwalk tram over the course of the summer on Saturdays and Sundays.
The council had originally decided several weeks ago to extend bike hours to 11 a.m., but also keep the tram running at its normal 10 a.m. start time, which concerned many at City Hall and in the community, most vocally, the mayor.
“I’m up there on my bike, and I can tell you that it’s going to create a real problem on the weekends,” said Meehan. “I spoke with some of the bike operators, including Don, (of Dandy Don’s bike rentals) who made the proposal and he agreed with me.”
The council amended that decision at the beginning of Monday’s discussion, motioning for the extended hours seven days a week and pushing back the tram’s start time to 11 a.m. as well.
Meehan contested in past weeks that allowing bike riders and the tram on the Boardwalk at the same time would create a huge safety concern, and he also urged the council to consider the revenue loss by cutting the tram for an hour on the weekends.
“If you look at the train ridership, the amount we would lose by starting the tram at 11 a.m. during the week is about a net of $4,500,” said Meehan. “What we lose on the weekends by starting it at 11 a.m. would be more like $25,000, so I think it’s a significant revenue change as well.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas wanted to do the opposite in this instance, and give a “year’s trial” with the extended hours seven days a week to see if it would be a safety issue or detrimental to revenue.
“I’m up there 100 days straight in the summer as I own a store on the Boardwalk,” said Pillas, “and bike riders are becoming more important to the Boardwalk businesses than the tram. There’s a short window this year, and if the economy stays the way that it’s been, I don’t think you’ll have a lot of people during the week, so I suggest we try it the other way and see if this works.”
Meehan took a jab at Pillas claiming to rarely seeing her at her Boardwalk store and noted that as a former Boardwalk merchant himself, he always gauged business on the Boardwalk by the amount of bags he could count.
“I think it’s a revenue issue and it’s a safety issue, and we should take into consideration those whom are walking on the Boardwalk as well”, said Meehan. “But I think (counting bags) is what all Boardwalk merchandisers do, and you don’t see many people riding bikes that are holding bags.”
Councilman Jim Hall took another angle, citing Risk Manager Eric Langstrom’s recommendation to the council not to allow bikers and the tram to run simultaneously.
“This is a dramatic change and I’d like the tram to not be on there when the bikes are,” said Hall. “I was up there over the weekend and it was crazy because the weather was so nice, so I think this is a good compromise.”
Pillas’ motion to allow the extended hours and push back the tram start time seven days a week died in a 3-4 vote, with Council President Joe Mitrecic, Jim Hall, Doug Cymek, and Mary Knight in opposition, but a new motion based on the mayor’s recommendation was made by Mary Knight and it passed unanimously.
“For the record Margaret, it’s hard for me to look at some of the budget cuts that we’ve made this year, and just throw away $25,000,” said Mitrecic.