OCEAN CITY — Don Enste of Dandy Don’s Bike Shop thought that the extended hour for bicycles on the Boardwalk went well enough last year to ask for an additional hour on the weekends.
For the second time in a year, the Mayor and City Council unanimously agreed with Enste.
The Mayor and City Council voted to extend the hours in which bicycles will be allowed on the Boardwalk (until 11 a.m., seven days a week in the summer), and despite the fact that the official change is contingent upon two public readings to change the town’s ordinance, early indications seem to point to the extra hour for bikers on the weekends being all but inevitable.
“Everything just seemed to flow this year, and I heard nothing but positive feedback,” said Enste. “I didn’t realize how big of an impact that this extra hour was going to have on families, Boardwalk businesses and, of course, our customers.”
Last April, the council voted to allow bikes to be on the Boardwalk until 11 a.m. during the week, but kept the 10 a.m. cutoff time during the weekends in order to keep the revenue gained during that hour from the Boardwalk tram.
The council believed at that time, that the revenue gained (an estimated $25,000) over the course of the summer on the weekends from 10-11 a.m. was too much to pass up, as officials pointed to the tough economic times and the extremely tight town budget.
Yet, the council had a change of heart this time around and granted Enste’s desire for a more uniform rule that would be easier for riders and pedestrians to understand by allowing bikes on the Boardwalk from 2-11 a.m. seven days a week. One of the main reasons, that the council changed its mind was that the revenue gained last summer for the hour in question, was much less than what they had projected last April.
“The way I see this, is that based on these graphs in our packet, the tram only brings in about $260 a week during 10 and 11 a.m.,” said councilman Doug Cymek. “This doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a revenue loss.”
Public Works Director Hal Adkins pointed out that the figure that Cymek alluded to was in fact a gross revenue statistic and didn’t figure in operational or payroll costs for the tram itself.
“When you take into consideration the average hourly operating costs for the Boardwalk tram, it kind of swings the figures in the other direction, as our cost is roughly $176 per hour to run the tram,” Adkins said.
With the tram revenue issue essentially out of the way, Enste and the council went back and forth on his proposal, which also called for zero restrictions on bicycles from Sept. 1-May 31, with the exception of Springfest and Sunfest weekends (till noon) and Memorial and Labor Day weekends (till 11 a.m.).
Some members of the council, including Mayor Rick Meehan, wondered if the extension during those heavily populated weekends would create too much traffic and pose problems for tram operators and pedestrians.
As a result, Enste offered up a so-called “gentleman’s agreement” that would see bike owners pull their customers off of the Boardwalk if traffic was deemed too heavy during those weekends.
“I just think that Springfest and Sunfest weekends are essential four-day events in Ocean City, so we don’t want to create a conflict with the tram up there and there is an awful lot of people that ride the trams on those weekends,” said Meehan.
In the end, the council moved forward with Enste’s proposal, as written, with the exception of adding Thursday and Friday of Springfest and Sunfest weekend as part of the noon cutoff for bikes on the Boardwalk.
“We have other busy times on the Boardwalk other than those weekends where I see no problem with the bikes being out there,” said Councilwoman Margaret Pillas. “I think we should give this a real try, and we’ll see how it went at the end of the season.”