Ocean City Bike Path Initiative Gains Momentum

OCEAN CITY — In the ongoing effort to make Ocean City more bicycle-friendly and getting more bikes off Coastal Highway and onto alternative routes, resort transportation officials this week got an update on the progress of gaining the last few links in the chain.

Ocean City officials have been exploring ways to enhance alternative means of transportation in the resort with conceptual plans for new bike route alignments. One of the major goals is to minimize the need for bicycles to co-mingle and interact with cars, buses and trucks on the resort’s major roadways including Coastal Highway, Philadelphia Ave. and Baltimore Ave. for example.

Longtime locals know there are several ways to travel from one end of the resort to the other on bicycle by avoiding the major roadways for the most part, from side streets to alleys to private property parking lots, but resort officials are seeking ways to enhance and improve those unofficial bicycle routes. In order to avoid breaks in the unofficial bike path chain, the Transportation Committee and Public Works Director Hal Adkins have been working with some private property owners along the unofficial route for right-of-entry permission, allowing bicyclers to cut through parking lots and other pathways, for example.

For the most part, there has been a willingness from the private sector to allow the right-of-entry. It doesn’t cost them anything, there is no liability and a limited amount of signage and striping. There are a couple of final pieces of the puzzle yet to obtain, but the bike path concept is moving along with few obstacles, literally and figuratively.

In some cases, there is not a clear existing path for bikes to follow, requiring some changes in landscaping islands, for example. In other cases, there are short brick walls or fences between adjoining properties that would deter easy access.

Mayor and transportation committee member Rick Meehan said on Tuesday some of those last pieces of the puzzle might require a little creativity.

“There might be cases where we can modify the landscaping to create paths,” he said. “We might not get every piece, but there has been considerable progress.”

While the town is continuing a piecemeal approach for the unofficial bike path through most of the resort, one official section is moving forward. Sinepuxent Avenue runs roughly parallel to Coastal Highway from the Delaware line to Montego Bay and has long been a popular bike path alternative to the heavily traveled highway.

It currently has a 60-foot right-of-way with two 16-foot travel lanes and five-foot sidewalks. The proposal for Sinepuxent Avenue includes reducing the width of the travel lanes from 16 feet to 11 feet, allowing for the creation of a five-foot designated and marked bike path along the entire length of the roadway.

Another significant change proposed for Sinepuxent Avenue is reducing the number of stop signs along the roadway. Currently, there is a stop sign at every single numbered street, creating a stop and start route for bicyclists, and motorists, for that matter. The proposal calls for eliminating many of the stop signs along the north-south corridor.

The project has gained the requisite local approvals and is awaiting word on some state grant funding to help offset the cost of the changes. The total project cost is $92,560, with a $35,000 contribution from the town. City Engineer Terry McGean said on Tuesday the town had applied for a state Bikeways Fund grant for the remaining $57,560.

“We have applied for the grant from the state,” he said. “We’re pretty confident we’ll get it, but they won’t make and awards until September. Hopefully, that will come through and we can get it striped next winter.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.