OCEAN CITY — Resort Transportation Committee members this week put the kibosh on a proposal to add bike racks to new buses for the next summer season.
During a Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, Public Works Director Hal Adkins reported nine new buses have been ordered for delivery in May 2018 and the request, for the time being, has included the installation of a bike rack at an added cost of around $240 per rack. The concept is for residents and visitors to be able to put their bikes on a rack mounted to the bus, ride the bus, get off at their destination and then hop back on their bikes.
The idea has obvious applications, but most notably, those who live in West Ocean City, for example, could put their bike on a rack, ride the bus over the bridge and into town and then get their bike off the rack and ride to their final destination. Another application would be for people in the north end of town to put their bikes on the rack and ride the bus down to the Boardwalk or other areas downtown where they could ride their bikes.
The idea has its roots in the increasing number of foreign students and other summer seasonal workers who utilize bikes as their main mode of transportation, but live in West Ocean City or other areas off the island, which has created significant safety issues in recent years. Adkins explained the bike rack concept had its genesis in the original plans for the Park-and-Ride in West Ocean City several years ago when eight buses were equipped with the racks, but there was little interest at the time.
“When we built the Park-and-Ride in the 1990s, we had eight buses with bike racks and luggage racks, but we found there just wasn’t much demand,” he said, adding that those eight buses were dedicated to traveling back and forth to the Park-and-Ride. “Years later, there could be a renewed interest in them with the number of people using bikes as their mode of transportation.”
Adkins explained there were essentially three typical bike riders in Ocean City. There were the riders who utilize their bikes for exercise that won’t likely use the bike racks mounted on buses, there were the families who ride bikes around their neighborhoods and wouldn’t likely use the racks, and then there was the vast number of foreign students and other summer workers for whom the bus-mounted bike racks could serve a useful purpose. However, some committee members were less than keen on the idea.
“I just don’t see a practical use,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “If you put your bike on a bus rack and go somewhere, when you’re ready to go back, you’d have to wait for another bus equipped with a rack to come along. Only a few buses would be equipped with the racks.”
Councilman and committee member Dennis Dare agreed.
“If you don’t do the entire fleet, I’m not sure it would work,” he said. “If you go from Caine Woods in the morning to ride on the Boardwalk, when you’re ready to come back, you might have to wait until 3 p.m. to get a bus equipped with a rack.”
Councilman and committee member Tony DeLuca, who has been a strong advocate for the resort’s burgeoning bike paths away from heavily traveled Coastal Highway, said the proposed racks runs counter to that message.
“It goes against our message about getting bikes off Coastal Highway,” he said. “We’ve done all this work on bike paths and now we’re talking about putting more bikes back on the highway.”
Meehan said there were also safety concerns with the concept.
“I think there could be safety issues associated with this,” he said. “I’m not sure we want people getting in front of the bus to get their bike off the rack.”
The committee agreed to remove the proposed bike racks from the new bus contract.