OCEAN CITY — Creating a seamless bicycle route from one end of the resort to the other continues to progress, but the town’s elected officials were less than keen on some of the proposed solutions this week.
In an effort to continue progress in making Ocean City more bicycle-friendly and get more bikes off Coastal Highway and onto safer side streets, resort officials have been working for over a year to implement an unofficial bike path for the entire length of town and thus far the effort has been largely successful, if not tedious at times.
Much of the work has been done at the committee level through the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which met last week to discuss a variety of issues germane to the proposed bike route. On Tuesday, the Mayor and Council got an update on the proposed bike route including a couple of trouble spots and were less than keen on some of the solutions proposed.
For example, under current conditions, the bike route shares the bus lane along both sides of Coastal Highway and for years has worked successfully for the most part. However, a problem arises in the section of Coastal Highway from roughly 60th Street to 64th Street where lane reconfigurations to accommodate the entry of Route 90 into town causes the bike route to essentially disappear in that area.
The disappearance of the bike and bus lane in that area creates a no man’s land of sorts for bicyclists uncertain of whether to continue in the traffic lanes, ride on the sidewalk or dismount and walk their bikes through that area. During the committee meeting last week, State Highway Administration (SHA) officials proposed having northbound bicyclists continue into the vehicle travel lanes in that section from 60th Street to 63rd Street with appropriate signage and road markings installed.
However, when presented with the proposed solution this week, Councilman Matt James said having bicyclists continue into the shared travel lanes with vehicles in that section was a recipe for disaster.
“So, if you’re riding in the bus lane heading north, you can just continue in the traffic travel lanes?” he said. “Can we oppose that? Somebody is going to die because of that. They’re just going to ride right out in front of a car going 40 miles per hour.”
Councilman Tony DeLuca, who chairs the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, said he was not present at last week’s meeting and was merely relaying the minutes for the council. However, DeLuca said he, too, was not entirely sold on the concept of the bike lane sharing the vehicle travel lanes in that section.
“I didn’t like that either,” he said. “I think that needs to be revisited and I’ll broach the subject when at our next meeting.”
James said SHA went to great lengths to install the median fence down the center of a long section of Coastal Highway to improved pedestrian safety and now appeared to be advocating for bicycle traffic to mingle with vehicle traffic.
“They just put up a fence to keep people out of the travel lanes, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage people to ride a bike into them,” he said.
Another major goal of creating a bike-friendly path in Ocean City is connecting to similar path in neighboring Delaware to afford bicyclists safe and easy access to shops, restaurants and other attractions. The plan calls for connecting the existing marked bike path along Sinepuxent Avenue in the north end of town to the bike path along Route 54.
During the committee meeting last week, it was learned the desired connection point for the bike path to Route 54 was along 146th Street, but that street had fallen into such disrepair that the new recommendation was connecting the path along 142nd Street, which ends at the same intersection. However, Councilman Dennis Dare said 142nd Street was not an appropriate location for the bike route and its connection to Delaware.
“I think we should reconsider having the bike path connection from Sinepuxent Avenue to Route 54 come down 142nd Street,” he said. “That street is very busy and we’re not going to able to put a dedicated bike lane is, so it will have to be a shared road.”
Dare said 142nd Street was heavily traveled with through-traffic entering the north end of Ocean City and urged a reconsideration of adding bicycles along it.
“That road is already an enforcement problem as far as speeding goes,” he said. “It would be a tremendous conflict to have bikes going down that road.”
Dare said 146th Street was the more appropriate connection for the north-end bike path to a similar path in Delaware. He said 146th Street would have to be resurfaced in the future, but could accommodate the bike path in the meantime with repairs.
“There is less traffic on 146th Street,” he said. “There are a few areas that need to be repaired before you encourage people to bike down that street. It appears to me the street has suffered a failure of the sub-base, so a reconstruction of the entire street is needed and it’s probably going to be expensive. In the short term, repairing a few of the worse spots could make it passable as a bike route.”