Committee Explores Lights On Bikes Expansion, Fat Tire Beach Events

OCEAN CITY – As the summer season draws near, officials in Ocean City last week began reexamining the resort’s Lights on Bikes program.

In 2017, the Ocean City Green Team, chaired by Councilman Tony DeLuca, began spearheading an initiative that targets those riding their bikes at night.

Essentially, the idea of the Lights on Bikes program is that visible lighting attached to bikes would make traveling along the resort’s major corridors safer for bicyclists, including the many J-1 students who bike to and from work during the summer months.

Last March, the Ocean City Police Department began distributing bicycle lights free of charge. And by April, the town expanded the program to include five distribution centers. As a result, Ocean City residents and visitors could bring their bicycles to any of the distribution centers to have the free lights installed.

While officials have labeled the program a success, DeLuca said last week he was looking to improve the bike light initiative. He told the Ocean City Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) – which now handles all bicycle-related matters – that he was looking for better ways to target night riders.

“One of the mistakes we made, and I’ve said this before, is we gave lights to everybody,” he said. “Everybody in town wanted a free light for their bike, but they’d never ride their bike at night.”

DeLuca said the best outreach tool was the police department.

“My feeling on this is the most targeted approach we have is the police,” he said. “When they are out there at night and someone is on a bike without a light, that’s who we want. There is no better way to do that.”

DeLuca added he was also seeking the business community’s support to reach J-1 students this year.

“My other approach to this is to get at the business people who hire the J-1 students,” he said. “To me that is the second-best thing. I want to target the big employers that hire a lot of J-1 students at night and give them lights. We didn’t do that last year.”

Like last year, DeLuca said the town is seeking grants and donations to fund the bike light program in 2019. He noted a $2,500 grant from Walmart would pay for 400 lights, but he was looking to purchase hundreds more.

“I’m going to write a letter, like I did last year, to all the businesses to give me donations,” he said. “A lot of the large businesses gave me $500, $1,000. Even some residents wrote checks last year. It was amazing.”

To make these efforts a reality, DeLuca said he was looking for someone to spearhead this year’s program.

“We’ll continue to talk about it,” he said. “Now is the time to plan, for the grants, the number of lights, who is going to do it, this time of year.”

In his pitch to the Green Team later that day, DeLuca – who also chairs the committee – told members he was looking for support and ideas ahead of the summer season.

“What I’m trying to do today is rat-chet it up a notch,” he said.

Ryan James, owner of Mother’s Cantina, said he supported DeLuca’s idea to involve the business community in distributing the bike lights.

“We have a vested interest in their safety,” he said.

Meanwhile during the same meeting, DeLuca presented the committee with the idea to draft an ordinance for bikes on the beach. He said the issue was not covered in the town code and that Special Events Director Frank Miller already had a request to hold a beach event for fat tire bikes.

“He’s starting to see special events where they want to do stuff on the beach,” he said. “They want to ride the beach. They want to ride the surf.”

DeLuca questioned what a propos-ed ordinance would include.

“I’m throwing this out there,” he said. “Perhaps we should mirror the Boardwalk. All winter long, people can ride their bikes, but not from Memorial Day to whenever. It’s certain times. Maybe you can do the same thing on the beach.”

However, Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville said the proposed ordinance would first need the support of certain agencies.

“The problem is you can’t touch that without Beach Patrol, the state, and everybody else that’s involved in what happens on the beach,” he said. “I don’t think we should just dive into a proposed code amendment without running the gamut of agencies that are concerned about what happens out there.”

Yet, Neville agreed an ordinance would be needed to allow bikes on the beach.

“We’ve got a lot of constraints that you can only do what’s permitted out there,” he said. “You’re right, if we wanted to allow it we have to adopt something.”

Neville said the next step would be to reach out to the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

“From a safety standpoint, I don’t think we should go to the next step without knowing they’d be okay with it,” he said.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins agreed.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.