More Questions Raised Over West OC Bike Path Design

OCEAN CITY — After hearing from a concerned business owner, an Ocean City councilmember this week voiced concern about the proposed design of the bike-friendly trail in West Ocean City.

For the better part of the last year, the State Highway Administration (SHA) has been developing plans for a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly path along the Route 50 corridor in West Ocean City. Bicycle traffic along the section of Route 50 from Route 611 to the bridge has created challenges for years, but the issue has been exacerbated recent years with the proliferation of new hotels and shopping in West Ocean City.

Perhaps most importantly, an increased number of J-1 visa summer workers are living in West Ocean City where housing is often more available and more affordable, and are commuting to jobs on the island on foot and on bicycles. To that end, SHA officials have been putting a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly path together piecemeal and the current plan has a vast section of it along the south side of Route 50 and the approach to the bridge.

During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Tony DeLuca, who chairs the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, briefed his colleagues on the agenda for the upcoming meeting next week. It’s important to note the proposed bike-friendly trail is outside of Ocean City limits, and is a SHA project, but because much of the bicycle and pedestrian traffic along the corridor enters Ocean City, resort officials have been privy to the planning process.

Councilman Matt James asked DeLuca to broach the subject of the proposed bike path along the south side of Route 50 to its committee when it meets next week. James asked for a review of the proposed bike path after hearing from a concerned West Ocean City business owner.

“I got a call from a West Ocean City business owner who is very concerned with the proposed layout of the bike path,” he said. “I know this isn’t something your committee designs, but I do know you talk about it a lot. The way it is currently designed cuts across 10 or 15 driveways along Route 50.”

James said the business owner was concerned with the increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic intermingling with vehicles along the busy corridor.

“Her concern is people driving east on Route 50 turning right into businesses won’t be looking for people on bicycles,” he said. “She’s concerned there will be a number of accidents. If you could bring this up and get them to talk about other options, I think it would be a good idea.”

During earlier reviews of the proposed bike-friendly path along Route 50 in West Ocean City, James had voiced other concerns with the plan. For example, there is some existing bike-friendly infrastructure along that section of highway, particularly in front of the outlets on the north side, but SHA is planning on tying the existing paths together with a more comprehensive system.

“I’ve expressed my concerns before,” he said. “With the wider sidewalks already in place across the street on the outlets side, it just seems like a better place for the bike path.”

DeLuca said he would broach the subject with SHA officials during next week’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting.

“I’ll bring it up at our next meeting,” he said. “We have a State Highway Administration representative on our committee and we’ll pass this along.”

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.