OCEAN CITY — A review of the progress of the town’s Complete Streets initiative this week revealed wider sidewalks in some areas and the potential for beachfront bike racks in others.
Last November, the Mayor and Council adopted a Complete Streets policy aimed at improving safety and ease of access for all users in the resort including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and even transit riders. The Complete Streets initiative is just one component of the town’s larger effort to gain a Bicycle-Friendly Community designation.
Under the Complete Streets initiative, any time a resort street is repaved, resurfaced or reconstructed in any way, the implementation team examines ways in which the corridor can be improved at the same time for bicyclists, pedestrians and even motorists. In some cases, it might mean wider sidewalks, marked bike lanes, improved crosswalk markings or other user-friendly improvements.
On Tuesday, Engineering Manager Paul Mauser presented an update on some of the initiative’s recent accomplishments and goals going forward. For example, when the 139th Street and 141st Street corridors were improved recently, the sidewalks in the area were widened and improved at the same time.
“With the redevelopment of 139th Street and 141st Street, we now have seven- and eight-foot sidewalks along those corridors,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “I’ve noticed people now walking on the sidewalks and not in the street like they used to. It’s been a big safety improvement for those two streets.”
The next corridor marked for improvement is Robin Drive, which is essentially 28th Street on the bayside. Robin Drive and its associated side streets is one of the larger residential sections in the downtown area with a lot of popular commercial entities at 28th Street and is heavily traveled by pedestrians and bicyclists.
“To say Robin Drive is heavily traveled by pedestrians is an understatement,” said Councilman Mark Paddack. “When is that planned for wider sidewalks?”
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said the Robin Drive corridor is scheduled for a major makeover this fall including more fire hydrants, storm drain upgrades and, of course, wider sidewalks. He said the project will begin this fall and be completed by next April.
Another initiative to come out of the Complete Streets program and the larger Bicycle-Friendly Community designation effort is a pilot program to install bike racks at the street ends near the beach in certain locations. Mauser explained the bike rack initiative came out of discussions with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
The plan is to install bike racks initially on certain streets that see a lot of bike traffic to the beach. As it stands now, bicyclist typically lock up to sign posts or even the dune fence because there are no readily available racks. The initial plan is to install bike racks at the street ends at 28th Street, 67th Street and 120th Street.
“Ocean City encourages biking in town and biking to the beach,” said Mauser. “This is just another way to look at facilitating that.”
Council President Lloyd Martin agreed.
“I’d like to see this happen,” he said. “It makes sense, especially in areas where you see bikes locked up to the dune fence.”
Mauser said the plan is to install the bike racks in areas carved out of the dunes in a sort of alcove or nook fashion. Dare questioned why the dunes should be disturbed if there were ample other areas to install the racks.
“Why do we need to go into the dune when we have a 10-foot right-of-way?” he said. “I don’t know if we want to infringe on the dunes and take out vegetation.”
However, Mauser said there would be no considerable impact on the dunes.
“There is plenty of real estate on the dunes,” he said. “There would be very little disruption. The impact would be minimal.”
Nonetheless, Dare pushed for exploring alternatives.
“I just think the dune should remain the dune,” he said. “I think we should work our infrastructure around that.”
Paddack pointed out in some areas going into the dune with the bike racks would be the only option.
“At 28th Street, there is no buffer, but you’ll see 20 or more bikes there,” he said. “There just isn’t a lot of room there so it would probably have to be an inset inside the dune.”