OCEAN CITY — A clearly divided Mayor and Council this week voted to approve the use of certain electric bikes, or e-bikes, on the Boardwalk and not others after considerable debate.
With the increasing popularity of e-bikes in and around the resort area, the Mayor and Council earlier this year charged the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to review the town code and see if and where they fit in to the ordinance covering bicycles, scooters, mopeds and other two-wheeled vehicles. During his review of last week’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting, Councilman Tony DeLuca said the committee worked with the Ocean City Police Department and the owner of a bike rental shop to determine there are different classes of e-bikes, each with their own capabilities regarding speed, for example.
DeLuca told his colleagues on Monday, the Class 1 e-bikes are pedal assist bikes typical of reaching speeds achieved by riders on most regular bikes. The Class 2 and Class 3 have larger engines and throttles, allowing riders to reach much higher speeds with little or no effort. DeLuca said the committee was recommending allowing the Class 1 e-bikes on the Boardwalk, of course only during the hours regular bikes are currently allowed.
“The recommendation from the committee is that the only the Class 1 e-bikes should be allowed on the Boardwalk,” he said. “They are pedal-assist bikes that don’t have throttles. The Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes have throttles and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour on the Boardwalk. We heard from the OCPD and they said they can easily distinguish between the two types.”
DeLuca explained they are pedal-assist bikes meaning they are ideal for individuals who are rehabilitating an injury or perhaps have bad knees. The Class 1 bikes can not be propelled unless the rider is pedaling. Unlike the Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes, the Class 1 bikes do not have throttles and cannot reach higher rates of speed.
“The Class 1 bikes can only go around 20 miles per hour, or about the same speed as a regular bike,” he said. “The speed is so low and so easy, there’s not much difference between them and a regular bike.
Councilman Dennis Dare said he was concerned allowing just the Class 1 e-bikes could open a can of worms.
“I don’t know that we want to allow any motorized bikes on the Boardwalk,” he said. “We have enough trouble up there with the pedestrians, the regular bikes and the trams. Somebody is going to get hurt.”
Council Secretary Mary Knight said she was also not in favor of allowing motorized bikes on the Boardwalk regardless of their class and capability and reminded colleagues of their discussions in the past about e-scooters and hoverboards and other relatively new means of transportation.
“I have a hard time with anything motorized on the Boardwalk,” she said. “Motorized bikes have no place on the Boardwalk. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Mayor Rick Meehan pointed out the OCPD has enough to monitor on the Boardwalk without adding motorized bikes to the equation.
“If we allow these certain e-bikes, you can see how it will lead to more and more of these things up there,” he said. “You said the OCPD can easily tell the difference, I just don’t think we need to put something else up there for the police to be concerned with.”
DeLuca made a motion to allow just the Class 1 e-bikes on the Boardwalk, a motion seconded by Councilman Mark Paddack. The final vote was 4-3 with DeLuca, Paddack, Councilman John Gehrig and Councilman Matt James in favor and Council President Lloyd Martin, Knight and Dare opposed.