(July 6, 2018) Ocean City is peddling toward becoming a “Bicycle Friendly Community,” with recent side-of-the-road projects completed and the City Council voting 6-1 on Monday to form a related advisory committee.
Engineering Manager Paul Mauser brought the suggestion to council in March, after broaching the subject during a Green Team meeting in January.
“The whole goal is for the town to become a Bicycle Friendly Community through the League of American Bicyclists,” he said.
One of the initial steps in the lengthy approval process is forming a Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Mauser said.
“It’s one of the first big steps,” he said. “It includes town staff and local bicycle enthusiasts.”
During the council meeting on Monday, Councilman Wayne Hartman was the lone dissenting vote to forming the advisory committee, whose members will be appointed by Mayor Rick Meehan with council input.
“We were doing good job before without adding extra mandates on staff,” Hartman said.
In addition to a pair of residents representing bicycle interests, the committee will include an Ocean City business owner, a staff member from engineering, public works, police and the Ocean City Development Corporation, along with a State Highway Administration member.
Also, a council member will serve as a liaison.
Councilman Matt James requested Councilman Tony DeLuca serve as committee liaison.
“The League of American Bicyclists are very selective on who they allow to have this designation,” Mauser said. “Of roughly 800 that have applied, maybe 400 have been accepted.”
Since establishing its Bicycle Friendly Community program in 1995, the League of American Bicyclists has recognized 430 communities nationwide.
Mauser also said several related street improvements have been completed that were paid for with a $99,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation.
“The town has completed two recent MDOT bikeways projects,” he said. “It’s widening sidewalks and adding bike lanes where appropriate.”
After improving bike lanes on Sinepuxent Avenue last year, Mauser said comparable projects on Jamaica Avenue, Assawoman Drive and Wight Street were completed this year.
“Moving forward, in order to be accepted, we have to a complete a street policy to evaluate all modes of transportation,” he said. “We established bicycle routes throughout town where we saw demand and now we need to hire a professional planner to make a master plan.”
During his previous tenure with the City of Salisbury, Mauser assisted with its June 2015 campaign to join Lewes, Delaware as the only Bicycle Friendly Community on the peninsula.
Mauser said primary reasons for seeking the designation include improved infrastructure for visitors and residents, reduced traffic congestion, potentially increased property values, safety benefits, grant funding opportunities, along with fostering health and recreation.
“We applied for a FY19 MDOT grant for the master plan,” he said. “It’s quite a task to get accepted.”