Future meeting requested with Police Commission
In the name of equality, Ocean City Council members are determined to find a way to allow electric bikes to travel the Boardwalk alongside regular peddlers.
However they must first come to a consensus with law enforcement officials on regulations to ensure the sometimes zippy vehicles and their riders follow specified rules and do not create a nuisance.
At a meeting Monday, several council members weighed in on reports from the Police Commission and Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee on options to permit e-Bikes on the boards. They are currently prohibited, which City Manager Terry McGean has said creates a tricky situation in terms of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As it stands, the law could be interpreted to argue that the city is violating the rights of people with disabilities by not allowing e-Bikes, which would give some people greater mobility.
Members of both committees agreed that certain types of mobile bikes should be allowed for disabled individuals. However, enforcement and regulation could be tricky.
BPAC members drew on state laws to produce a list of proposed regulations. They included allowing Class 1 e-Bikes on the Boardwalk in compliance with ADA regulations, but only for disabled individuals, during posted biking hours.
Electric bikes, which are classified as “other power-driven mobility devices,” or OPDMDs, have three levels. The first two levels have a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour and the third has a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour. Committee members also suggested posting a speed limit of 10 miles per hour for the e-Bikes on the Bowardwalk and requiring riders to obtain registration tickets from the public safety building.
Councilman Tony DeLuca, who serves as chairman of the BPAC, read off the suggestions at Monday’s council meeting while presenting the minutes. He said BPAC members intended to relay the information to members of the Police Commission.
Councilman Lloyd Martin, chairman of the Police Commission, said Monday that members concluded after their e-Bike discussion that city officials need to be proactive.
“I’m hoping that something good comes out of it and we can find a good way to regulate e-Bikes on the Boardwalk,” Martin said. “Allow them. That way everybody’s allowed to ride on the Boardwalk.”
After DeLuca’s presentation, Councilman John Gehrig spoke up against the registration suggestion. He said it would create too many hoops for people to jump through.
“Making people come, get a sticker to be able to ride a bike on the Boardwalk seems like overkill,” he said.
He pointed out that it would create an unfair burden on e-Bikes riders that regular bicyclists do not have to endure. Not to mention that it is the rider, not the bike, that is the issue, no matter what type of device they are riding.
“It’s the behavior that’s the issue, not the bike, right?,” he said.
Councilman Mark Paddack agreed with Gehrig and added that asking about disabilities is a slippery slope.
“What right do we have to ask a person about what their disability is? We don’t. And as a former policeman I know that,” he said.
DeLuca interjected that BPAC members were not suggesting asking people about their disabilities, just simply if they are disabled, to issue the registration tickets, as that is all that is legally allowed.
The council members agreed to direct McGean to connect with law enforcement officials and invite the police commission to a work session to hash out the regulations. The move was suggested in lieu presenting the information at a Police Commission meeting, as bringing the two bodies together will save time.