Some traditions need to be protected, rather than forced to evolve with the times. And that goes for the Ocean City Boardwalk, which became a permanent pedestrian walkway in 1910 to accommodate hotel guests in the fledgling resort.
The idea at the time was that guests might enjoy a peaceful stroll along the seaside without having to trudge through the sand to do it.
That, of course, was long before the honky-tonk themes came to dominate this promenade, before the advent of T-shirt shops, before the Boardwalk tram and before the appearance of the shoulder-to-shoulder boulevard of bodies that surge north to south in the summer.
How, then, would the addition of one more thing, such as e-bikes, make it better?
The answer, as was provided by the City Council in a 4-3 vote this week, is that the only thing electric bicycles would add is more traffic to an already congested thoroughfare for the benefit of a few over the many.
Never mind that e-bikes haven’t yet caused problems wherever they may appear, the issue is whether that would improve a scene that already has more than it can handle.
It’s understandable that everyone wants access to this main attraction in some fashion or another, just as it was to be expected that advocates for allowing e-bikes on the boards would argue that a ban on them is exclusionary and just not fair.
They are correct to a certain extent, but only if one discounts the Boardwalk’s original purpose as a pedestrian walkway. In that regard, the only difference — aside from location — between the Boardwalk and a sidewalk is width. And, out of concern for pedestrian safety, it is illegal in Ocean City to ride any kind of bike on the sidewalk.
Because of the Boardwalk’s expanse, an exception has been made for bikes during specific periods. But beyond that, the experience the resort should offer its visitors would not be enhanced by moving even farther away from the Boardwalk’s original purpose.