Ocean City Today

West OC residents have say on bike safety

SHA meeting well attended, most support Hiker/Biker trail, LED lights not enough
By Katie Tabeling | Sep 21, 2017
Photo by: Katie Tabeling

(Sept. 22, 2017) Safety improvement plans for pedestrians and bicyclists were presented to West Ocean City residents by State Highway Administration and Worcester County officials at an informational meeting at Ocean City Elementary School last Thursday.

Dozens of people lined up for a look at maps of planned projects, including the Hiker/Biker trail and improvements to Keyser Point Road, Center Drive and Golf Course Road.

“The meeting is the best thing that could happen for the future of pedestrian safety, because the most of this has been kept under wraps,” said Tres Denk, who chairs the West OC Pedal & Pedestrian Committee. “We’ve always been told there’s no funding for the path, and frustrations have been building in the neighborhood. Now we finally get a chance to say what we need to say.”

The Hiker/Biker trail will be the SHA’s first designated shared-use path in West Ocean City. Maps show that a 10-foot-wide path running along the south side of Route 50 at Stephen Decatur Highway and across the highway to the north side at Inlet Isle Lane. The trail would connect to the sidewalk at the Route 50 bridge.

That corridor is well traveled by residents, visitors and the hundreds of J-1 visa students who bike to work in Ocean City in the summer.

Denk pointed out that the SHA was addressing one problem, as it’s still unsafe to bike on the bridge. Officially, bicyclists are supposed to ride with traffic, but most opt to use the sidewalk instead where pedestrians walk and fishermen lounge.

“The Hiker/Biker trail is something sorely needed,” Denk said. “The bridge is antiquated, and we’ve been told that there’s plans to build a new one … as soon as we pay for it, the sooner we can start plans to make it more safe.”

In 2013, the federal government approved plans for a 30-foot-tall drawbridge that would run parallel to the existing bridge. The projected cost is around $300 million.

Resident Louis Parsons approved of the Hiker/Biker trail, but pointed out that there was a matter of how people would reach it.

“We still need a path over by Keyser Point Road and Golf Course Road, because traffic overflows there,” Parsons said. “Bicyclists come out of nowhere, and they usually got their headphones in and they’re on their phones. It’s very unsafe.”

For years, the Pedal & Pedestrian Committee pushed for a shared-use path and later highlighted an area for county and SHA consideration. That proposed trail would run two and one-half miles off Route 50, from Keyser Point Road north to Center Drive, ending at Golf Course Road.

Instead, Commissioner Bud Church, who represents West Ocean City, pushed to install 21 LED lights on that path. The SHA also installed five “share the road signs” in that block. A rudimentary map at the meeting outlined the location of each light and signs.

Denk said that wasn’t good enough.

“It’s already created dark spots in between the lights,” he said. “We need to have a path so that our children can learn how to bike safely. It’s our government’s responsibility to get it started.”

Church said in past interviews that the roads were not wide enough to install a path, and would require easements from scores of property owners.

The SHA is not looking into obtaining easements for another shared-use path, and any efforts would be done at a county-level, according to SHA spokeswoman Tanesha Hankerson. Meeting attendants were asked to share their thoughts in a survey, which could determine the desire for the path.

Parsons said that he thought property owners signing easements is probably the only way the path could be created.

“There’s no room on the roads, and we have to keep the ditches alongside the roads so we can drain the roads [during storms],” Parsons said. “There’s no other choice, but I think it’s very unlikely that people are going to give up a piece of their waterfront property to do this. But something has to change, or people are going to get killed.”

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