Atlantic City bans bikes on the Boardwalk after 10 a.m. and doesn’t offer bike lanes anywhere, but engineers, transportation planners and others involved in shaping the resort’s bicycle and pedestrian plan hope to change that through possible transportation improvements revealed Tuesday.
Regardless of how oceanside bike riding is facilitated, it would be in combination with putting bike lanes along Atlantic Avenue, an addition that would reduce traffic lanes from four to two and therefore require improved signalization to keep traffic flowing.
Those suggestions were among the preliminary recommendations presented publicly for the first time Tuesday night during an open house at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The session is part of the process involved in planning improvements to make it safer and easier to walk and bike through the resort.
One idea is to designate 10-foot-wide bike lanes in the center of the Boardwalk. Another is to create a bike path on the beach between the dunes and Boardwalk, or on top of the dunes.
The state Department of Transportation and DOT consultants Layla Frick and Denise Chaplick of Michael Baker Jr. Corp. have been working since the beginning of the year with Atlantic City residents and officials on the project through the DOT’s Local Technical Assistance program.
“They told us about issues with pedestrian crashes and they had already started working on what they want to do,” said Debra Kingsland, section chief for the DOT’s office of bicycle and pedestrian programs. “There’s also a lot going on here. This is the time to get everybody together and all on the same page so all of the improvements happen (in conjunction).”
Kingsland was referring to initiatives being advanced by both the municipal government and locally-based New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which was given planning and zoning jurisdiction in the Atlantic City Tourism District through state laws effective 18 months ago.
Well before that, jaywalking had become rampant in Atlantic City. That problem contributed — but wasn’t always linked — to a relatively high number of car accidents involving pedestrians in the resort.
The most recent DOT ranking of 2-mile road segments includes two Atlantic City stretches in the Top 10 most dangerous in New Jersey: Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Avenue. The only other town to appear twice is Newark, Chaplick said.
Newark recently implemented several things shown to work in other major cities in hopes of making its streets safer. Chaplick, Kingsland, City Director of Planning & Development Keith Mills and others think some of those elements could work in Atlantic City, too.
Newark, for example, recently installed landscaped medians with wrought-iron fences in the middle of its main street. The 15-foot-wide medians taper to 6 feet to facilitate left turns. A similar approach is suggested for Atlantic Avenue, Chaplick said.
Traffic lanes on the resort’s main street also would be cut from four to two. That concerned residents, including Sherry Kendall, who lives in the city’s Lower Chelsea area.
“I’m nervous about losing lanes,” Kendall said.
Kendall also said she favored putting a bike path on the beach because having cycling lanes on the Boardwalk could be dangerous for people walking and jogging there.
But in other cities such as Seattle, reducing traffic lanes ultimately lowered speeds and improved traffic flow because the change eliminated weaving, and signalization tweaks made for better-timed lights, Chaplick said.
“Their stats say it could handle traffic better, but I guess I’ll have to believe it when I see it,” Kendall said. “But anything to make the city better, the residents are for.”
Chaplick stressed that the recommendations are, at this point, just that. She said she wants feedback to supplement the data and input from Mills and city residents on the project’s steering committee before the final report is compiled.
Expected by the end of 2012, that report will map out recommendations and provide a funding and implementation guide that Atlantic City government officials can follow as they wish.
The timeline after that depends heavily on funding. Although cost estimates have not yet been provided, officials think some lower-investment components could materialize by next summer, Mills said.
Once they begin, the changes likely will benefit the tourism industry in addition to city residents, said John Boyle, research director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
“For a town that banks so much on tourism, I think it’s important to make it a great place to ride,” Boyle said. “The bones are there: it’s a street grid, sidewalks are pretty much complete. It just needs a few things fixed up.”
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