Walking and bicycling on the Jersey Shore’s boardwalks and promenades have been popular for many decades, so much so during the summer season that rules have long been needed to reduce conflicts and keep things safe. Ending cycling at noon in the busy tourism season, for example, is common. Ocean City gives pedestrians and bicyclists their own lanes on the wide main section of its Boardwalk.
Last month, the police and Board of Commissioners in Ventnor began discussing whether and how to improve bicycling regulations for the city’s Boardwalk. For starters, they’ll probably drop the requirement that cyclists use its “bike path,” since the Boardwalk is too narrow to have such a designated lane.
Police Chief Doug Biagi said there have been accidents and issues between the different users of the walk, and he suggested restricting the cycling time further or slowing down the riders more.
The issues Biagi is seeing as he walks the Boardwalk will probably become more common as shore recreational paths keep growing in popularity and bicyclists shift to them to avoid the growing danger of riding in streets with auto traffic.
In August, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that U.S. cycling deaths are rising significantly faster — more than 12 percent in 2015 alone — than those of drivers, passengers or pedestrians (overall deaths were up an also alarming 7 percent). Researchers found that usually the driver didn’t see the cyclists.
When bicyclists ride on recreational paths that prohibit motorized vehicles, they become the fastest and most dangerous vehicle. As such, cyclists are responsible for always maintaining control of their bikes and awareness of pedestrians and conditions to ensure they never collide.
Ventnor officials can draw on a federally funded 111-page study done with state help — the 2016 Ventnor-Margate Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan — for guidance on how to keep the peace and safety among increasing numbers of cyclists and walkers.
That study analyzed 32 accidents involving autos, cyclists and pedestrians from 2010 to 2015 and found in a dozen of them the driver was fully or partly at fault — mainly “careless driving” — while in two crashes the pedestrian or cyclist was at fault for improper crossing or riding.
On the Ventnor Boardwalk there were four reported incidents during the six years, one in which a cyclist hit a pedestrian and two of cyclists colliding with each other.
The report recommended that during peak-use periods, the Boardwalk “should serve low-speed recreational bicycle trips” with the adjacent streets serving higher-speed cyclists, and signs should remind cyclists to yield to pedestrians and “encourage bicyclists to ride at appropriate speeds for a shared facility.”
Commissioner Lance Landgraf said the board is looking into adding bike lanes along Atlantic and Ventnor avenues, which would improve the street option for faster cyclists.
These are issues that nearly all shore towns increasingly will face. More people are cycling, running and walking, which is good for them and the environment. As they see fatalities increase from auto collisions in this age of distracted driving, they’re favoring designated paths separate from auto traffic.
Local government officials who work now on providing more such paths and helping people learn how to use them properly will prevent a lot of unnecessary conflicts and even tragedies.