By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City will never surpass Amsterdam as the bike capital of the world, but each summer scores of cyclists descend on the beach town to take advantage of the gorgeous weather when they are on vacation.
As biking grows in popularity, Sea Isle wants to make sure that cyclists stay safe when they venture out on the roads and mix it up with the bigger, faster four-wheel traffic.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio said he has been working with the Sea Isle City Taxpayers Association on a new bike safety program that could be unveiled as soon as mid-March.
Giving a sneak preview, Desiderio said the program may include creating a dedicated bike path on Sea Isle’s Promenade, the popular oceanfront walkway that runs for about 1.5 miles between 29th and 57th streets.
“You can’t beat it. It’s a beautiful place to ride a bike,” he said of the Promenade. “We’re going to seriously take a look at that for a bike path.”
Desiderio explained that a bike lane might be set up on one side of the Promenade, while the rest of the walkway would be reserved for pedestrians.
Cyclists are already allowed on the Promenade, but a dedicated bike lane might help to siphon more bikers off the streets. Fewer bikes out on the road would, in turn, reduce congestion and lessen the chance of accidents with motor vehicle traffic.
Desiderio said Sea Isle has been fortunate so far because it has been able to avoid serious crashes between bikes and cars.
Most of the bike riders favor Pleasure Avenue when they are out on the road. Pleasure is a one-way street, making it safer and less congested for cyclists than riding on Sea Isle’s two other main routes, Landis Avenue and Central Avenue.
However, Desiderio said bikers have been known to “cause some havoc” on Pleasure Avenue, especially if they are not following traffic laws. Just like cars and trucks, bicycles are considered “vehicles” when they are on the road and must obey all traffic laws, signs and signals.
Desiderio noted that there have also been “conflicts” between cyclists and beachgoers on Pleasure Avenue. Occasionally, people heading to the beaches off Pleasure, an oceanfront street, have to dodge the bikes.
As part of the safety program, there are discussions to possibly have a police officer patrol Pleasure Avenue on bike. New traffic signs are also being considered for Pleasure to remind cyclists of the rules of the road, the mayor said.
Bike safety pamphlets will be distributed at local real estate offices, bike shops and the Sea Isle City Welcome Center to reach as many families as possible.
“When families are here on vacation, they’re going to bring their bikes,” Desiderio said.
Donna and Joe Cassidy, a married couple from Philadelphia who have a summer home in Sea Isle, usually leave their car in the driveway when they’re at the shore.
“We ride our bikes everywhere – to dinner, to the movies and to our friends’ houses,” Donna said.
“We ride our bikes all the time,” Joe added.
While most of their leisurely bike rides in Sea Isle are hassle-free, the Cassidys have had some close calls. Joe Cassidy recalled a time when one motorist pretended to run him down as a joke.
“He thought he knew me and was playing with me,” Joe said. “When he realized I wasn’t his friend, he stopped and apologized.”
Donna Cassidy said she worries about distracted drivers when she is riding her bike. She often sees motorists talking on the phone or speeding, she noted.
“People can be easily distracted,” she said. “They should pay more attention to the bike riders.”