By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Slow down – or else.
Sea Isle City is cracking down on motorized bikes, skateboards and scooters by imposing a new 10 mph speed limit along the entire length of the oceanfront Promenade.
Voting 4-0 at a meeting Tuesday, members of City Council approved a new ordinance that gives police the authority to hand out speeding tickets that will include fines ranging from $50 for first-time offenders to a maximum of $100 for repeat violators.
The ordinance follows complaints from local residents about electric bikes, in particular, speeding along the 1.5-mile Promenade and nearly hitting children and other pedestrians.
“We’re hoping that this will help deter some of the craziness and gives us a little more teeth to at least enforce (the speeding restrictions),” Council President Mary Tighe said.
Tighe added that police will be patrolling the Promenade to make sure speeders slow down or to “take them off completely if they’re not cooperating.”
Capt. Anthony Garreffi, the officer in charge of the Sea Isle Police Department, stressed that the new 10 mph speed limit will be closely enforced.
Garreffi said police officers will use handheld radar guns to catch speeding bikers. He also said the officers have received special training that allows them to estimate the speed of bikers, giving them the ability to hand out tickets even if they aren’t carrying radar guns.
During the busy summer tourism season, the Promenade bustles with pedestrians and bikers sharing the same space – often in close proximity.
Bikes are permitted on the Promenade between the hours of 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays and Sundays. Markers designate the bike path on the Promenade.
While e-bikers are among the primary offenders of speeding restrictions on the Promenade, the ordinance also focuses on motorized skateboards and scooters.
Garreffi said that police will also be on the lookout for regular bikes that are speeding. They may also be ticketed if they are speeding on the Promenade.
There are different tickets that police may issue, depending on how serious the violations are and the age of the bike riders.
If a juvenile under 17 years old gets a speeding ticket, the parents will be responsible for paying the fine, Garreffi said.
Depending on the severity of the tickets and the age of the offenders, some speeders will risk losing points on their driver’s licenses. Garreffi said that would happen only in the most serious cases.
Residents have been appearing at recent Council meetings to urge the governing body to clamp down on e-bikes following a series of close calls with pedestrians on the Promenade.
Allen Fisher, an 85-year-old summer resident of Sea Isle, believes that e-bikes are so dangerous to pedestrians that they should be banned altogether from the Promenade, even with the 10 mph speed limit.
“At 10 miles an hour, if you get hit by one of these things, it’s devastating,” Fisher said in public remarks during the June 28 Council meeting.
City Solicitor Paul Baldini explained that state regulations do not allow Sea Isle to outright ban e-bikes from the Promenade. The city only has the authority to regulate e-bikes and their speeds through a local ordinance, he said.
In 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation regulating the use of low-speed e-bikes and motorized scooters in New Jersey.
The bill stipulates that motorized scooters and e-bikes capable of traveling 20 mph or slower to be regulated much the same as ordinary bicycles, allowing their operation on streets, highways, and bicycle paths in the state, according to a news release by the Governor’s Office.
E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular. They have a battery-powered motor and are capable of hitting speeds of up to 35 mph, creating a serious potential danger of collisions with pedestrians who are walking on the Promenade, residents say.
Garreffi said there have been no collisions between e-bikes and pedestrians so far this year.