By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The other day, Sea Isle City Police Chief Tom McQuillen saw a guy blow through a stop sign at 56th Street and Roberts Avenue.
“He completely went through the stop sign in front of me,” McQuillen recalled. “I rolled my window down and said, ‘What are you doing? You have to stop there.'”
It was no motorist that McQuillen encountered, but rather a bicyclist who was lucky that he wasn’t hit by a car after ignoring a stop sign.
Recognizing the potential dangers when bikes, cars and trucks share the same space, Sea Isle police have launched an educational program to try to keep everyone safe during the bustling summer tourism season.
Lt. William Mammele, who oversees the program, stressed that bicyclists are required to follow the same traffic laws as motorists.
At this point, police are getting the word out about bike safety through social media. Instead of writing tickets, officers are also handing out educational pamphlets to bikers about the “rules of the road.”
Mammele said police are looking to educate the public rather than cracking down on bikers. However, that may change if a tougher approach is needed.
“We believe that at some point we’re going to have to enforce it,” Mammele said of the traffic laws.
Like other shore communities, Sea Isle teems with bikers during the summer vacation season. Over the years, Sea Isle has had crashes between bikes and cars, although most of them have been relatively minor. There have been no deaths, Mammele said.
Pleasure Avenue, a one-way street with a 15 mph speed limit, sometimes seems to have as many bikes on it as cars. It is especially popular with beachgoers on bikes because of its location skirting the ocean.
Pleasure, though, also has a lot of bikes traveling the wrong way. It is on Pleasure that police are concentrating their efforts to distribute safety pamphlets to bikers.
Mammele noted that police would rather keep bicyclists on Pleasure because of the slow speed limit and one-way direction. Sea Isle’s other main streets, Landis Avenue and Central Avenue, are much more crowded with motor vehicle traffic and have higher speed limits.
“We don’t want to chase them onto Landis or Central,” Mammele said of the bikers.
In addition to the roads, Sea Isle’s oceanfront Promenade is another popular route for bikers. They are permitted on the Promenade on weekdays from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 5 a.m. to noon.
Police are looking into the possibility of adding new bike lanes in town, including on the Promenade, McQuillen said.
Bike lanes would mean that the city would have to balance the rights of bikers with the rights of motorists while trying to achieve the ultimate goal of improving safety, he pointed out.
“What are the alternatives out there, if any?” McQuillen said.
In the meantime, the safety program emphasizes that bikers must:
- Stop at stop signs.
- Obey traffic signals.
- Ride single file on the right side of the road.
- Have lights on their bikes at night.
- Wear helmets if they are 17 years old and under.