The Town of South Bethany’s letter this week to all residents saying that, “the increase of bicycles encroaching private and Town property has grown exponentially” since the town added bike racks is a clear indication that the town misjudged on its first attempt to allocate racks, and should now consider making adjustments.
When the town council decided on the number and placement of bike parking racks last winter, several council members indicated that the policy would be reviewed once summer arrived. But instead of doing so, the town now seeks to compound its mistakes by removing and relocating offending bikes, including cutting their locks, wasting town resources that could be better used elsewhere.
The issue is not so much the number of bike racks the town set out, at 36, it is that the town didn’t place the bike racks where they were needed most — where the beaches are the largest and draw the most residents. Some of the bike racks set out by the town have been overflowing with bikes, while some have no bikes at all.
The lack of racks is especially acute in Sandpiper Village. Last summer as many as 100+ bikes routinely parked in SV, but this summer the town has set out racks for at best 20-25 bikes. One of the two racks occupies only half its allocated street parking space. Both rack spots are given less area than if a SUV or pickup truck were to park in the same location.
On many days this year, it has been easier to park a car in SV than a bike, as car spaces remain but the two bike racks were overflowing. Ironically, the town’s own Bike Parking Advisory Committee had recommended more bike parking options for SV than what the town council decided to place there. No wonder there is now a problem.
In some areas of the town, the bike racks are placed on the side of the road without markings around them. As a result, cars park right next to them, making use of part of the racks impossible. At the same time, the bike racks in SV have concrete barriers around them. This makes it very difficult to place bikes in the racks, especially for older and younger riders. Perhaps paint borders could be used.
Rather than fight its own residents, South Bethany should consider adding alternative bike rack locations, such as was recommended by its advisory committee. Ironically, the town recently had the opportunity to reclaim town land that has been infringed upon by beachside landowners, when it had the beach access walkways redone this winter, but chose not to do so. Instead, the town made the new beach walkways even narrower than before, likely legally giving up its rights to the property, and also forgoing potential additional bike parking areas.
South Bethany can choose to use its limited resources to move bikes around from rack to rack all day, assuming space exists to do so. Or it can use those same resources for other things, such as beach patrols to help prevent the further spread of coronavirus and an overall better beach experience for everyone.
Joseph P. Petito