Seaside Heights officials on Wednesday unanimously voted to introduce an ordinance that would prohibit the operation of powered bicycles on the borough’s boardwalk.
“We’ve had some problems the past few years with electric and gas bicycles,” said Borough Administrator Christopher Vaz. “It’s been on a list of things to tackle.”
Cities across the country are dealing with the proliferation of powered bicycles, with some having seen increases in accidents and injuries after they became more popular. In Seaside Heights, the focus of the ordinance is on the boardwalk, where officials believe the minimum 25 m.p.h. speed, which makes the bikes legal to ride on public streets, are too fast for the boardwalk and would pose safety issues.
“It’s endangering people, because we’re looking at a whole new plateau of speed,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. “There are also people on scooters and other mobility devices on our boardwalk. It’s not just a bicycle pedaling anymore, and there are crowded conditions here.”
The ordinance would prohibit powered bicycles and scooters on the boardwalk, including those fueled by both electric and gasoline. The powered bikes and scooters, if they are indeed street-legal, would still be permitted to operate on public streets under state motor vehicle statutes.
A rumored proposal for a commercial operator to deploy a public network of bicycles throughout Seaside Heights has not materialized, but the prospect of such an influx of the vehicles to town – regardless of source – caused concern for safety on the boardwalk. The “e-bikes,” they are known in many cities around the world, would be unlocked with a smartphone app and left at various locations around town. Officials stressed that no such plan has been formally proposed, much less approved, in Seaside Heights.
“We don’t want to see them on the boardwalk, as they’ll become a nuisance,” said Christopher Vaz. “With a smartphone app, you don’t have that personal supervision you see at a physical bike rental business.”
Under the borough’s existing ordinance, traditional (pedal-driven) bicycles are permitted on the boardwalk April 1 to October 31 each year on weekends (Saturdays, Sundaysm and holiday Mondays) only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 noon. From June 15 to Labor Day, bicycles may be operated on the boardwalk on weekdays, not including holiday Mondays, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. From Nov. 1 through March 31, bicycles are allowed on the boardwalk any time.
Skateboards are not permitted on the boardwalk at any time.
The ordinance to prohibit powered bicycles will be the subject of a required public hearing and second vote at the May 4, 2022 meeting of the borough council.