Reader responds to previous letter on bike parking
In the Aug. 9, 2019, issue of your newspaper, there was a letter to the editor relating to the bike parking issues in South Bethany (SB). The issues are somewhat complicated and have a long history; for that reason, the mayor and council of SB have asked the Planning Commission to look into the challenges of bike parking, and come back with recommendations later this fall/winter.
The purpose of this letter is not to rehash all relevant points, but to just address some issues from the referenced letter that are not quite correct or complete, and try to add some of my perspective.
As background, my wife and I have lived in Sandpiper Village (SV) on the east side of Route 1 since 1994 and have thoroughly enjoyed the area and our many friends here — both on the west and east side of Route 1. We spend about four to five months a year here. My wife and I are also board members of the SV Homeowner’s Association (HOA), so are very familiar with things as they have developed on this issue for a long time.
The recent letter and other comments and petitions seem to have focused quite a bit on SV as the flashpoint of this issue. I think this is understandable, for one basic reason: there are two undeveloped lots in SV, and these two lots have served as a “magnet” for bike and wagon parking over the years.
The lot owners where all the bikes and wagons are being parked/tied up/laid down did not originally object to allowing the parking over the years. This was mostly due to the fact that the bike traffic was not that voluminous, so the lot owners and HOA did not raise any objections. In fact, when we first moved here, very few people biked across Route 1 from Evergreen, Anchorage and Elizabeth, since it was a short and easy walk, and somewhat of a safety issue for children on bikes crossing Route 1.
Over time, that changed. More recently, perhaps with the expansion of development to the west of SB, it has gotten way of out control — not just in terms of the numbers of bikes, wagons, scooters, baby carriages, etc., but also as it relates to the disregard for placement — not only on the private property, but even in the streets.
On most days in the summer, the bikes, etc. are not only on the private property and grass, but are tied to personal fences and spreading out into the street, impacting traffic flow and causing safety concerns. Compounding the issue, the roads in SV are very narrow, so parking on both sides of the street has never really been an option.
I believe that part of the issue stems from the fact that many of the people who park on these private lots thought that they were, in fact, public, and just followed others who had parked there. Of course, they are not.
The prior letter that your paper received indicated that this issue was somehow related to “complaints from a few beachside homeowners.” This is simply not true. The two legal owners of the undeveloped lots formally informed the Town that they do not want bike and other parking on their land and that the bike racks should be removed. (In fact, one of the undeveloped lots recently changed hands and a house is being built there this fall, making the issues on that lot moot within a couple of months).
The Town really has no option with respect to this request. Although we recognize that change for those that have previously parked there is not welcome and will require some adjustment, that is the reality of the situation with respect to these lots.
We certainly understand that Sandpiper Village is not a private community, but the lots at issue are clearly private property. As part of us cooperating with the Town on this issue, the homeowners agreed to delay pulling out the racks until after Labor Day so as to minimize impact during the heavy summer months.
We are all in favor of the Planning Commission coming to a recommendation as to what to do about parking at the beaches of SB. As I said, I have many friends from across Route 1, and we always welcome them and enjoy sharing the beach in front of our homes. Those that know us clearly know that we are not trying to limit or prevent anyone from enjoying the beaches of SV.
But personal property and safety issues must remain as the primary drivers of the decision as to what to do. Of course, as with car parking, there never were, and cannot be, any guarantees that anyone who wants to drive a car or ride a bike to a spot right next to the beach will have a “spot” available to them. That is just not a reasonable assumption, in my view.
Finally, the letter references that the Town is considering installing racks on the portion of N. 6th street that adjoins the SV fence there and is primarily out of the way of traffic, since this is car parking now. If this is part of the Planning Commission and Town solution, I think it makes sense.
The letter references that this is a problem since the 6th Street beaches are not the beaches that they frequent, and they prefer the beaches of SV. I think this argument is a bit of a stretch. Keep in mind that 6th Street is the street that adjoins SV to the south. It is a very short walk down the beach to SV from those proposed bike spots. Those that choose to bike and park there instead of walking can still enjoy the beaches of SV.
I think that it is time for everyone to take a deep breath on this issue and let the Planning Commission and Town explore options, while we all keep our expectations reasonable.
Patrick A. McGeehin