In July, I wrote an article for the Herald titled, “Pandemic Changes Bicycle/Pedestrian Paradigm.” Because the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated exercise outdoors to be the safe option for most people to work out, walking and biking on the various bike paths throughout Cape May County have been a good choice.
Our gyms have been open at the 25% capacity level (due to an executive order by Gov. Phil Murphy in late August) and that also is a choice that someone could avail themselves of.
While our options regarding bike paths are numerous, Cape May County and the municipalities are working towards building a contiguous system of interconnected options.
Please see the map (pictured above) to observe bike paths completed, versus bike paths funded. The map is produced by the Cape May County Planning Department, headed by Leslie Gimeno, who stressed that the county is in “an ongoing dialogue with the municipalities to identify options to continue to build the system and enhance connectivity throughout the county.”
South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) covering Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem counties. Formed in 1993, SJTPO serves as a technical resource, provides access to funding, and works to provide a regional approach to address transportation and engineering issues (for more information, the SJTPO website is quite informative).
That said, SJTPO considers about six studies per year. One of those studies could be the use of the rail bed (which was used to carry coal to the B.L. England generating station) over the Great Cedar Swamp in Upper Township for conversion to a bike path (a “rails to trails” concept which has been put to great use throughout America).
That would solve the expensive infrastructure challenge to get a bike path over the Upper Township wetlands and allow connection to the Woodbine bike path system, which would ultimately connect to the system that extends south along the Atlantic City Electric right of way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal, in North Cape May, and Cape May.
The SJTPO website has information on two funded projects in the county: 1) Seashore Road missing link (Court House to Cape May) and 2) Cape May bikeway network expansion.
The Seashore Road project would make the intersection of Sandman Boulevard and Seashore Road bike and pedestrian compatible, as well as the short connection of Seashore Road-Sandman Boulevard intersection with the Seashore Road canal bridge. This would then connect with West Cape May and Cape May.
The Cape May bikeway project would connect the Coast Guard base with the elementary school on Lafayette Street. It would utilize Pennsylvania and Madison avenues. The project would provide pedestrian and bicycle improvements for safer travel for the students and their families.
Upper Township has applied for and was granted a permit for a trailhead demo site (for other county municipalities) on the Cape May County side of the Beesley’s Point Garden State Parkway bridge bike path. It would include things like parking, bike racks, restrooms, bike fix-it stations, pier onto water, gardens, and disability access to beach and water. The bike trail would then be completed through the SJTPO project described above to Woodbine.
Dennis Township completed the bike path from South Seaville (with smaller trailhead facilities) to the Middle Township border (see the map). Middle Township has permitting approvals for a bike path that connects the northern Middle Township border with the County Park. Completion is estimated to be one to one and a half years.
Middle Township is also adding wayfinding signage to their almost completed recreation facility on Railroad Avenue in Rio Grande, just north of Route. 47. Other amenities would include restrooms, potable water, and bike fix-it stations.
Sunset Boulevard is one of the most heavily used bike and pedestrian routes in the county. Preliminary bike and pedestrian design is completed. Permitting and funding are the next steps, with obstacles including, but not limited to, wetlands, utility pole relocation, etc. There is no estimated date of completion at this point.
As a member of the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BAPAC) for Cape May, we have worked diligently to research and advise the administration on best practices for pedestrian and bike safety. Our goal is to provide safe and equitable streets for all, including pedestrians, bikes, and cars.
Columbia Avenue offers the opportunity for a redesign since it was just repaved. With intelligent striping, an enhanced experience for everyone can be achieved - better crosswalks and slower traffic for pedestrians, a dedicated bike lane for bikers, without losing any parking along the way. A win, win, win.
The pandemic has led the city to designate certain street areas as pedestrian-only. The opportunity to think outside the box with bike and pedestrian safety in mind is tantamount.
With that in mind, working with the county on Beach Avenue pedestrian and bicycle safety would be a plus.
I have been a member of the Cape Issues team for about four years. Cape Issues was established in 2008 as a non-partisan volunteer group to advocate for the betterment of life in Cape May County, a very broad goal. We have met monthly since and been fortunate to have the support of the Cape May County Herald from the beginning.