It is fair to say that our lives have all changed in the past four months due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. We are all creatures of habit, and change does not come easily to us. It would be difficult to name even one person that hasn’t had to adapt in some way to the modifications in our “life as normal.”
In New Jersey, there have been recommendations/regulations that have affected our employment status, where we work, if we have a job, where we eat, and where we exercise. These official executive orders were made to contain the virus and to keep us safe. Our local governments have had to make numerous adjustments as the executive orders from Gov. Phil Murphy keep coming and/or keep being renewed.
How to exercise safely has been an area of change. Initially, exercising indoors was out of the question and the move to outdoor workouts was our only option. Bicycling became a great option that almost everyone is familiar with and could do. A recent TED Talk on YouTube titled, "The Amazing Way Bikes Can Change You" by Anthony Desnick is a good illustration of the benefits of cycling.
Bicycles have been flying off the shelves, as biking has become an easy option for safe exercise outdoors during the pandemic. It has become difficult to find a bike to purchase and to find parts to fix old bikes. In a recent magazine article titled "We Are Running Out of Bikes" by Travis Engel, he likened bikes to the empty toilet paper shelves because bikes were selling like toilet paper.
Cape May County’s Open Space program, under the direction of the planning director, was instrumental over the past seven to 10 years in making our county and municipalities more bicycle-friendly. The bike path from the County Park to Sandman Boulevard, in Lower Township, that follows the electric transmission lines down the spine of the lower part of Cape May County is a commendable addition to our safe biking options. Ocean City transformed itself over the past 15 years into a model bicycle-friendly community.
In June, the Beesley’s Point Parkway Bridge bike path was dedicated. This path connects Atlantic and Cape May counties. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to bike from Beesley’s Point to the County Park due to wetlands in Upper Township called “The Great Cedar Swamp.” The only infrastructure crossing the swamp is the rail line that carried coal to the now-shuttered B.L. England Generating Station.
Nationally, there has been a “Rails to Trails” movement that converts abandoned rail beds to bike trails very successfully. This movement has changed the commuting and travel paradigm in many cities and towns.
In our county, the Seashore Rail Lines leases the rail lines from the state Department of Transportation. It has been about 10 years since the trains have run.
With rumors of a High Point to Cape May Point bike trail, the use of abandoned rail lines can aid tremendously in overcoming environmental and financial challenges in constructing bike trails. As seen on the map (pictured), a “Rails to Trails” would work nicely in Cape May County.
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.