Your article about South Bethany being unable to accommodate the growing number of people biking to the beach raises a key point, which is there are just too many people seeking a limited amount of beachfront space.
Yes, our Delaware beaches have attracted the attention of more folks from more distant states, such as New Jersey and New York. However, that alone is not the issue. The real problem is the rapidly growing number of especially mega housing developments being built just outside of the beach towns, in such places as Ocean View, Millville and Bayard, to name a few. Just one of these developments can instantly create hundreds of beach-seeking vacationers.
There is no downside for the inland towns to allow the developments, since they are usually on the edge of their borders, minimizing traffic within the town. The builders pay for access roads and utility infrastructure, and the towns reap the additional property tax revenue. The beachfront towns then inherit the problems associated with the added beach-seekers, without any of the benefits.
In addition to having more bikes, the beach towns are also seeing more cars at the beaches. Folks have started parking on the side streets along Route 1 where parking permits are not required. Some beach town streets look like car park valets, with people constantly being dropped off and picked up. A smart entrepreneur may start running shuttles from the developments to the beaches.
The lack of public facilities will soon not be enough of an impediment either. A recent article in a New York newspaper lamented the fact that beachgoers in the elite Hampton beach area have begun to utilize the dunes for their needs due to lack of public facilities.
Not surprisingly the beach towns have reacted. South Bethany has closed a major road mid-day in an effort to limit cars cutting through to the beach. Bethany requires parking permits and has meters through most of the town. Middlesex has adopted the most dramatic approach, making its beaches private.
In the short term, using car parking spots along the beachfront streets for more bike racks would provide additional bike parking and take pressure off private property. It would be a much more efficient use of the public roads, given the number of bikes which could fill one car slot. This would also cut down on car beach traffic and help to alleviate the growing traffic on Route 1, which has become increasingly dangerous for pedestrians.
These efforts though are the proverbial thumb in the dike. What the area really needs most is a comprehensive zoning and planning process that takes into consideration the needs of neighboring towns, and not just looks internally. Otherwise, towns will be forced against each other — and their residents will be the losers.
Joseph P. Petito
South Bethany and Bethesda, Md.