With more bike shops in town than you can count on both hands, it’s clear that biking is popular in Ocean City. “Ocean City was designed with bikes in mind. With bicycle lanes on West Avenue and the Boardwalk, it’s a great place to ride,” says Michael Senatore of Egg Harbor Township. Now a commercial boat captain, Senatore fondly recalls his childhood summers spent in Ocean City during the 1990s. “I remember riding our bikes barefoot all over O.C.,” Senatore says.
“A lot of my customers tell me that where they live, they don’t have many safe biking options,” says Mike Annarelli, co-owner of Annarelli’s Bicycles, located on Asbury Avenue. Open since 1935, Mike and his brother, Mark, are the third-generation owners of Annarelli’s, specializing in bicycle sales and repairs. “Riding bikes on the Boardwalk is a big draw for families that vacation in Ocean City,” Annarelli says.
“Every morning we would ride to the beach with our surfboards, then go pretty much anywhere we wanted to go,” Senatore says. For Senatore that meant cruising to Blitz’ for lunch and then down to the Boardwalk at night. Ultimately, biking gave Senatore independence and a mode of transportation before he could drive.
In the time since Senatore was a kid, Ocean City has worked diligently to become even more bike-friendly. In 2015, Ocean City adopted the ‘Complete Streets’ philosophy in urban planning. The complete streets philosophy seeks to balance the needs of drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit vehicles, emergency responders and goods movement. For Ocean City, that meant placing an emphasis on creating bike-friendly streets throughout the entire island. Steps included adding a family-friendly bike route on Haven Avenue (on-road bike route that connects 9th Street to 36th Street), multiple bike routes, bike route connectors and HAWK signals (High-intensity Activated crossWalK signal). As always, the 2.5-mile Ocean City Boardwalk is a safe and car-free biking option. For a complete map of all of Ocean City’s designated bike routes go to BikeOCNJ.org
In the many generations that Annarelli’s has been in business, the biggest change Mike has noted in his tenure in biking has been a drop in the number of kids riding bikes. “I’m not seeing as many kids. I think video games have really affected that,” Annarelli says. In a town that continues to create safer streets for bikes, it may be the perfect place to get your kids outside. “Put the video games away and get your kids out there,” Annarelli says.
Biking isn’t just for kids. In a town geared towards getting outside, biking may just be another way to do that. “Biking provides a way to view the world at a slower pace versus a car,” says Susan Booksha, RN and MSN, of Vineland. Booksha works as a nurse at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. Booksha is a dedicated cyclist and the Publicity Officer for the Shore Cycle Club. She is also a breast cancer survivor.
As a cancer survivor, fitness and awareness became important to Booksha and she undertook the Susan G. Komen 60-mile cancer walk with good friend, Anita Garner. “Approximately 5 years ago my “bike mentor” Harry Chaikin, challenged us, stating, “if you can walk 60 miles, you can ride 60,” Booksha says. They both accepted the challenge and have been riding in the American Cancer Society Bike a Thon since. They became co-captains of the AtlantiCare Starfish Cycling team. Last year their team of 104 cyclists raised over $20,000, Booksha explains.
“There is just something about the shore area and the beach that promotes cycling and fitness,” Booksha says. Adding that, for her, cycling is a way to “burn off the craziness” of the day. While the South Jersey shore area is undeniably flat, the three-bridge bike route around Ocean City and Somers Point is a popular fitness-geared ride. This ride is approximately 18 miles with a climb of 177 feet and involves riding over the 9th Street bridge, the Ocean City to Longport bridge and the Longport to Somers Point bridge. “I love going down those bridges or hills, it’s the reward of all the work of getting up that bridge,” Booksha says.
Whether you’re looking for a challenging workout, an alternative transportation mode for your family or just a reason to get outside, Ocean City has become a bike haven. Boasting multiple routes that can accommodate all ages and fitness levels, Ocean City has worked to create a town that welcomes all modes of transportation.