Since the birth of our daughter, my partner and I have spent a lot less of our time off camping and backpacking through cities and public parks, and more of it sitting in the hot sand, listening to the ocean, sleeping in, and wrestling our sandwiches back from seagulls in Avalon, NJ. The summer of 2019, our third summer beach vacation, was both the most relaxing time we’ve had, and probably the most bike-centric.
The Jersey Shore has a strong bicycling culture. That may sound surprising for those who don’t spend a lot of time down the shore, but in towns like Avalon, Ocean City and Cape May, traveling by bike – and not necessarily locking up at your destination (though I did, as a force of habit) – is seen as totally normal.
People who wouldn’t be caught dead in Philadelphia’s bike lanes travel on beach cruisers down Ocean Drive in Avalon, often with one hand on the handlebars, the other supporting a foam surfboard tucked under an arm.
This is in part because there’s available bike infrastructure in most shore towns, but probably more because there seems to be an unwritten rule that people on bicycles take priority, and since no one’s got anywhere in particular to be during the summer vacation months, that priority is actually given.
The summer of 2019 was the first time my partner and I both brought folding bikes—one, a single speed Boardwalk folding bike I’d bought at Neighborhood Bike Works four years ago; the other, a 6-speed Brompton, rented from Trophy Bikes in Northern Liberties.
The benefits of these particular bikes began before I even arrived in Avalon. I was able to fit both bicycles, plus three peoples’ worth of vacation packing, in the trunk of a Honda CRV. Folding bikes are great when space is limited. Mike McGettigan, the owner of Trophy Bikes, also hooked me up with a detachable Brompton bag for groceries—which I used, immediately, to pick up some beer (the Brompton bag can snugly hold two 12-packs.)
Other than a single day trip to Ocean City, we were car-free all week. The bikes took us everywhere: to the beach, restaurants, neighboring towns (mainly Stone Harbor), playgrounds, and ice cream shops. Using a front-loading Yepp bike seat, I was able to transport my kid wherever we wanted to go on Seven Mile Island. Motorists drove slow and passed with lots of room. Fellow people on bicycles rode alongside us to have a chat. When we got back to the apartment we’d rented, the bikes were stored in a closet.
Of course, Avalon is not special as it pertains to being able to ride a bike along the Atlantic. As I wrote for Metro Philadelphia in 2017 (upon returning from my first Jersey beach vacation), the clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy actually opened some shore towns up for building new bike infrastructure, which has led to a resurgence in biking. The longest-run stretch of bicycle facilities on a New Jersey urban highway was actually installed in Northern Ocean County, on Route 35, after Sandy. Atlantic City now has a two-way buffered bike lane on Maryland Avenue that connects Brigantine Boulevard to Adriatic Avenue, and an 11-mile route connecting the Cape May County Zoo to the town of Cape May was completed in late 2017. The path utilizes both an on-street bike lane and a multi-use path.
Long story short: If you’re headed down the shore sometime before the summer ends, bring your bike. Or rent one. You won’t regret it.
We know our members and supporters have fantastic stories about bike riding on vacation! Tell us about your summer bike adventures outside the Greater Philadelphia region by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share our favorites on the Bicycle Coalition blog.
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