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Careful does it Biking in and around Ocean City takes planning


Like other ocean-bound vacationers, I left Baltimore's suburban sprawl with a bicycle in tow.

Two wheels, I thought, would be essential for a summer at the beach, and would provide a great alternative to getting around in a car.

I have since learned, however, that besides Coastal Highway and the boardwalk, there are few places to ride in Ocean City.

And because of heavy traffic, Coastal Highway is far from an ideal bicycle route. In fact, it's dangerous. If you decide to ride, ride early -- very early, before the traffic picks up.

Alan Sklar, owner of Bike World, offers at least one in-town alternative, a ride from downtown through one of the resort's most exclusive neighborhoods:

Begin on 2nd Street. Turn right on St. Louis Avenue and follow to Fourth Street. Turn left on Fourth and then make a right on Edgewater Avenue, which runs along the bay. Follow several blocks to 13th Street. Turn right and then make a quick left on St. Louis Avenue. Turn left on 15th Street and head west toward the bay.

"It's off the beaten path," Mr. Sklar says. "You can do it in a leisurely hour."

If you haven't ridden on the boardwalk, you should try the latest rage -- the surrey, a four-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle with a steering wheel.

You can rent a surrey from Bicycle World, Caroline Street and the boardwalk, for $12 an hour. It's a fun diversion that allows you to cover the entire length of the boardwalk in less than an hour.

While the surrey's novelty will attract attention, you also will find that it is a little more difficult to maneuver in heavy foot traffic.

Besides Bike World, Mike's Bikes also rents surreys. It's located on North First Street.

All types of bicycles are allowed on the boardwalk between sunrise and 10 a.m.

Bicycles can be rented from the following places for $2 to $5 an hour:

* Continental Cycles Inc., 73rd Street and Coastal Highway, (410) 524-1313.

* Irie Bike Rentals, 2401 Coastal Highway, (410) 289-8476.

* Jo's Bikes, 2nd Street and boardwalk, (410) 289-5298.

But you don't have to limit yourself to early morning rides in Ocean City. There are scenic alternatives that don't have time constraints and are just far enough away from resort town's congestion.

"Ocean City is not a great bicycle area," says Joe Gilbert, a member of the Governor's Bicycle Advisory Committee and a bicyclist. "But there are tons of beautiful roads out of Ocean City."

Indeed. The routes include secondary state and county roads on the Viewtrail 100, and trails you can make up on your own by picking up a Worcester County map.

NB Here are a couple of suggestions, including the Viewtrail 100:

Assateague Island

Begin this 12-mile ride outside Ocean City. After crossing the Route 50 bridge, turn left on Route 611. Park in the shopping plaza on the left.

On your bicycle, turn left out of the shopping plaza and head south on Route 611. The land is flat the entire length of the route except for the bridge to Assateague. Still, the ride is a pleasant. On most of the route, you'll find 4-foot shoulders, fresh produce stands, new vacation developments and the Ocean City Airport.

As you near Assateague, the area becomes wooded, providing much-needed shade on hot afternoons. Before you reach the island, you'll find a few markets that sell thirst quenchers. In addition, there is a concession stand on the island at Assateague State Park.

You can lengthen your trip by bicycling on Assateague. Bicycle paths are well-marked and run as far as the national park area.

"It's not a long trail," Mr. Gilbert says. "But you have to watch for blowing sand and pony droppings."

PD To return to the starting point, follow 611 north to Ocean City.

Berlin to Assateague

Again, put the bicycle on the rack and drive out of Ocean City. Follow Route 611 south to the Berlin exit, Route 376 West. Park in Berlin and head back on Route 376 to Route 611 South to Assateague. The terrain is similar to the aforementioned ride. The shoulders along Route 376, however, are not as wide. This is an easy 9-mile ride to the island.

Viewtrail 100

Viewtrail 100 is well-marked and can be picked up in Berlin at Route 374 West. The entire route is 100 miles, which wind through most of Worcester County and include such attractions as Snow Hill, historic Furnace Town and the Pocomoke State Forest.

I chose a 32-mile route. Outside Berlin, it's nothing but country roads.

In some areas, there are no shoulders. However, traffic was minimal to none on the day I rode and the lack of shoulders presented no problems.

From Berlin, the trail veers about 4 miles westward to Libertytown, a cluster of houses and a church. There are no stores from Berlin to the Snow Hill area so be sure to carry a water bottle.

Along the way, you'll pass small cemeteries, farms and some beautiful wooded areas. I dropped off the trail and headed to Snow Hill, picking up Route 113 North to Berlin.

The Viewtrail can be picked up again near Newark by making a left turn at Patey Woods Road. Follow the trail markers back to Berlin.

Clubbing it

The Salisbury Bicycle Club sponsors rides each Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

Tuesday's show-and-go ride is typically eight to 10 miles and is for more casual bicyclists. Wednesday's ride is for speedier folks.

Both rides leave from the University Center parking lot at Salisbury State University at 6 p.m. Helmets are recommended.

If you decide to go, Mr. Gilbert suggests that you let the other riders know you're new to the area and they'll be glad to stick with you on the route.

"We get a lot of visitors," Mr. Gilbert says.

For more information on other bicycle rides in the Salisbury area, call Bob Swift, president of the Salisbury Bicycle Club, at (410) 957-0557.


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