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OC carriage rides met with safety concerns

(March 14, 2014) Given how many of the resort’s summertime visitors come from central Pennsylvania, the sight of horse-drawn carriages on the street may not be that much of a departure.

Nevertheless, the city’s Police Commission expressed some skepticism this week over a proposal to expand the off-season carriage ride program into the peak months, utilizing a route that would have the horse-drawn vehicles cross town on Second Street and do most of their route on the bay side of town.

“If I didn’t think I could do it safely, I wouldn’t be asking,” said Randy Davis of R&B Ranch, who has conducted wintertime carriage rides on the Boardwalk and surrounding areas for the past two years. Davis also operates carriage tours in Berlin.

The commission ultimately requested that the Ocean City Police Department compile all accident data for the intersections Davis would be crossing with his horses.

“No matter what precautions you take, we are still reliant on the general public to keep you safe,” OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro said. “That’s an element we cannot control.”

Davis’ proposal for summertime carriage rides would have passengers board at the east end of Second Street, next to the Boardwalk between the Ocean Gallery and Plim Plaza. Both businesses have been supportive of the idea, Davis said.

The carriage would then proceed across Second Street, using the traffic signals at Baltimore and Philadelphia Avenues, then crossing St. Louis Avenue and turning north on Chicago Avenue. The carriage would then go the length of the bayside boardwalk area, turning at Fourth Street to head back down St. Louis and back across Second Street.

“Second Street works because you have a signal at both avenues,” Davis said. “They’re small blocks to travel, and then you’re on the bayside and pretty much out of traffic.”

Three carriages would run from 5 to 10 p.m. on weekdays.

Still, Council President Lloyd Martin noted, “every day is basically a weekend or a holiday downtown, come July and August.”

“There are a lot of concerns for your safety and the safety of your animals, crossing some very busy intersections at the busiest time of year,” said Councilman and Commission Chair Doug Cymek.

Davis began offering the rides in the fall of 2012, with the city’s consent. However, Davis only requires the town’s cooperation insofar as it allows him to solicit business on public property. The actual use of carriages is allowed on public roads by Maryland law.

Davis does not pay the town for the rights to offer the rides, nor does the town pay him for the amenity. With the success of the program, however, the city has expressed interest in taking bids for an income-producing carriage franchise in the near future.

“I’d like to see us do something just to try it out,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “If we can establish that this is a viable enterprise, then next year we should go to RFP [request for proposals].”

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