NEW ORLEANS -- The first fatal bike accident of the year in Orleans Parish happened along a corridor that is considered one of the busiest and most dangerous for bicycling, St. Claude Avenue.
The 50-year old bicyclist, who police say crossed into the path of a Honda Civic on St. Claude Avenue, died on the scene. The driver in Wednesday's fatal accident was not ticketed in the incident.
Increasingly, New Orleans police are seeing more instances of bike riders are adhering to the rules of the road.
"We're seeing a lot of bicyclist not obeying traffic laws, running through red lights, not stop at stop signs at intersections, not yielding the right of way to oncoming traffic," said Lt. Anthony Micheu, with the NOPD's traffic division.
From 2010-2013, the number of "bike users" along the St. Claude Avenue corridor has increased 199 percent, according to a study conducted by the University of New Orleans Transportation Institute.
Tara Tolford is the study's principal author. She said when it comes to bike safety, both drivers and bicycle riders in the city have a long road to travel.
Tolford said from 2006 to 2010, there were 660 bike crashes in Orleans Parish, eight being fatal. Those numbers are above national comparisons, and Tolford said many accidents go unreported.
"In terms of safety we still have a ways to go. We lag behind and we sort of have high numbers for both pedestrians and bicyclists and that's a concern," said Tolford.
The city's terrain and weather with few hills and warm temperatures are big factors in why biking has been an increasingly popular way of getting around New Orleans.
As the demographics in neighborhoods like the Marigny and Bywater continue to shift and the real estate development continues to surge, Tolford said unless bicyclists and motorists become much more aware of one another, it's likely accidents will continue.
“St. Claude does have high traffic for pedestrians and bicyclist, so there are a lot of users. We expect more crashes. It's also a state highway. It has relatively high speeds, which factors into the frequency of accidents," said Tolford.
James Wilson is the board president of Bike Easy, a bicycle advocacy group in New Orleans. He said most local riders are obeying traffic laws and he feels perfectly safe riding throughout the city.
Wilson said while it may be easy to point the finger at riders who may be ignoring traffic laws, drivers too share responsibility. He says motorists are also failing to watch out for bicyclists.
"Let's not judge all bicycles by some outliers. The other thing is if I don't pay attention in my motor vehicle, I'm surrounded by a big metal box, and I'm going to hurt somebody," said Wilson.
Sharing the road may seem simple, but there's a reason why riders are urged to have lights and helmets at all times. To view the UNO study on pedestrian and bicycle accidents, click here.