Groups take steps to make New Orleans more bike-friendly

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by Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on November 13, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 13 at 7:48 PM

Ranked sixth in the nation for bike commuters, New Orleans is becoming one of the most active cycling cities in the country. And cyclists say more areas of the city need to be bicycle friendly.  

"It's very bike friendly as far as getting around. As far as safety, it's not safe yet. And I say yet because I have high hopes for it," said Shelley Bourgeois, a member of the Metro Bicycle Coalition.

Cyclists cite close calls with both cars and pedestrians.

But some of those situations, police say, stem from cyclists disobeying traffic laws.

"A good portion of our complaints, particularly in the French Quarter, are bicycle infractions such as folks riding on sidewalks, or riding against traffic," said Officer Roger Jones, a quality of life officer in NOPD's eighth district.

An avid biker himself, Jones said cyclists are ticketed for violations just about every day.

"We have a lot of elderly folks that walk around out here, and we get a lot of horror stories where they've been knocked down, and it's a very sad case, and we're just trying to bring awareness," said Jones.

"It'll make it safer for everyone. That doesn't bother me," said Bourgeois.

But cyclists are quick to add, safety is a two way street.

"I think most bicyclists are paying attention because they realize drivers do not pay attention," said Robert McClintick, regional director for the Guardian Angels.  

And many cyclists say they hope for more bike lanes in high traffic areas like St. Charles Ave. and Esplanade Ave.

"Everybody needs to have their rightful place on the road, and we want to be considered as a vehicle, and given some of that consideration," said Barbara Bowen, a member of the Metro Bike Coalition, and the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates.  

Bike lanes and shared lanes are starting to appear on Carrolton and in the CBD. In fact, since Hurricane Katrina, the city has added nearly two dozen miles of bike-friendly roadways.

"It's a work in progress with the redevelopment of the city," said Jones. "It's all coming together."

But there's still a long way to go.

And one citizen group is taking matters into its own hands.The "Where Ya Rack?" group installed its 40th bike rack Saturday in Lafeyette Square, and plans to install at least 60 more racks.

"You see bikes locked up to everything in this town, rarely is it a bike rack, so we thought we'd address that need," said Mike Harowski, project leader for the Young Leadership Council's "Where Ya Rack?" program.

Meanwhile, officials say more bike lanes are in the works throughout the city in an effort to promote transportation that's not only "green," but safe.

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