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NEWORLEANS - Wednesday was the first ever'NOLA Bike to Work Day,' when residents are urged to take a step that organizers said is healthier for them and the environment.

It is hoped to become a regular annual event designed to encourage people to ride their bikes more.

Ceremonial bike rides began at five locations at 6:45 a.m., and Mayor Mitch Landrieu joined the procession that began at the St. Charles entrance to Audubon Park.

Other locations include MacArthur Boulevard and Holiday Drive in Algiers, where council member Kristin Palmer joined the tour, Orleans and Jeff Davis Parkway in Mid-City, Dadd's Donuts at 2051 Canton Street in Gentilly and at St. Claude and St. Roch Avenues.

Bike rangers will lead each group downtown to Lafayette Square, where there will be a small party, with contests and prizes, including a bicycle to be given away. The event is free, and if you can't be there for the start of the bike convoys, you're welcome to join them along the way.

New Orleans only had five miles of bike paths before Hurricane Katrina. Bike routes have multiplied since the storm.

'We now have nearly 50 miles of bike-ways in the city of New Orleans. We have just completed the one on Holiday Drive in Algiers. Another 20 miles is in construction and planning. Among the 51 largest U.S. cities, we're now the 10th highest city in walking and cycling to work,' Landrieu said.

The event continues Wednesday night when cyclists are welcomed back to Lafayette Square where the party continues at the Wednesday in the Square concert.

Just a note to drivers: bike path markings are on the streets where the routes run, so please be extra careful and polite to those who are pedaling instead of pressing the accelerator.

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