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After deadly crash, New Orleans council takes on bicycle safety

Council President Jason Williams says with more cyclists on the road, the time is now to make sure both riders and motorists are safe.

NEW ORLEANS — Bicycle safety advocates and New Orleans City Council members are calling for better protection for bicyclists following a deadly crash that killed two people and injured seven.

Both say that simply painting bicycle lanes on busy streets is not enough to provide safety to bicycle riders in the city. Council President Jason Williams says with more cyclists on the road, the time is now to make sure both riders and motorists are safe.

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"These issues have not been top of mind for some folks," Williams said. "We have made advancements but not enough."

The council will discuss a resolution that calls for higher safety measures including increased enforcement, closing roads during big events and increasing education efforts to tell people how to safely share the roadways.

"The education is for motorists to know what the rules of the road are and for cyclists frankly how vulnerable they are," Williams said. There'ss a huge educational component and frankly, it's upon us city leaders to put that in place because it can and will save lives."

Another component of the resolution calls for improvements to at least five intersections that are considered dangerous.

"I was hit by a cab driver when I was 14," New Orleans resident Clark Thompson said. "Every moment I'm on my bike I know I'm a potential target. So I've got to ride with care and every action could be my last so I have to be careful every time."

Council member Kristin Palmer says one in five New Orleans residents is without a car, making it critical that safer bike routes be developed.

"Having a stripe on a street on a piece of concrete is not going to stop a drunk driver from careening past that paint on the ground," Williams said. "In Copenhagen, they have raised bicycle paths that actually protect the cyclists with parked cars. That's safe."

Sharree Walls, 27, of New Orleans and 31-year-old David Hynes of Seattle were killed when a car sped into a bicycle lane on Esplanade Avenue, blocks away from a parade route.

RELATED: Farewells to Esplanade Avenue fatality victim Sharree Walls begin

Immediately following the crash, Dan Favre, the director of the organization Bike Easy, issued a statement calling on residents to press elected officials to build connected, protected bikeways in New Orleans. 

Tashonty Toney, 33, faces multiple charges including two counts of vehicular homicide, seven counts of vehicular negligent injuring, hit and run and reckless operation. He remains jailed on a $500,000 bond. Police say Toney was drunk at the time of the crash.

The resolution will be discussed at Thursday's New Orleans City Council meeting.


WWL-TV reporter Jade Cunningham can be reached at jcunningham@wwltv.com; 

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