bicyclist…road warrior…even if you’re not

“For the city bike to catch on we need a revolution in our society’s infrastructure. Right now a city rider needs to be a road warrior, and the bike needs to be cheap and ugly so it won’t get stolen. That’s not a bike-friendly culture.”

Gary Fisher

Yeah. That, and that. 

New Orleans is trying to be bike-friendly. There are over 100 miles of bicycle lanes in the city. The Lafitte Greenway now offers a way to get from downtown out to Bayou St John. There’s a sidepath on Wisner Boulevard for traveling out to Lake Pontchartrain. Crescent Park offers great riding.

But…

Many of the bicycle lanes are in the door zone, and/or end abruptly with few connections between them. The end of the Lafitte Greenway is tantalizingly close to City Park – but not quite close enough. The Wisner sidepath connects to a bike lane on the I-610 overpass – on one side, and there is no easy/safe way to cross over to reach it if you going the other way. Crescent Park has great riding – but you can only get in at one end.

So you need to be a road warrior. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t ride in the city. My bike was my transportation in the city when I was in college, long before anybody thought that bikes were any more than a toy for kids. I rode the pothole-ridden streets of the city, and, yes, the Wisner overpass daily in my trip to school. And there was no sidepath, no bike lane, no protected lane on the overpass. I just rode. I was, and am, in that group that is now known as the “strong and fearless.” I rode, and still ride, anywhere, regardless. But now I feel like I need to think about motorists way more than I did then.

Most motorists are incredibly considerate of bicyclists. In my experience, it’s rare that anyone acts with anything other than respect for me as a road user. And if they’re just being idiots, I can deal with that, too.

But what IS a concern is distracted drivers. No one claims to drive and text – everyone ELSE does that…Looking down at the phone while driving, even for a few seconds, means that a metal box is hurtling down the road UNDER NO CONTROL for those few seconds. If anyone or anything – a person, another motor vehicle, whatever – is in front of that projectile, bad things may happen.

In the protection of another big metal box (motor vehicle) a person may fall victim to a crash, but without that protection (a bicyclist or a pedestrian) there is a much greater chance of injury or death. At a “modest” 40mph, a crash involving a pedestrian is likely to result in the death of the pedestrian over one-half of the time.

…moving on. Bikes just seem to be a really tempting target of theft. A decent-looking bike (not even talking about high-end purchases) must be locked very securely, or else it will be stolen. In too many places, there is nowhere to store a bike safely. Bike parking, or even a bike rack, is simply unavailable in many places. And too many folks are unaware of how to lock a bike to minimize the possibility of theft, and too many others are eager to take a bike from its rightful owner.

The culture needs to change. On both fronts. We need to talk about moving people, not vehicle “throughput.” We need to relook at our streets to make them places that all road users can use, regardless of their mode of transportation. We need to provide space for parking bicycles in a safe way.

That’s the start.

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