Rough roads to ride
People may call New Orleans The Big Easy, but some of the road conditions say otherwise. Besides the unsteady rides and occasional pothole, cyclists and drivers alike have expressed concerns over the lack of safety precautions on the roadways. “Shared responsibility and mindfulness” would go a long way in improving safety for everyone, McWhorter noted.
“Bikers don't use proper equipment, they're not putting lights on their bikes, they're not wearing helmets and a lot don't know proper lane usage, hand signals, and general safety. I bike around the city myself and it blows me away the number of people I notice now more than ever that don't have the right equipment,” said local rider Chelsea Thomas.
Another complaint from many are gaps in the network of bike lanes, which can make it difficult to transition from one neighborhood to the next.
But it’s not all bumpy roads for riders in New Orleans. Conditions have been improving over the years and the city had a big win in 2015 when New Orleans opened the $9.1 million Lafitte Greenway, a 2.6-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail connecting the French Quarter with City Park -- surpassing 100 total miles of bikeways this year. With the additional funding from the National Recreation and Park Association for 2017, the Greenway will see even more developments, greatly expanding the already vibrant public space for pedestrians and bikers alike.
In addition to this work, the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Advisory Committee recently concluded its citywide study and presented their recommendations to city council. Tockman, who is a member of the advisory committee, has been an early advocate for change.
“I think we need to invest in infrastructure projects like protected bike lanes along over bridges to New Orleans East and to Broadmoor and the Lower 9th Ward and better access over bodies of water -- like a free ferry for people who walk and bike,” she said. “This will take effort from both City Hall and leadership at the state, but that's the key to building out the areas most cut off and inaccessible for alternative transportation to personal cars or buses.”
In addition to city council’s work, many organizations have created change on their own. The Young Leadership Council’s Where Ya’ Rack program provides unique and secure bicycle parking racks throughout New Orleans to encourage cycling for commuting, short trips, and errands. Likewise, the Youth Empowerment Project Trafigura Work & Learn Center provides skill-based learning opportunities, such as bike repair, to help NOLA youth get and keep jobs in the city.