We are a particularly bike-friendly town here in New Orleans in many ways. The streets are level—no hills! And the city itself is small and compact enough to get around in easily. According to the 2009 United States Census, the city is ranked sixth of cities with populations over 250,000, having the largest percentage of workers using a bicycle to commute to their job. Bicyclists account for 2.47 percent of all the city’s commuters.
In the last couple of years, the city has increased bike lanes and promoted bicycling as an environmentally-friendly and economical way to get around. It’s part of a national trend—and has anyone been to the gas station lately? Wow, gas prices are high. Before Hurricane Katrina, there existed seven miles of shared lanes, bike lanes, and bike paths throughout the city. Now there’s much more—see http://nolacycle.noladata.org for a map of bike facilities, highlighting potholes, traffic projects, and everything that might make a difference to somebody on two wheels. Also, the long-awaited Lafitte Corridor project is under way between the French Quarter and Lakeview, transforming a 3.1-mile strip into a stunning public park.
We still have a ways to go, though. Bicycling is not all that safe here, partly because of drivers’ failure to acknowledge bicyclists and their rights to the road, partly because bicyclists themselves don’t feel compelled to follow the same rules as four-wheeled vehicles must, and partly because there are numerous potholes and road hazards in an old city that’s built below sea level. Bike Easy is a nonprofit bicycling advocacy group that helps everybody out who wants to get on a bike here. Its mission is “to make bicycle riding in NOLA easy, safe, and fun.” We’re all for that!
On Sunday, May 20, it’s sponsoring Bicycle Second Line: Bayou Boogaloo 2012 It begins and finishes by Bayou St. John at Jefferson Davis Parkway and Lafitte Street, and ends with a celebration at the Bayou Boogaloo. It’s a great way to participate in that time-honored tradition, a second-line parade, with live music—but on a bicycle, not on foot!