LAFAYETTE — Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians always have been at odds in the ever-changing landscape of Lafayette’s roadways, but the city is working on a campaign to bring harmony to its streets and sidewalks.
“What we’re trying to do is make people more aware of pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Kevin Blanchard, city-parish chief development officer. “There are really important safety messages to get out, but they don’t always get to folks in the clearest way.”
The campaign is being called “The Movement,” and Blanchard said a key element is the simplicity of its message.
Many of the rules advertised by the campaign are simple, he said, but can drastically reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.
For example, cyclists are required by law to ride with the flow of traffic, but pedestrians in a roadway must walk against traffic flow.
“When you’re driving a car, you’ve got certain places that you’re looking because you know where a car could be coming,” Blanchard said. “By riding along with traffic, bikes become much more visible to drivers.”
And that’s the basic idea behind The Movement: reminding each group the others exist and need to be respected.
“Another part of it is for drivers to know that pedestrians and bicyclists are allowed to be there,” Blanchard said. “(Drivers) should give them distance and respect.”
The campaign comes as city-parish government has been focusing on making it easier for folks to get around the city without having to get in an automobile.
“We’ve been looking at ways to become a more walkable, more bike-friendly community,” Blanchard said. “That’s not just infrastructure; that’s not just making sure we have bike lanes and other ways to provide for those kinds of transportation.”
With help from a state Department of Transportation and Development grant, The Movement will use television, radio, print and outdoor advertisements to educate roadway users on the rules of the road, as well as encourage respect among walkers, drivers and cyclists.
“I really like it,” said Monique Koll, with the local biking group BikeLafayette. “The message is really easy to understand, and it’s very important information. The only way that we’re going to stop having these bicycle and pedestrian fatalities is through education and awareness.”
The campaign also was spurred by the rise in accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians.
Since 2004, 10 bicyclists and 60 pedestrians have been killed in accidents involving motorists in Lafayette Parish, according to figures from city-parish government.
For the same period, 500 bicyclists and 661 pedestrians were injured in accidents involving vehicles, the figures show.
“We need to think differently and change our culture so we not only provide that infrastructure but also provide the attitude and awareness necessary to implement those services successfully,” Blanchard said.