LAFAYETTE — City-parish officials came together Thursday to stress bicycle safety following a rash of recent cycling fatalities in the region.
Three bicyclists were killed within a week of each other in October after being struck by vehicles — one on the Interstate 49 frontage road near Grand Coteau, another on Hopkins Street in New Iberia, and a third on Johnston Street in Lafayette.
“When a bicycle and a vehicle collide, the vehicle wins every time,” Lafayette Director of Traffic and Transportation Tony Tramel said.
Tramel was joined Thursday by City-Parish President Joey Durel and Police Chief Jim Craft at a news conference to urge motorists and cyclists to keep a better eye out for one another and follow state safety laws.
“We know it’s become an important part of our community, but you are not going to enjoy it unless it’s safe,” Durel said of cycling.
Lafayette Parish had 344 bicycle crashes from 2005 to 2010, 18 resulting in severe injuries and 7 in fatalities, according to figures from the Traffic and Transportation Department.
The department also analyzed crash data along Johnston Street from Jan. 1, 2008, to Oct. 10, 2011, and found 49 collisions — 30 resulting in injuries and one fatality.
In 55 percent of the Johnston Street crashes, including the fatality, the bicyclist was traveling against the flow of traffic, Tramel said.
He said cycling with traffic could go a long way toward preventing collisions, and other crashes could be avoided if motorists followed a state law that requires drivers to stay at least 3 feet from bicyclists when passing them.
He said cyclists should also remember that state law requires bicycles to have a white headlamp and flashing red tail lamps that are visible at night at least 500 feet away.
The emphasis of bicycle safety comes as city-parish government is moving forward with initiatives to add new routes for bicycles in the city.
Durel said the upcoming project to extend Kaliste Saloom Road from Ambassador Caffery Parkway to East Broussard will include 8-foot paths on each side for bicyclists and pedestrians.
A planned project to widen North University from Interstate 10 to Pont de Mouton includes provisions for a 5-foot path on one side and an 8-foot path on the other, according to information from city-parish government.
City-parish government is also planning new bike routes along existing roads, including one that will go from the Cajundome to Parc Sans Souci downtown and then from Parc Sans Souci to Pontiac Point.
Any initiatives to improve conditions for bicyclists in Lafayette are welcome, said Tony Bonomolo, who is with the local bicyclists advocacy group Bike Lafayette.
“Currently, it’s horrible,” he said.
Bonomolo said the only marked bicycle lane in Lafayette is the narrow path along Johnston Street, the congested traffic corridor that runs through the middle of the city.
“Anybody from outside of Lafayette who sees that bike lane would never ride on it, ever,” Bonomolo said.