A small boy carrying a skateboard under one arm gave me a summer salute of a wave and a smile.
He said something, but his words were swallowed by the sound of traffic on Perkins Road and the thunder of interstate traffic overhead.
The boy was heading for the pavement beneath the interstate near Perkins’ intersection with Christian Street. I was headed home from a bicycle ride.
Weekend bicycle riding is more than exercise. It takes me back to childhood. For poorer Baton Rougeans and college students bicycling beats bus transportation. Some bicycle riders use the carriers on the front of city buses to get them to and from bus stops.
Slowly, Baton Rouge is linking bicycle routes to allow riders to travel greater distances in relative safety. Sidewalks are still a novelty in a city that has for years planned for cars but not pedestrians.
Newly expanded Brightside Lane with sidewalks and bicycle lanes, connecting Nicholson Drive to River Road, is a model for Baton Rouge streets that accommodate motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
A paved, mixed-use path along Highland Road from Lee Drive to LSU Avenue would get bicyclists off the road and give pedestrians more room between the ditches and the roadway.
We will want to do a study, of course, but the cow track worn in the front yards of homes along Highland attests to the foot and bicycle traffic.
Cyclists who commute want dedicated lanes, not paths that put them with pedestrians, but few, older Baton Rouge streets are wide enough to accommodate cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
The paved, mixed-use paths along Capital Heights Avenue were a compromise that met with mixed reaction, but seem to be working in a Baton Rouge kind of way.
As dangerous as cycling is in the neighborhoods around LSU, I count myself lucky to be able to park my truck weekends to run errands on a bicycle.
As we continue to update our streets, the antipathy between some motorists and some bicycle riders won’t lessen. It will increase if bicycle-friendly cities like Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas, are any indication.
Improved streets mean more bicycle riders and motorists coming into contact with one another. Each accuses the other of not obeying the traffic laws. I know some motorists find the presence of bicycle riders annoying, whether the riders obey traffic laws or not.
As much as I try to ride, I’m in a car more often than I’m on a bicycle. I find riding Baton Rouge’s streets makes me a better driver.
When I ride, I am mindful that confrontations between motorists and bicyclists almost always favor the motorist.
Like the skateboarding boy and bicyclists, more city planners should try navigating their streets on foot or on a bicycle. It would be a wonderful continuing education course.