As a dedicated bicycle rider, Michaela “Mickey” Shunick is appropriately honored with a bike path in the heart of Lafayette.
She did not live to see it, having been abducted while riding her bike in 2012 and found dead after weeks of intense searching.
It was a terrible crime that brought to Lafayette attention of the wrong kind, instead of the usual plaudits for its economic growth and vibrant culture.
But one of the results of this tragedy was the coming together of people throughout the city and its region to search for the missing bicyclist.
Ultimately, her killer was found and is now serving a life sentence in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council voted unanimously to create the “Mickey Shunick Memorial Bike Loop,” a mix of existing and planned bike paths that will be linked together in an 8-mile loop.
The route will pass by Shunick’s ghost-bike memorial on St. Landry Street, where she was abducted.
The Shunick loop includes several lanes along streets already in service and more planned to expand its reach.
In Lafayette, as in other progressive cities, community leaders are now recognizing the value of bike and walking trails — more generally, green spaces in urban areas — as significant attractions for residents and for young people looking to build a healthier lifestyle.
Obviously, it’s harder in areas where land-use planning was either ignored or based entirely on auto traffic.
That’s why the progress toward the Shunick loop and other lanes in Lafayette are a healthy reminder to drivers that bikes share the roadways: “Safety in numbers,” said Shunick’s mother, Nancy Rowe. “As more people ride bikes, cars will be more aware of them.”
That’s going to be true, as long as city governments continue to work through the difficulties of making “complete streets” that provide reasonable accommodation to driving, biking and walking.
In New Orleans, biking downtown to work and across other parts of the city is becoming easier.
A dedicated greenway linking downtown Baton Rouge with Brooks-City Park is a welcome addition. The Shunick loop is part of a growing awareness, a movement, if you will, that bicycle paths are part of a complete city.
Maybe we’re catching up late on this national trend, but more and more people are looking for bike paths and other indicators that a city has a positive quality of life. The Lafayette initiative would be a good idea on its own merits, but particularly given its new name.
It is an appropriate memorial for Mickey.