Bicyclists in New Orleans will get new protections — and some additional responsibilities — under a package of ordinances passed unanimously Thursday by the City Council.
The new rules, recommended by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, explicitly prohibit motorists from driving in designated bike lanes or harassing cyclists, clarify that pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks and require that bikes must be equipped with lights or reflectors plus bells or other devices that can provide an audible signal to those nearby in emergency situations.
“All roadway users have a responsibility to use roads safely,” said Councilman Jared Brossett, who sponsored the ordinances.
The ordinances, many of which simply bring city regulations into line with state laws that already are on the books, follow a series of well-publicized cyclist deaths in New Orleans in recent years.
The ordinances ban motor vehicles — with the exception of motorized bikes — from operating in bike lanes, unless they are making a turn, parking or experiencing an emergency.
They also require motorists to leave “a safe distance” when passing bicyclists and make it illegal to “harass, taunt or maliciously throw objects at or in the direction of any person riding a bicycle.”
The rules also require that parked motorists not open their doors until after making sure they won’t interfere with traffic and then leave the doors open only as long as necessary, something intended to keep bicyclists from crashing into them.
The ordinances say that bicyclists are supposed to ride on the right-hand side of the road in the direction of traffic and must yield to pedestrians.
Bicycles must be equipped with lights, brakes and a bell or other device capable of being heard for 100 feet, according to the ordinances.