ST. FRANCISVILLE — A West Feliciana Parish Council committee studying bicycling safety on parish roads tossed out several ideas Monday for feedback from about 30 cycling enthusiasts.
Committee Chairman Mel Percy said an ordinance, if the Council adopts one, only will apply to activities on parish-owned roads.
The underlying seriousness of the two-hour back-and-forth between cyclists and the three-member committee was brought to the forefront by the attendance and comments of Tom Clement, a 71-year-old Baton Rouge cyclist who was seriously injured when he and Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso were hit from behind while biking June 30 on La. 66 in West Feliciana Parish.
Amoroso died of his injuries.
Also attending were the councilman's widow, Denise Amoroso, and other supporters, including Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker.
Wicker's vote paved the way for Denise Amoroso to take her husband's seat temporarily but drew criticism from Wicker's black colleagues on the council and some constituents who favored a vote delay that would require Gov. John Bel Edwards to make the interim appointment.
Clement said he and Amoroso had the proper safety equipment on their bicycles and were riding in single file along the highway.
The driver, 21-year-old Nicholas Alexander, of Lafayette, was traveling too fast and apparently was distracted over a 1.5-mile straight-away approach to the bicyclists, Clement said, adding that all the bright colors and flashing lights in the world would not have prevented the fatal collision.
Parish President Kevin Couhig, later in the discussion, agreed with the observations that distracted drivers are a major factor in car-bicycle collisions.
"This is the real enemy of the bicyclist," Couhig said, holding up a smartphone. "Nobody can protect you from knuckleheads on the phone."
But Couhig said the council wants to put rules in place to give everyone the confidence "that cyclists are doing what they can to make it safe for everybody."
Percy offered several possible features of an ordinance addressing bike safety on parish roads:
- Requiring cyclists to wear an outer garment with at least 400 square inches of a high-visibility, fluorescent color. Percy said he lifted the wording from the state's hunting regulations, with a modification on the color.
- Requiring lights on the rear of bikes that are visible for one mile.
- Putting a laser device at the front and rear bikes in a group ride to warn cyclists of oncoming vehicles.
- Using rear-view mirrors on bicycle handlebars or riders' helmets.
- Requiring cyclists to ride in single-file formations, within 2 feet of the right-hand pavement edge.
- Prohibiting the use of paint on the roadway to mark the routes for cycling events, and requiring event organizers to remove signs and marking tape from the roads within 24 hours.
The fluorescent-colored garment idea drew the most criticism from the cyclists, who said an outer garment would be too hot, would make it difficult to retrieve items from their pockets and increases the drag on bicycle racers.
Craig Brouillette, of Baton Rouge, said his bicycle organization is buying 100 bicycle lights that it will give away later this month and an Aug. 12 "blessing of the bikes" event will stress safety.
Other speakers said mirrors actually cause problems for riders and being required to use hand signals for turns is not practical when a rider is using his hand brakes.
Several local residents, including Couhig, spoke of witnessing bicyclists putting their lives in danger by disobeying traffic rules, including not stopping at stop signs or signaling turns.
"Residents feel that bicyclists are more concerned with their rights than their safety or lives," said Councilman Bill May, a committee member.
The meeting drew to a close shortly after Percy sharply responded to criticism from a member of the audience.
"I've kept my cool through three or four smart-aleck comments. We represent a majority of the parish residents. People are (mad) at you," Percy said, using a vulgarity to describe his constituents' feelings.
"What Mel is saying is absolutely correct," said William Daniel, a local contractor and cyclist. "Parish residents are fed up with bicyclists. We had all better work together, or the Parish Council has the right to outlaw bicycles on parish roads."