The great New Orleans weather and heightened environmental awareness are encouraging more commuters to choose pedal power over horsepower. The city has been very proactive in providing well-marked bicycle lanes and other improvements to facilitate cyclists. As a recreational cyclist with over 40 years of experience in and out of urban environments, this is a most welcomed development.
I now live on the West Bank and commute to my office near the Superdome. Since I do not believe bike lanes are planned for the Crescent City Connection any time soon, I will not be joining the growing number of commuters cycling their way to work in the CBD and the warehouse district. However, this doesn’t mean that I do not encounter a growing number of cyclists as I make my way onto Poydras Street.
I wish I could say that most cyclists follow the traffic signals and generally accepted “rules of the road,” but unfortunately, this is not the case. Cyclists are frequently seen blowing right through red lights, riding on sidewalks and weaving in and out of traffic. I recognize and have no problems if a cyclist keeps moving up to the front of a line of cars stopped at a light, but crossing an intersection against a red light invites disaster. Sure, a cyclist can look both ways before crossing, thinking he or she is safe, but remember that auto drivers are looking out for other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. If they don’t anticipate a cyclist crossing against the light, crossing in the middle of a block or weaving in front of them without warning, they may not be able to avoid a collision.
A cyclist may have the right of way, or may not, but a 2-ton car composed of steel and safety glass is going to win out every time in a contested impact with bone and blood. Sure an injured cyclist could sue, but significant dollar settlements will not undo the resultant pain, suffering, disabling injuries, brain damage and/or possible death.
The law considers bicycles vehicles and they are required to follow the vehicle rules. While there may not be bicycle police standing around ready to issue tickets to every cyclist that runs a red light or commits other infractions, the real threat is the increased potential for risk-taking cyclists to suffer personal injury and or death.
If you are a cyclist that follows the rules and rides responsibility, I say thank you and welcome. However, if you are a cyclist that takes unnecessary risks by not following the established rules — I hope we don’t meet by accident.
director of procurement