Flags are at half-staff in East Baton Rouge Parish this week as the political world absorbed the shock of the sudden death of Metro Council member Anthony “Buddy” Amoroso IV, struck and killed while biking near St. Francisville on Saturday.
Amoroso and a friend, still in hospital, was hit while the two were doing everything right: They wore their helmets and were riding single file on the scenic Tunica Trace Byway. But even what Amoroso’s widow called his passion for bike safety was not enough when struck by an SUV.
The driver of the vehicle was charged with negligent homicide, negligent injury and infringing on the rules for passing bicycles.
The last is the least serious charge in the tragic incident that killed Amoroso, 61, and injured Thomas Clement, 71, of Baton Rouge. But for bicycle riders, the rule that vehicles give at least three feet to bikes is one of the most-violated laws on the books.
A memorial ride on Sunday brought attention not only to Amoroso’s contributions to the community but his fondness for riding and his awareness of the dangers for bicycle riders and pedestrians.
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“There are drivers out there and most of them don’t care about you people, they don’t see you,” Denise Amoroso said.
Regrettably, that is often the case.
Doug Moore, president of Bike Baton Rouge, said the group wanted to emphasize the dangers on the road, but it’s the sad fact that speeding and distracted driving are very real threats.
Louisiana remains a state with a high number of collisions involving vehicles and bikers or pedestrians. While not true in Amoroso’s case, all too often alcohol is involved with pedestrians and bikers, as well as motorists. But larger cars and trucks, faster speeds and distraction by phones or even music on the radio can also lead to tragedy.
The physical arrangement of streets and roads, particularly rural highways like Louisiana 66 where the accident occurred Saturday, are focused on driving vehicles and not on safety for others who also have a right to be on the roads. Dedicated bike lanes, or even sidewalks or shoulders on roads, are few, probably thought frills by engineers and the political leaders who must come up with the money to pay for them. But in the capital city, as in New Orleans and Lafayette in recent years, more progressive views are leading to building smarter on roads, so that access to publicly funded roads is not restricted to motorists.
Amoroso’s southeast Baton Rouge district was one choked by traffic and struggling with the consequences of decades of limited public investment in infrastructure, and auto-centric design of roads and streets. The everyday commutes are difficult for motorists much less anyone trying to bike to school or work.
The scenic views of the Tunica Hills region north of Baton Rouge are also attracting more and more recreational cyclists.
It is important for drivers to pay better attention to the road and follow the rules of common sense, as well as the laws that protect others on the road than motorists.