Damu Reflects on Bike Life
Bike Life was formed out of the Bike Easy Summer 2015 Youth Leadership Training Program
My group, Bike Easy’s Bike Life, is a youth bike advocacy group with a mission to help cyclists have better, safer riding conditions in the New Orleans. Throughout the summer we’ve been getting caught in very bad rain, dealing with loose screws on our bikes and even some members had their bikes stolen during the program but we never let any of that get in the way of finishing our mission.
We noticed the rising deaths of bicyclists in New Orleans this year and decided we had to come up with ideas to prevent future crashes in any way possible. So, we sat as a group and debated every idea that was put on the table. We had to make sure everyone in Bike Life agreed with the ideas and use communication strategies that will actually work before going to higher authorities with our projects. We discussed the causes of these deaths. We also shared our own experiences about drivers that think cyclists should be on sidewalks, rush hour car traffic clogging the bike lanes, and there are simply not enough bike lanes.
Then, we had to focus on how we can prevent these things from happening. After looking over all the big problems its clear to see that Bike Life doesn’t have enough power to make cars share the road. So we went to someone who can. Bike Life wrote a collective a letter to Mayor Landrieu expressing how concerned we are about conditions for bikers and that New Orleans should have more bike lanes connecting neighborhoods.
We also created a petition to show that people agree with our idea to make biking better with more bike lanes and the people should be given what they want. We rode to Audobon Park to catch cyclist on the trail to sign our petition. Our final project was tabling outside of Youth Empowerment Project to collect more signatures and to share bike safety tips with passing bikers and pedestrians on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. Despite all the obstacles we went through, we came out with a pretty good amount of signatures to send with our letter to the Mayor.
A couple of us took time out to actually go to our first “Die-In” at city hall where we participated with a group of New Orleans cyclists staging a massive die-in for fatal bike crash victims. We also took some pictures. We learned what ghost bikes are; so whenever you see an all white bike with flowers accompanying it please do not attempt to steal it. It’s there as a memorial to a fellow cyclist killed while riding their bike. Please acknowledge these ghost bikes are here. If you want to see one there’s one on Broad street after the most recent fatal crash last week and in front of city hall.
That isn’t the only thing we’ve been doing. We also took a bike ride to City Park with Doc Griggs (Dr. Eric Griggs, a New Orleans based physician and health educator who has dedicated his professional life to increasing health and wellness awareness in the New Orleans community). We learned about New Orleans city history at the Main Branch Library about things like the St. Charles street car line; met up with Sophie Harris, Executive Director of Friends of the Lafitte Corridor, to learn about the Lafitte Greenway. I look forward to exploring the Greenway once its finished. Last but not least we went to Crescent Park, a beautiful place I never knew existed with a nice view of the water, the ferry, ships, and across the river. I definitely will tell a friend to go check it out.
Bike Life wants to give a special thanks to Bike Easy & Youth Empowerment Program for grouping together to give us such a good life experience. Also, thank Virginia for being like our little tour guide and making sure we stayed safe and secure through and back on every trip. A couple of the guys said they’d definitely do more bike advocacy work another time and I think I can agree with them. It was definitely a life learning experience. There were a couple shocks & this summer wasn’t what I expected but hey we stuck through it together as a team & that’s all that matters. “BIKE RIGHT BIKE LIFE”– Da’Jonae (Damu) Curtis, Youth Spokeswoman & Bike Easy Intern