Bike Easy Statement Regarding Recent Paintball Attacks

Posted by Dan Favre on May 12, 2016 in Advocacy, Bicycle Safety

A recent series of attacks has targeted people on bikes and people walking

By Bike Easy Executive Director, Dan Favre

Crime is a heavy burden on the people of New Orleans. It devastates families, traumatizes individuals, and creates an engulfing fear. Causes of the crime that impacts our community are deep and complex, rooted in long histories of oppression, poverty, and distrust. Crime targeting people on bikes is still just crime, and it’s all unacceptable. Bike Easy completely condemns all violence and threats of violence. People who assault others must be held accountable, and the institutions and societal failures that lead many to engage in crime must also be addressed.

Recently, a series of attacks has once again targeted people who ride bikes, as well as people on foot. Along with our increased vulnerability in relation to people driving vehicles, riding bicycles does not make us immune to the instability caused by the violent acts that regularly rock our city.

This isn’t new. When the Esplanade bike lane was still freshly painted, baseball-bat wielding assailants severely injured people enjoying the new bike route. Last year, among many incidents in the area, two of my best friends were riding through the Marigny when they were attacked by young folks also on bikes. My friend’s arm was broken in the mele. More recently, other good friends and a Bike Easy volunteer are among those who have been assaulted by people with paintball guns.

There have been over 10 paintball attacks that we know of in the last two weeks. These are disgusting, cowardly acts that must be stopped. Our hearts go out to all the victims, and we hope they all recover quickly – both from the physical wounds and the trauma. Finding and holding accountable the folks who shot those paintballs is critical. And while exact solutions are still not clear, Bike Easy has been in contact with city officials and NOPD about addressing these events.

However, meeting violence with violence (whether state-sanctioned or otherwise) only leads to more devastation. The spiral of retaliation has driven New Orleans crime rates for far too long. As I stated above, Bike Easy strongly condemns all violence and threats of violence, and some of the social media chatter in response to these recent incidents is completely unacceptable.

Even more critical than accountability is prevention, and the two do not always correlate. In the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated country in the world, it’s clear that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, or it would have been solved long ago. And while the people shooting paintballs recently haven’t been identified, many of the past incidents have been caused by kids and young people, and in the case of the series of issues in the Marigny last summer, young kids of color. Think about that for a minute . . . kids.

There are clearly much larger issues than enforcement and criminal justice to confront. Our city has a long, complex history of economic inequality, racial injustice, and corrupt practices that benefit the few at the expense of the many. And while we have made progress, we have not overcome all the darker sides of our history yet. Currently, we are facing a lack of affordable housing, an addiction epidemic, transportation challenges, public health inequities, increasing poverty, and of course, crime.

This is bigger than bicycling, but we believe bicycling can play a positive role in addressing the social issues and inequities facing our city. Bicycling can spur equitable economic development by providing easy transportation to jobs, improve public health by encouraging physical activity, reduce environmental impacts that disproportionately affect low-income communities, and help build the positive community that many of us aspire to.

But bicycling can only play this role if we don’t leave anyone behind. For instance, assuming all kids on bikes are predators creates a false story line for all those young people using their bikes to uplift themselves and their communities.

And we can only be successful at improving conditions for people bicycling when the bicycling community engages with the larger issues our society faces. Crime targeting people on bikes is still just crime, and tackling that challenge will mean sustained engagement in many difficult and frustrating arenas.

Bike Easy is committed to improving bicycling and improving outcomes for all people in Greater New Orleans through better bicycling. It will be hard, but it’s worth it… for all the people who ride bikes, for all the people in general, and for the future of our city and region. We hope that you’ll join us.

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