nola.com - On bike safety, Jason Williams wants LaToya Cantrell, NOPD to move quickly
Thursday, Mar 14, 2019
On bike safety, Jason Williams wants LaToya Cantrell, NOPD to move quickly
Updated 8:36 AM; Today 8:48 PM
By Kevin Litten, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
New Orleans City Councilman Jason Williams is urging Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration to expedite a series of moves to improve bike and pedestrian safety in the wake of two bicyclist deaths that occurred the Saturday before Mardi Gras.
Williams said in an interview he thinks Cantrell can move quickly on some short-term measures, especially stepped-up enforcement of existing bicycle laws and educating motorists about how to interact with cyclists. Laura Bryan, director of the city’s new transportation department, said the administration is still reviewing the resolution Williams plans to introduce at Thursday’s (March 14) council meeting.
The advocacy group Bike Easy and the Ghost Bike Project, which builds memorials to cyclists killed in traffic accidents, will give a special presentation, “Street Egalitarianism: The Importance of Equal Access to Roadways,” to the council Thursday.
While Williams avoided directly criticizing Cantrell, he said former Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration did not make bicycle safety and infrastructure improvements a priority. His resolution intends to stress that the council considers the matter of the utmost importance, he said.
“I hope they’ll really just do their job on this one, because frankly, the last administration did not,” Williams said. “I’m not prepared to just take a chance or rely on a handshake. I want to make sure there’s real teeth and real fire.”
The deaths of Sharee Walls and David Hynes show how far the city has to go to make biking safe.
Williams’ resolution references an effort the previous City Council made to redesign five of the city’s most dangerous intersections. Its language urges Cantrell’s administration to begin the redesign process. Williams said the council funded the redesign but it never occurred.
The targeted intersections are North Carrollton Avenue at Ulloa Street, Gravier Street at Broad Street, Behrman Place at Holiday Drive, Esplanade Avenue at North Claiborne Avenue, and Read Boulevard at Interstate 10.
The intersections were chosen because there were serious accidents at each one, some of them fatal.
The resolution also calls for the New Orleans Police Department to step up traffic enforcement, particularly around areas such as bike lanes and crosswalks that lack signals. It is illegal to stop or drive in bike lanes, and motorists are required to stop for pedestrians and cyclists using crosswalks without traffic signals.
“We have an on-demand police force, and there’s a desire to focus on more serious calls for service. But that doesn’t mean we want to ignore enforcement of traffic,” Williams said. “Because when you ignore it for too long, people start treating a stop sign as a suggestion. Then a piece of paint to separate a motorist from a cyclist is also a suggestion, and then someone loses their life.”
Williams added that he’s not encouraging enforcement to raise revenue. “I’m not saying give everyone a ticket, but at least give them a warning,” he said.
The administration should also do more educational outreach, Williams said, such as installing signs informing motorists that it’s state law to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks without signals.
Police say the March 2 accident on Esplanade Avenue that claimed the lives of cyclists Sharee Walls and David Hynes was caused by a suspected drunken driver who veered into the bike lane. Seven other people were injured, all of them on bikes, according to the NOPD.
Williams said police should also set up DUI checkpoints around large events such as Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest.
Bryan referred questions about enforcement to the NOPD, which has not responded to a request for comment.
Bond was set at $510,000 for Tashonty Toney, 32, the man accused by police of killing two people and injuring seven others Saturday night (March 2).
Finally, Williams wants the Cantrell administration to consider new safety measure for special events, such allowing only pedestrians and bicyclists on streets parallel to busier ones.
Overall, Williams said he hopes the administration will move faster on bike safety improvements because he said the city’s bike culture is growing fast, and motorists have not caught up with the trend.
“I hope they see this as wind in their sails to do what they were already hoping to get done. And instead of getting it done in six months, we get it done in three months,” Williams said.
See all articles in the News Archives