Bicycling is Safe

Posted by Anneka on February 21, 2014 in Advocacy, Bicycle Safety

A daily bicyclist decides to keep riding, and discusses the role we all have to play in keeping our streets safe

Tonight, I bicycled after dark because I am not afraid. It was joyful, made my muscles feel alive and my soul feel connected to this City. The temperature was perfect, there was the smell of impending rain. Vehicle drivers were courteous and friendly. They gave extra room when passing, yielded when turning, and approached cautiously. From my experiences biking over the last three years, riding in New Orleans is safer than ever.

The news lately would have you believe that bicycling is suddenly scarier, dangerous and something to be afraid of. That bicycling itself is an awful activity that attracts dangerous attackers, and the activity should be avoided. The tragedy on Esplanade of the two bicyclists that were attacked is appalling and the culprits should be found and brought to justice. From talking to others within the bicycling community, I know that we all feel empathy and kinship with these fellow riders, and wish them a quick recovery.

The media can focus on the bad events of bicycling because it’s rare, and newsworthy. Car crashes, on the other hand, get little coverage because they’re common. It’s important in any urban setting to have your wits about you for personal safety: walking, biking, driving, on the bus, anywhere. Remember, violent crime is bad, and the police have proven tactics for fighting it. Do not blame the victim, work harder to enforce laws.

That said, there are things that everyone can do to increase safety on our streets. Many people rely on their bicycles for transportation, and service industry employees have irregular hours, which put them on the streets late at night.

With this in mind, we have compiled a list of things that everyone – individuals, the City of New Orleans, the NOPD, and Bike Easy and other advocates – can do to make our streets safer and reduce the likelihood that events like this will be repeated.

  • Individuals can increase their own safety by being alert, not listening to headphones, and riding in the center of the lane, so they are more visible to cars and less vulnerable to attack. Also, if at all possible, riding with a buddy can go a long way towards safety.
  • The City needs to maintain street lights, and improve street surfaces, which can help increase visibility and reduce opportunities for crime to occur.
  • The Police have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable road users – pedestrians, bicyclists, and folks waiting for public transportation – and should consider increased presence along our busiest bicycle and pedestrian routes.
  • We at Bike Easy will continue our advocacy work to ensure that our road infrastructure makes New Orleans a safer and easier place to ride a bicycle.

Within the bicycling community, the best thing that we can all do to make bicycling safer is to keep riding. More people bicycling means more eyes on the street, and a greater likelihood that drivers will expect to see us on the roadways.

These bicycle riders were not mugged because they were riding bicycles. They were mugged because the people doing the mugging broke the law. We still have serious problems in New Orleans, and we are all doing our small parts to fix them. Do your part by continuing to ride your bike because it is fun, safe and easy, after all.

Jamie Wine is a League Cycling Instructor, a Bike Easy Policy Committee member and was Bike Easy’s first executive director. You can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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