This was the name of the item discussed today in New Orleans city council chamber. The title carries a denotation of executing equity for all road users in the city…be that pedestrians, bicyclist, or motorist. To speak in favor of passing this item members from Bike Easy, Stolen Bikes Nola, and the now defunct Bad News Bike Club made passionate addresses.
At the outset Dean Gray of Stolen Bikes Nola emphasized that the senseless deaths that occurred on Esplanade Ave. on March 2nd of Sharree Walls and David Hynes, along with the recent death of a cyclist on Carrollton Ave. were not accidents. They could have been prevented with good bike infrastructure.
Members of the now defunct Bad New Bike Club, Quentin Price and Lawrence Lagarde, gave some detail of what that bicycle infrastructure could look like. Price pointed out that the bike lanes in New Orleans were striped with white paint just as a car lane is. He suggested that green paint or green colored bike lanes would help to make a distinction.
To take it a step further Lagarde referenced the bike infrastructure in the Netherlands and the struggles that brought it about. In 1971 the Netherlands witnessed 3,300 bicycle casualties with more than 400 of those being children. Bicycle activist protested and demanded that human bicycle infrastructure be built into the country. The 1973 oil crisis helped to see this infrastructure come into fruition. There would soon be state sponsored car-free Sunday’s when major streets would be closed to automobile traffic.
The Dutch government would soon see that vast benefits that bicycling made to the economy, environment, and overall well being of the country. Not long after the bicycle infrastructure that bicycle advocates fought for would be brought into fruition.
It was clear throughout the council meeting that cyclist wanted separated bike lanes. Meaning that they would like a physical barrier between the bike land and the motor vehicle lane. This mantra would be repeated throughout the meeting as a way to initiate the kind of infrastructure that could save bicyclists lives.
Dan Favre of Bike Easy read a message from one of the bicyclist that was injured in the March 2nd accident on Esplanade Avenue. While she is still in Touro Infirmary recovering from a spine injury, her presence filled the chambers with her stirring and urgent words. She urged the city council to produce the protected bike lanes that could have prevented her injury and the death of her friends who were struck while legally operating in the bike lane on Esplanade Avenue.
Favre also pointed the Connect the Crescent campaign that Bike Easy hosted earlier this year. Hundreds of volunteers came together to paint protected bike lanes and exemplify the type of infrastructure that could exist.
Public comment echoed these sentiments with horrid stories of bicyclists being hit by automobiles, verbally assaulted by motorist, having bottled thrown at them, being intentionally run off the road, and being physically assaulted by drivers because they were riding their bikes in the street.
Most resounding however were the public comments of Sharree Walls’ mother and father. Lois Benjamin, Sharree’s mother, heartbrokenly told of the anguish that she is suffering from losing her daughter on the night that Krewe of Endymion rolled through Mid-City. She declared that the city needed to, “Get ride of the red tape and the wind-bagging so that no mother has to go through this again.”
An emotionally overcome city council president, Jason Williams, who attended the Ghost Bike Memorial earlier this month, reaffirmed the council’s commitment. He referenced the world class bicycling city of Copenhagen as a paradigm of the type of separated/protected bike lanes that can better improve the city of New Orleans roadways.
In reference to protected bike lanes council vice-president Helena Moreno stated that, “They owe it to the dead victims to improve our infrastructure.” The rest of the council also had positive feedback about advancing this item and working to produce protected bike lanes. Council member Jay Banks suggested raising the fine of motorist parked in bike lanes to $300 and if they aren’t paid in a month to raise the fine to $500.
The resolution to produce protected bike lanes was passed unanimously. Still the struggle to see this network of protected bike lanes still lies ahead. As the New Orleans bicycle community let us stay vigilant and continue to manifest streets striped with noble virtues of Liberty, Egalitarianism, and Fraternity!