Jun 28, 2023 - News

New Orleans cycling advocates demand change amid cyclist fatality spike

Illustration of pens replacing the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Bike Easy, a local nonprofit advocating for safer streets for cyclists, is hosting a "call to action" Wednesday to increase pressure on officials in the wake of recent cyclist deaths.

Driving the news: Just in the last month, two cyclists have been killed in New Orleans — bringing the year's total to at least four, according to police records and Bike Easy.

  • Earlier this month, New Orleans police arrested a driver who they say struck and killed a cyclist at Marigny Street and St. Claude Avenue, allegedly while speeding.

The big picture: New Orleans has the highest rate of fatal bicyclist crashes among major metro areas in the U.S. — on average 9.9 fatal bike crashes for every million residents between 2017-2021.

What's happening: Bike Easy has called for signatures on a petition they'll give to city officials Wednesday night asking for more attention from leaders, promotion of safe driving practices and improved coordination with the state Department of Transportation and Development.

  • They're also asking people to reach out directly to state and city officials and to share personal stories of difficult cycling moments on social media.

What they're saying: "I use my bike as my main means to move around the city and the anxiety caused from these crashes makes it tougher to ride every day," Bike Easy executive director Allene La Spina wrote to supporters last week following the most recent fatality.

Between the lines: The state reports that while total collisions involving New Orleans area cyclists decreased from 151 in 2017 to 94 in 2021, fatalities have gone up.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell kicked off a major bike planning initiative in 2019 and has promised 75 miles of new bike infrastructure.

  • According to the city website, more than 10 miles have been completed as of May.

Cycling advocates including Bike Easy protested New Orleans City Council's vote last fall to remove two miles of bike lanes in Algiers, saying it was a step "backward."

  • Council members voted after an outcry from some residents who were irritated by parking hassles and plastic posts, NOLA.com reported.

Zoom out: Bicycle deaths are rising all over the U.S. The national average of 2.7 fatal crashes per million residents between 2017-2021 was up 5% from 2012-2016.

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