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New bike path means safer cycling

Major push to make Baton Rouge a bicycle-friendly city

Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 4:48pm

BATON ROUGE, La (WGMB) -- The bicycling community in Baton Rouge has a reason to celebrate. A new extension to the levee bike trail downtown means more room to ride, and safer cycling.

Well-seasoned cyclists know the rules of the road, but even the most experienced pedal pushers can't always avoid accidents. Back in May, Mike Bitton was injured in a hit and run accident while he was cycling on River Road.

Injuries, like Bitton's, prompted the city parish to take action. "We're trying to get some alternatives to make people safer by getting them off dangerous streets," says East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden.

Today -- he announced the extension to the two-mile bike trail along the levee. The extension will go another 1.8 miles down the road, ending right past the intersection of Brightside and River Road at BREC's Farr Horse Activity Center. Cyclists say the extension will connect 7 miles of bike paths around the LSU area, allowing students to ride to class from their apartments off-campus.

It cost $669,813, part of a federal earmark arranged by state senator, Mary Landrieu. The rest of the money will go towards cleaning up the river front downtown.

Cyclists are excited about the extension. They say it will keep them safe from reckless drivers. "This is an absolutely car-free environment. The biggest hazard you've got will be the cows," says cyclist Bruce Wickert.

Mark Martin with the Baton Rouge Association of Safe Streets is thrilled about the extension. He expects the cycling community to grow with the number of bike paths, making it safer for everyone. "A very small percentage of people who ride are willing to ride in traffic," he says. "A very much larger percentage of people won't ride because they don't to ride in traffic. The more facilities we have that are separated from traffic, the more people will ride."

The push for a more cycling-friendly Louisiana isn't finished with this particular project. The extension will add on to 68 miles of bicycle path already in Baton Rouge. Cyclists hope it will go all the way to New Orleans.

Holden is currently in contact with several leaders in parishes along the levee, trying to come up with a plan that will allow the bike trail to stretch between the two cities.

Still, cyclists say, riding the roads is inevitable, no matter how many bike paths there are. "You're still going to have cars making right turns across bike lanes," says Wickert. "You're still going to have bicyclists that need to make left turns at intersections." He says the best way to keep cyclists safe is to educate people about sharing the roads.

Check out some of the other bike projects in the works.

Also, take a look at some of the sites below for more information on how bike paths fit into the city's infrastructure.

http://brgov.com/dept/dpw/ipd/pdf/Bike.pdf

You can visit these sites for more information on various clubs and organizations in Baton Rouge for cyclists.

http://www.brsafestreets.org/

http://www.batonrougebikeclub.com/

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