Baton Rouge has a bicycle problem. This past November alone, two bicyclists lost their lives after they were struck by vehicles. On November 1, a person crossing Sherwood Forest Boulevard was hit by a passing car at 6:30 p.m. On November 15, a man was hit trying to cross Florida Boulevard at 10 p.m. Louisiana is the second worst state nationally for bicyclists’ deaths; 93 people have died statewide since 2015, with 11 of those occurring in East Baton Rouge Parish. Statistics show that the victims are usually men, with the accidents typically taking place between 6 and 9 p.m.
The issue of bike safety gained added awareness in June of 2018 when Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso was killed while riding in West Feliciana Parish. Many bike riders frequent the roads in West Feliciana due to the rolling hills and scenery. However, the popularity and the nature of the roads has made it a relatively dangerous area to bike. After Buddy Amoroso’s death, many of the cycling enthusiasts envisioned changes that would more heavily penalize drivers or admonish them to be aware of the bikers, but the opposite occurred.
The West Feliciana council passed an ordinance that drew heavy criticism from the cyclists, as the regulations were aimed at them as opposed to drivers. The ordinance requires cyclists to wear high-visibility vests, mandates that they ride in single file lines within two feet of the shoulder and that they ride in groups of 10 or fewer. The fine for a violation is $100. To protest the new ordinance, organizers of a race in St. Francisville canceled their event two days after it was passed.
While the West Feliciana ordinance may not sit well with cyclists, city planners are trying to make Baton Rouge a more bike-friendly city. BREC is in the process of enhancing Baton Rouge’s biking infrastructure, connecting different parts of the city with bike lanes or creating separate bike paths. The Department of Transportation is allocating $250,000 toward a bike master plan in Baton Rouge, with BREC receiving $50,000. Part of the plan is to make a bike loop around the entire parish.
One reason Baton Rouge tends to be more dangerous for riders is that it is a very auto-centric city. Planners hope to reduce the amount of car traffic and boost the number of cyclists downtown by bringing a new BikeShare program to the city. The service will strategically place bikes available for rent via smartphone in the downtown area and near the LSU campus, hoping to encourage biking and reduce the amount of vehicle traffic.
While Baton Rouge aims to become more bike-friendly, unfortunately, accidents are likely to occur until lasting changes are in place. Contact us if you are involved in a bicycle accident and would like helpful legal advice.