This summer and fall, we’ll see an abundance of bicyclists on the streets of New Orleans. According to the Regional Planning Commission, spikes in gas prices, the economic stagnation and efforts to cut down on pollution have led many people to opt for less expensive forms of transportation. For a city in which 18% of the population does not own a car, biking may be the best option. In fact, New Orleans ranked 6th among cities with populations over 250,000 for the highest percentage of workers who use a bicycle to get to work (bicyclists account for 2.47 percent of the city’s total commuters). However, whether you ride your bicycle to work or for mere pleasure, bicyclists must be extra careful in our urban city.
On August 2, 2014, a bicyclist was killed in a hit and run accident by a drunk driver in Terrebonne Parish. Alarmingly, this accident was no fluke as approximately 700 bicyclists are killed every year in the United States in similar accidents. Moreover, throughout the country, there are approximately 50,000 annual bicycle accidents with minor to severe injuries that are actually reported.
So what can you do to keep yourself and your family safe while riding your bicycles in the New Orleans area? Some obvious interventions have been shown to significantly reduce injuries and fatalities to bicyclists. Though some of these rules are found in local Parish and municipal codes, most bicyclist rules are found in Title 32 of the Louisiana Motor Vehicle and Traffic Code.
- Though helmets are required for people only under the age of 12, see R.S. 32:199, it is wise for all bicyclists, regardless of age, to wear a properly fitted helmet every time they ride.
- Your bicycle should be equipped with at least one working, capable brake. R.S. 32:346
- Bicycles on the roadway have all the same rights as a motor vehicle. R.S. 32:194
- When you are turning and stopping, use hand signals. R.S. 32:106
- Bicyclists are required to obey traffic signals, including coming to a complete stop at stop signs. R.S. 32.232 and R.S. 32:123.
- Riders shall not ride more than two abreast if riding on a street. R.S. 32:197(C)
- Riders must use bike lights and reflectors at night (white for the front and red for the back). R.S. 32:329.1. Though not required, fluorescent clothing can further protect bicyclists by making them visible from further away than regular clothing.
- Cyclists should properly yield to automobile and pedestrian right-of-ways. R.S. 32:124
- Ride in the Direction of Traffic. R.S. 32:197(A)
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