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It seems like everyday and at every turn, there are more and more designated bike paths throughout the City of New Orleans.  After seeing how other cities have embraced cycling as a means of transportation, it is encouraging to see this progress.  Cycling is not only great physical exercise and better for the environment due to decreased emissions but, it is also a great way to save money on gas and to connect with the city around you in a way that is just not possible from inside a car or bus.  Even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are doing it!

However, riding a bicycle leaves you exposed and vulnerable to personal injury in ways that cars and other vehicles do not.  With the rapid increase in designated bike lanes and the rise in acceptance of cyclists on our streets, I’ve wondered about the awareness in this city about of how to drive and ride safely together.  If we are ready to share the road, do we know how to share the road safely?   Do drivers and cyclists alike know the laws and how they apply to them?

Here are tips for cyclists to navigate the city safely and legally:

  • Bikes are considered vehicles (La.R.S. 32:194): Bicyclists on the roadway have all of the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers.
  • Bikes must ride in the direction of traffic and stay to the right (La. R.S. 32:197): When riding a bicycle on the roadway, stay as near to the right side of the roadway as possible, except when passing, taking a left-hand turn, approaching a place where a right turn is authorized or when it is reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions on the right.
  • Bicyclists should use hand signals (La. R.S. 32:106): Cyclists should let drivers know when they are stopping and turning by using hand signals.
  • Bikes must follow the Rules of the Road (La.R.S. 32:123 and 232): Just like a car, bicyclists must come to a complete stop at stop signs and must obey all traffic signals.
  • Bikes must be bright (La.R.S. 32:329.1): Just like a car, when it is dark out, bicyclists must use lights and reflectors – White lights in front and Red lights on the rear.

And for the motorists, following these rules can keep help you and cyclists safe:

  • Motor vehicles must keep the bike lanes clear (La.R.S. 32:203): Bike lanes are for cyclists, and motorized vehicles are only allowed to enter bike lanes except  when preparing to turn at an intersection, or entering or leaving the roadway or a parking spot.  Motorists must yield to cyclists if the need to enter the bike lane.
  • Motorized vehicles must pass at a safe distance (La.R.S. 32:76.1): Drivers passing a cyclist must use care and give at least three (3) feet of distance.
  • Motorists must be aware (La. R.S. 32:283): Motorists should check for oncoming bicyclists before opening car doors.
  • Be respectful (La.R.S. 32:201): Do not harass cyclists by yelling or honking.
  • Be on the lookout: When you see this symbol in the traffic lane, expect to see bicyclists there, and share this lane with them.

As bicycles become more and more present on the streets of New Orleans, we should all be mindful of the rules that apply in order to avoid serious accidents that may lead to personal injury or even wrongful death.  These rules are meant to protect both cyclists and motorists from a wreck.  If we drive and ride safely, we are more likely to avoid the often tragic consequences of a bicycle crash by sharing the road safely.

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