Focus On CommunityLafayette

Misconceptions surrounding local bike safety

This weekend marks one year since a metro councilman in the Louisiana capital was struck and killed while riding his bicycle.

News 15’s Megan Woods is helping us keep safety-first with a few tips for drivers and cyclists.

According to Acadiana Planning Commission bicyclists are 60 times more likely to die in a crash than a motorist.

“It’s kind of belittling to be a bicyclist in Lafayette.”

Biking here in Lafayette isn’t what it used to be nor is it what bicyclists want it to be.

Rhonda Kim Gleason has been riding her bike in Lafayette since the 1990s but her fear of the dangers out on the road have evolved over the last 20 years. “Cell phones weren’t as used back in the 90s. Now when I’m riding my bicycle I’m afraid someone is going to run up on me because they’re busy texting or watching something.”

Andre Angelle is the president of Bike Lafayette, an advocacy non-profit for bicyclists. Angelle says, “It’s definitely dangerous. There’s definitely a lot of confusion about the laws and I think it goes on car drivers and bicyclists evenly. Bikes are breaking the laws, drivers are misunderstanding the laws and that creates a gray area.”

Acadiana Planning Commission is trying to clear that gray area with a bike safety week early June, social media campaigns and information cards.

Planner Ashley Moran says, “It’s a very common misconception to ride against traffic. The riding with traffic, you are an actual vehicle in Louisiana so you’re supposed to be riding at pretty fast speeds. So you’re (bicyclists) supposed to be in traffic riding with traffic acting like you’re just a car.”

It’s the law that when those bicyclists are on the road cars have to be at least three feet away.

Bicyclists also have to do their part in keeping safe.

Moran says, “Don’t run a red light. Unfortunately we’ve seen some bad crashes from cyclists. You know they don’t want to slow down, lose the momentum, but you have to stop at the stop light.”

Another misconception is bicyclists can’t ride on sidewalks. In Lafayette, you can as long as you’re not going too fast, but Gleason believes that makes matters worst.  “If I ride on the sidewalks I’m demonstrating poor bicycle habits and our drivers will never understand what bicyclists’ actual rights are.”

While it may be rough now, bike enthusiasts say it can get better.

Angelle says, The more people that ride, the more the city will take it seriously, the more the city takes it seriously, the more other organizations and businesses will take it seriously.”

Angelle also hopes that conversations like this will spark change on the state level to require bike law education as a license requirement.

For more bike safety tips click here.