Biking is great exercise, good for your health, and can save you money when it comes to transportation. But biking in New Orleans can be a bit of a challenge, considering all the potholes and traffic. Luckily, Bike Easy has been on a mission to make biking easy, safe, and fun for everyone throughout the city.
Move Ya Brass talked with Bike Easy's Community Education Manager Keith Holt, who shared the many ways biking in New Orleans is more ideal than one might expect.
New Orleans is Designed for Biking
Despite the aforementioned potholes, Holt maintained that New Orleans is a relatively easy place to ride. Most destinations can be reached in 30 minutes or less, the city is flat, and the weather is (mostly) mild year round.
Holt also referenced the fact that New Orleans is one of the last European designed cities. That means a lot of the side streets are narrow enough to discourage high-speed traffic. That, in turn, encourages bicyclists to use those streets to get through a good portion of the city.
Bike Easy Will Teach You How to Ride
To further help residents get comfortable bicycling through New Orleans, Bike Easy offers various community group rides (like the 3-mile family ride in Covington held in May) and biking workshops (like the upcoming Bike Maintenance Tips and Tricks Workshop on August 25).
They also host a 9-hour class, which is broken down into three sessions. Students get both classroom and practical exposure, where they learn the basics of riding in traffic, biking laws, proper positioning on the street and trails, how to make turns, and bike maintenance.
"It's truly comprehensive, covering everything that someone needs to know about riding a bike," Holt assured.
New Orleanians Like to Sleep In
To avoid traffic when biking, Holt suggested hitting the trails. Lafitte Greenway – connecting Mid City to Treme – the Levee Trails – "right outside or at the edge of the city" – and the Mississippi River Trail can all provide less stressful rides.
Then there's the option of cruising up and down the side streets of the French Quarter.
That suggestion might come as a surprise, but, as Holt informed us, it's all about the timing. And that timing is from 7 – 10 AM, considering not many people are out of the house that early in the morning.
In fact, the same could be said for most neighborhoods, as Holt marveled at how quiet that time of day is.
"I don't know any city in North America that if you get on a bike at 8 o'clock in the morning on a Saturday, especially on a Sunday, there's no one around in your neighborhood. Everyone's asleep."
"If I were to take someone new on a ride," he continued, "it would be at those times."
Commitment-Phobes Are Welcome
While biking in New Orleans can be a beneficial addition to one's lifestyle, it doesn't have to be all-encompassing. Some people (like Holt) have given up their cars in lieu of biking, but that doesn't mean all bicyclists have to.
"Everyone always gets the idea that you need to do biking one hundred percent and take everything else out," Holt mused. "No. Even just small amounts of things like biking to your neighbor's house, biking to work – not every day of the year, but part of the year – it's just those little things I think can make a difference and having more of a balanced life."
To help encourage biking as a full or part-time commitment, New Orleans recently welcomed the shared Blue Bikes to the city. It was a move Bike Easy advocated for and is excited about. But, there are still concerns and, therefore, efforts to ensure lower-income communities in New Orleans are included as well.
That means not only making sure the bikes are affordable – there are currently $20 yearly memberships available for those who qualify – but It also involves where the bike stations are located, which Holt believes is just as important of an issue, if not more so.
You Can Help Shape Bike Safety in New Orleans
This fall, Bike Easy will be installing a series of temporary "roadway renovations" by way of the Connect the Crescent project. The three-month pop up will demonstrate what is possible in terms of safety for bikers, walkers, drivers, and public transit users.
Per the Bike Easy website, Connect the Crescent will feature "enhanced crosswalks, improved transit stops, and protected bikeways featuring barriers separating people biking from automobile traffic on routes connecting the French Quarter and Central Business District to surrounding neighborhoods."
Not only will New Orleans residents be able to test out the temporary safety suggestions, but they can also help install the project. Go to Connect the Crescent for more information and to find out how you can help.
Have any tips on biking in New Orleans? Tell us below!
- Lori Wilson