by Jeanie Riess
Before Hurricane Katrina, Orleans Parish had 11 miles of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways. Fast forward to the present and Orleans Parish boasts 84.5 miles of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways, and residents of the greater New Orleans community have access to more than 140 miles of bikeway.
To celebrate the growing world of alternative, self-propelled transportation and to encourage more residents to realize the beauty of the bike, Bike Easy is hosting its third annual Bike to Work Day on April 8, with the help and sponsorship of Entergy. The celebration invites first-time bikers and experienced peddlers alike to meet at designated neighborhood outposts and bike to work with volunteer Ride Rangers. There will be free breakfast, coffee, prizes and giveaways at Lafayette Square from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and bikers can roll in as a team with co-workers, with their neighborhood groups or by themselves.
Anneka Olsen, Bike Easy's Community Education Manager, says the goal for Bike to Work Day is to showcase the infrastructure improvements New Orleans has made over the past four years and to provide existing and potential bike commuters with the community support they need to feel comfortable riding to work. "We hope it's an event that demonstrates how fun and easy it is to ride to work," she says.
Rides leave neighborhood outposts for Lafayette Square at 7:30 a.m. The locations are:
Broadmoor: Laurel Street Bakery (2701 S. Broad St.)
Bywater/Marigny/9th Ward: Shake Sugary Bakery (3600 St. Claude Ave.)
Gentilly: Daddy's Donuts (2051 Caton St.)
Lakeview: Lakeview Grocery (801 Harrison Ave.)
Mid-City: Bayou St. John at Orleans Avenue
Uptown: Whole Foods Market, Arabella Station (5600 Magazine St.)
There's a happy hour to end the day at The American Sector from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
It's free to participate in Bike to Work Day but Bike Easy is asking people to register ahead of time. Registered participants, whether in a group or alone, will be automatically entered to win a free bicycle. To register as a Ride Ranger, email Bike Easy here to coordinate logistics.
Bike Easy is also offering free community bicycle workshops for businesses and community organizations in anticipation of Bike to Work Day. The workshops will focus on bicycle safety and basic maintenance to make commuters feel more at ease trading four wheels in for two. Interested groups can email Bike Easy here for more information.
Olsen hopes that about 1,000 people will register to bike to work April 8, but she points out that not all of those people need to make biking to work a daily routine. "You don't have to make a commitment to biking to work everyday," she says. "It's just about being out there in the community with fellow cyclists."
She's also anticipating a decrease in traffic, since more people will be on bikes. "We hope people see that more biking is really good for everyone," she says.