Attic Salt for Sept. 23, 2012

Now, there are two ghost bicycles on Perkins Road.

Some Baton Rouge cyclists place white bicycles hung with flowers in places where riders have been killed in collisions with cars.

The first ghost bicycle is on the south side of Perkins Road near Quail Run Drive. It marks the spot where a driver, alleged to have been drinking, struck and killed cyclist Nathan Crowson, 30.

Crowson and a friend, Daniel Morris, 31, were riding their bicycles to the BREC park at Kenilworth Boulevard and Perkins when a man identified by police as Joseph Branch, 28, hit them from behind, killing Crowson and crippling Morris. Morris’ medical bills are nearing $500,000, Morris said.

The second ghost bike is near the intersection of Congress Boulevard and Perkins Road where cyclist Jason Michael Stablier, 27, was killed earlier this month.

The driver wasn’t suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Nor was the driver arrested or ticketed in what is a continuing investigation, police said.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter who caused the accident. On streets not designed to accommodate both cyclists and motorists, these collisions will continue and bicyclists will die until Perkins Road becomes a corridor of ghost bicycles.

When cars collide on Baton Rouge’s clogged streets, the motorists are on their cell phones calling for help before the cars stop rocking.

When the collision is between a car and a bicycle, the bicycle rider is lucky if all he gets are a few weeks in traction.

People who both ride bicycles and drive cars in Baton Rouge see traffic from two perspectives.

Most days, I drive to work. I occasionally ride a bicycle to work because it suits me and because it allows me to write about cycling firsthand.

Perkins Road, though wide and new for much of its length, is one of the most dangerous streets for bicyclists in Baton Rouge.

Crowson, Morris and Stablier, as hard as it is for most Baton Rougeans to believe, didn’t own cars. Morris now must have a car to get to doctors’ appointments and rehabilitation.

When Morris talks about the night his friend was killed and the weeks following, he needs his girlfriend’s help to piece the story together.

Morris, who discourages riding on Perkins Road, reminds people who think cyclists shouldn’t be on the road that cyclists pay taxes, too, and expect safe streets to ride on, same as motorists.

The city can’t ban cyclists from Perkins Road (though it should) because the law gives cyclists the same rights and responsibilities as motorists.

There are worthless, narrow, intermittent sidewalks along Perkins Road. I see more cyclists on those sidewalks than pedestrians.

Baton Rouge misses opportunity after opportunity to put hike/bike paths along busy streets, paths that would take bicyclists out of the street.

We’d rather set the national record for ghost bikes.