Hundreds take part in second annual NOLA Bike to Work Day

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Cyclists Andrew Polmer, left, and Richard Hecht chat on Duncan Plaza while taking part in Bike to Work Day on Tuesday. Area residents were encouraged to ride their bikes to work and a rally was held on Duncan Plaza to support the event.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Cyclists Andrew Polmer, left, and Richard Hecht chat on Duncan Plaza while taking part in Bike to Work Day on Tuesday. Area residents were encouraged to ride their bikes to work and a rally was held on Duncan Plaza to support the event.

‘It’s a no-brainer, and it’s fun’

Across the city on Tuesday, hundreds of people traded in their cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles for a casual bicycle ride to work.

The second annual NOLA Bike to Work Day was held as part of an initiative to continue to raise awareness about the benefits of bicycling.

At several points around the city, groups of cyclists met up to ride to their jobs using pedal power rather than horsepower.

Jamie Wine, executive director of Bike Easy, a local bicycle advocacy group, said about 500 people preregistered for Bike to Work Day. He estimated that another 200 or so people joined in on the action on Tuesday.

Karen Crayton was one of the participants who took part in Bike to Work Day. She met up with other participants who stopped to mingle with one another in Duncan Plaza across from City Hall.

Crayton said the city’s recent efforts to increase the miles of bicycle lanes on streets appears to not only be increasing the number of people trading in two wheels for four, but also is making vehicles more aware of cyclists.

“The cars are starting to recognize us,” Crayton said.

Before Hurricane Katrina, there were about 11 miles of bicycle paths in New Orleans. Today there are more than 50 miles of bicycle lanes, with more planned or under construction. Much of that work is being funded by a grant from Entergy Corp.

Kathryn Parker, assistant director of Tulane University’s Prevention Research Center, completed two studies that found that daily cycling more than tripled on South Carrollton Avenue following the addition of a 1-mile stretch of bike lane on the roadway, up from 79 daily riders to 257 daily riders.

Another study Parker did that focused on St. Claude Avenue’s bicycle usage found that a new bike lane on that road led to a 57 percent increase in the average number of cyclists a day.

City Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, who on Tuesday rode her bicycle from her Algiers home to her office at City Hall, said trends such as those only serve as evidence that an increased interest in cycling is a “trend that won’t go away.”

“When people realize we’re in a flat city, it’s a no-brainer,” Palmer said. “And it’s fun.”