Fatal accidents prompt cyclists to find alternate routes along Perkins Road
Some cyclists are using routes through neighborhoods on either side of Perkins Road in Baton Rouge to avoid the busy street that so far this year has seen the deaths of two people on bicycles and the serious injury of a third cyclist.
Daniel Morris, 31, a freelance video editor, didn’t own a car the night he and friend Nathan Crowson, 30, a bicycle shop mechanic who’d worked for WAFB-TV in news production, were run down from the rear on Perkins Road near Quail Run Drive in January.
Crowson, a bicycle commuter in Baton Rouge for years, didn’t own a car, either, Morris said. Crowson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Morris’ medical bills are approaching $500,000. He and his girlfriend had to buy a car so Morris could make doctors’ appointments and go to physical therapy.
Police booked Joseph Branch, 28, with vehicular homicide, second-offense DWI, first-degree vehicular negligent injury and reckless operation of a vehicle in the collision with the two cyclists.
Morris said he’ll ride a bicycle again for exercise and short trips but won’t travel Perkins Road again on a bicycle.
“I don’t think I could after what happened,” he said. “When I was hit, I was following the traffic laws. I had a right to be there. But there should be bicycle lanes on Perkins Road. Cyclists pay taxes like everyone else.”
Mark Robinson, 31, a Ph.D. student in geography, commutes daily to LSU from Maxine Drive south of Kenilworth Parkway.
“Some people who work at Capitol Cyclery told me about a route through Pollard Estates and Ford’s Pasture to Glasgow,” he said.
From Glasgow, Robinson travels to White Haven to Stanford Oaks to Stanford Avenue to the bike trail at University Lake.
Mystery mowers keep a path for cyclists and walkers cut through private land that’s part of old Ford’s Pasture.
The pasture path connects North Pointer Court in Pollard Estates to Sweetbriar Street which connects to Glasgow.
“I’ve seen some young guys mowing the path,” Robinson said. “Mostly, I see people walking dogs.”
Before he learned of the Pollard/Ford’s Pasture route, Robinson would take “to the sidewalk on Perkins to avoid the traffic, then cut through Southdowns toward campus,” he said.
The Ford’s Pasture path is “much more pleasant,” he said. “If it’s been raining, I might avoid the pasture. It’s a little shorter on Perkins but as far as peace of mind goes, I don’t want to deal with Perkins.”
“If I go down Highland Road, it’s just five miles” from his house to LSU, “but Highland’s worse than Perkins Road,” Robinson said.
A hike/bike path along Bayou Duplantier from Kenilworth to Stanford so cyclists and pedestrians could avoid Highland Road has been talked about for years.
“I understand it’s met opposition from some residents,” Robinson said. “I’m told they think a bicycle path would increase crime in their neighborhoods.”
Mark Martin, a bicycle commuter and founder of Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets (BRASS), is promulgating routes cyclists have come up with to avoid Perkins Road.
One of the routes starts southeast of Acadian Thruway, north of Perkins Road, and follows Balis to Rabey, crosses College Drive, and connects with Bennington in Concord Estates, Potomac and Moss Side Lane which joins Perkins Road at the light on Quail Drive.
Cyclists have to cross Perkins to Pennington Biomedical’s sidewalk and parking lots to get to Kenilworth or ride in the street on Perkins to One Perkins Place (Dijon) and the relatively quiet streets next to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and on to Essen Lane.
Cyclists can take narrow Anselmo Lane, which lacks paved shoulders, to Bluebonnet Boulevard.
Later this year, bids will be let on BREC’s Ward’s Creek bicycle path from Siegen Lane to Bluebonnet, said Joe Popadic, a landscape architect with BREC.
The Ward’s Creek path could be finished by the summer of 2013, Popadic said.
“The path will link Siegen Lane with Mall of Louisiana through ‘The Grove,’ a development east of the mall,” he said. “Eventually, the path would connect to paths on Baton Rouge General’s campus on Bluebonnet.”
“Much of Baton Rouge is fairly easy to ride on a bicycle using existing streets,” Martin said. “The trouble is there are certain routes for which there are no viable options, and we are forced to ride in heavy, relatively high-speed traffic.
“Much of what we need for safer bicycling consists of short, comparatively inexpensive connectors between neighborhoods,” Martin said.
“Before I was hit, (a bicycle) was transportation,” Morris said. “It was how I got around. This is not a culture that understands that. You see the size of these trucks kids drive right after they get their licenses.”
BRASS’ suggested neighborhood route south of Perkins Road is the one Robinson takes now.
Robinson comes up Kenilworth Parkway, which has designated bicycle lanes, crosses Pennington Biomedical’s campus to Quail Run, goes through Concord Estates to the unofficial path across the back of Ford’s Pasture to Sweetbriar Street and connects with Glasgow which takes him to Hyacinth Avenue or White Haven.
The Department of Public Works is in the process of letting bids to close drainage ditches on either side of Hyacinth Street and make bicycle paths from Stanford Avenue to Glasgow. Those paths should be finished next year, said Bryan Harmon, DPW’s assistant director.