Bicycling advocates, both professional and just interested folks, recently held a forum to discuss and plan what they would like the future of bicycling in New Orleans to be like. Of the four dozen or so advocates attending the meeting--one event in "NOLA Bike to Work Week" presented by Entergy, some were urban planners who contribute to the design and implementation of bicycling facilities, others were paid heads of cycling advocacy groups and some were volunteeers in those groups. There were a sprinkling of city government representatives. But many sitting on the hard plastic chairs behind folding tables topped with maps, pens and colored markers, in the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center near Treme, had no skin in the urban planning game other than just wanting to contribute their say about the cycling life in the Crescent City now.
Like Dean Gray. Speaking for stolenbikesnola, a Facebook site dedicated to combating the recent rash of bicycle thefts in the French Quarter, Gray rose to speak late in the meeting to encourage those who have had their bikes stolen to file a report with the police.
"The police will not press charges if there is no police report, even if the bicycle is recovered," Gray said. Posting pictures of stolen bikes on Facebook, a social medial site, has led to the recovery of some of the bikes, but no charges can be filed against an alleged thief if the bike is not reported stolen, he said.
Filling out a report requires a visit to the district police station in the district the bike is stolen but the report is easy to fill out and the officers in the Eight District, where most of the thefts are now occurring, are very helpful, Gray said.
Grey, who said he became interested in the issue when thieves stole a bike he gave to his girlfriend, strongly advised riders not to rely on cable locks, which can easily be cut with bolt cutters, to prevent bicycle theft. Instead use stronger, more resistant to cutting and more expensive, "U" locks. Also when locking a bicycle, carefully inspect what you are locking it to. To steal bikes in New Orleans, thieves have cut metal sign posts, like the metal posts with parking regulation signs, from their concrete bases then reinserted the posts into the ground using easy to remove PVC pipe sleeves. Gray said he found six posts in the French Quarter that have been altered in this way.
The meeting opened with a brief but wide-ranging panel discussion of where bicycling is now in New Orleans and where it should go. The group then broke up into smaller discussion groups which presented the fruits of their discussions at the end of the evening on big sheets if butcher paper taped to the wall.
The panelists were Eric Griggs, M.D., Rachel Heiligman of Ride New Orleans, Jennifer Ruley, with the Louisiana Public Health Institute and Charlie Thomas, from Bike Law Louisiana. The panel moderator was Sophie Harris of the Friends of Lafitte Corridor.
The welcome was given by Dan Favre and Jamie Wine. Favre, on the job as BikeEasy's new executive director for a whole seven days, told the group that while much had been done, there "is a long way to go."
Speakers touted the nearly 100 miles of bicycle routes now in New Orleans. Charlie Thomas, a lawyer who defends cyclists in court told the group two cautionary tales of what cyclists might expect when seeking a court remedy. (What Thomas said will be the subject of a future post.)