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Letters to the Editor 

Cycling, from Both Sides
Your piece on "The Spokespeople" (Sept. 23) was well-researched and well-written. I was there when Dr. Helwick was killed by a speeding car on Lakeshore Drive, and I was there when his wife started the New Orleans Regional Bicycling Awareness Committee. I cannot count the number of times I've narrowly escaped being "doored."

Recent attempts at legislating cyclists off the public roads have run the gamut from downright scary to absolutely ludicrous, but have served to bring together the diverse cycling community behind a common cause. Although there are certainly some cyclists who are not also motorists, the vast majority of riders spend just as much time in their cars as anyone else. Unlike the motorists and politicians who rarely or never ride bicycles, only the "motoring cyclists" truly see the issues from both sides.

Now, if we could just get someone to listen to us, we might be able to make things better for everybody.

--Randall Legeai
New Orleans Bicycle Club

 

A German Lesson
As a visitor to New Orleans, one of the first things I did upon my arrival was get a used bike, something that gives me the freedom to discover this wonderful city just the way I like it. I come from a university city in the very southwest of Germany called Freiburg, where bicycles are the No. 1 means of transportation. Students, workers, bankers, lawyers, and even our mayor use bikes to go to work or get around town. We do have bicycle lanes along all major roads, and bicycles often have priority to cars. There has been a lot done for the safety of bicyclists in the last two decades, and nationwide organizations of cyclists do have political influence, though still not as much as the automobile lobby. Although New Orleans is still far away from being a bicyclist's paradise, I'd like to encourage all the activists mentioned in your article to fight for improvements. Cities become so much more attractive when there are less cars and more space for people (and bicycles).

--Florina Hirt



Going Dutch
I am a former 23-year resident of New Orleans, but I moved away four years ago and now live in Heemstede/ Haarlem. It is close to the North Sea coast and about 20 minutes west of Amsterdam by train.

The Netherlands is known here in Europe as biking country -- there are 2.5 bikes per person in Holland, and we have 15 million people. Bikers have their own lanes, stop lights and traffic signs. There is an ongoing bike-training program in our schools. It was almost a shock to see older people whizzing by on bikes. What agility, balance and strength they have as a result of a life riding bikes. I marvel as mothers or fathers support a child in the front child's seat on the handles and another on the back fender, with the grocery shopping bags hanging of the back fenders. Still, they manage to guide the third child biking beside them on the inside lane.

What separates the biking experience of the Netherlands with other European countries is urban planning committed to including bikes as a viable form of transportation. Like New Orleans, the Netherlands is below sea level, has limited land, and has had to reclaim land from the sea and inland lakes. Dutch urban planning traditionally has been based on how to effectively provide all the necessities of life to people in a compact area. Schools, shopping, parks and hospitals are arranged so people can either walk, bike, or take a bus or train.

I also have to say that more and more people here are buying larger autos like SUVs. I see where the auto is making inroads into the Dutch culture of urban biking. However, I wanted to say that I liked your article, and I hope to read about the progress of biking in New Orleans in Gambit Weekly. It would be a wonderful city for biking.

--Carole Dahlem


Cycling a "Two-Way Street"
I read with interest the goals of the local bicycle groups ("The Spokespeople," Sept 23). The death of the two men cited was tragic. I have seen the same type of accident involving two cars; however, in those cases, there were no deaths. I agree that most American cities could be more bicycle-friendly.

In many parts of Europe, bicycles are one of the most used methods of transportation. The Europeans cyclists obey the traffic laws. I live in the French Quarter and have seen that most cyclists have no regard for stop signs or traffic lights, riding the wrong way on the streets and riding on the sidewalks. I have noticed that very few bicycles have a light on the front or rear for night riding. Some do not have reflectors, except those attached to the wheel spokes.

New Orleans has some of the most inconsiderate drivers with regards to cyclists, pedestrians and traffic laws. I believe that if cyclists want more respect from drivers and pedestrians, they should be more respectful of the laws, drivers and pedestrians. This is a "two-way street." Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to respect each other's rights.

--Dayne Michell



Being Bicycle-Friendly

The article on bicycle activists ("The Spokespeople," Sept. 23) overlooked the fact that the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is now soliciting bids for bicycle racks for the front of all its buses, similar to Jefferson Parish buses.

It took over three years of lobbying the RTA before they finally took action to assemble the funds to equip the entire fleet with a two-bike rack. However, a custom-designed rack will be necessary for the new Canal streetcars, unless bicycles are permitted in the rear of those streetcars. A coordinated campaign by all the bicycle activists will probably be needed to get funds for the streetcar installations.

Another ongoing project is getting bicycle racks in the French Quarter, along with the riverfront floodwall from St. Peter Street to Esplanade Avenue. Several high-visibility locations in the French Market area have been proposed.

--James Guilbeaua
Transportation Chair, Sierra Club
New Orleans Group, Delta Chapter

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