Bicycle safety has become a major issue in West Feliciana Parish after a former member of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council was killed in a biking accident there. The parish council came up with an ordinance designed to address the problem, but so far it has only stirred up a hornet’s nest.
The Advocate in a report on reaction to the ordinance notes that West Feliciana Parish has become a popular biking destination because of its rolling hills and rural landscape. However, supporters of the ordinance said safety is complicated because the parish’s roads are two lanes with no shoulders and deep ditches on each side.
The ordinance calls for cyclists to wear visibly fluorescent garments, have forward and rear-facing lights, ride single file within two feet of the right hand side of the road and ride in groups of no more than 10 riders.
Opponents say the ordinance is unnecessary because if motorists are traveling at a safe, practical speed there is plenty of room for safe passage within reason. An attorney who focuses largely on bicycle related cases said the ordinance is virtually unenforceable and violates state law.
Cyclists said police determined the driver involved in the councilman’s accident was at fault, and they believe the new law is an unnecessary crackdown on biking. One of their supporters said motorists should pay attention, put down their cell phones, slow down, enjoy the scenery and be patient.
A member of the parish council said he couldn’t understand why cyclists are so upset. He said they could still visit the parish and ride, but “when a car comes up behind you, you have no excuse, you’ve got to get over to the side of the road and let them pass.”
Supporters of the ordinance said people who visit West Feliciana just for biking shouldn’t get to dictate how residents use their own roads. Residents who attended a meeting on the ordinance said they are tired of having to accommodate bicycles on the road.
The situation in West Feliciana Parish is probably similar to sentiments expressed by motorists and cyclists in many other parishes. Conditions won’t get any better until both groups engage in some meaningful and reasonable education and dialogue.