Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bullet strikes bicyclist on training ride in eastern New Orleans

           A bicyclist on a morning training ride in eastern New Orleans was shot in the lower back with a small caliber bullet, Saturday, May 13, 2017.
          Christopher Weiss, 49, of the Carrollton area in New Orleans was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined the bullet did not hit any vital organs.  Because it came to rest very close to the spinal cord, doctors have decided not to remove it at this time.  Doctors say Weiss may experience some immediate leg mobility issues but that they hope the effects are temporary, Marc Weiss, Christopher's father, said in a telephone interview from his summer home in Massachusetts.
          The incident occurred as a paceline of about 10 riders in the Semi-Tough Cycling Club were heading west on Bullard Avenue, coming back from their regular Saturday ride to Fort Pike.  The shooting is being investigated by the New Orleans Police Department.  As of May 22, no suspects have been announced.
           In the weeks before the May 13 attack, bicyclists have reported two paint ball attacks while riding on Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans, both the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and the New Orleans Advocate have reported.
         The ugly incident was even reported in the UK in the Sun tabloid; another black mark against New Orleans,  a top rated urban cycling destination in the U.S.

A petition requesting more police protection for cyclists has been started

            The elder Weiss also said a petition has been started requesting the city increase police protection of cyclists.  The petition is directed at New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu and New Orleans Police Superintendent, Michael S. Harrison  and asks them to respond with more policing in the face of escalating violence toward cyclists.  The petition can be found at:
 http://www.thepetitionsite.com/242/605/185/nola-stop-the-escalating-war-on-cyclists/
          As of Monday, May 21, nearly 10,000 worldwide have signed the petition.  About 800 of the signers are from Louisiana.

Thousands bicycled through New Orleans one May day in 1986


        One Saturday morning in May, 31 years ago, thousands of bicyclists filled the streets and side streets near the New Orleans Superdome waiting for the Kodak Liberty Free Ride Festival (KLRF) to begin.  Around the nation about a half dozen cities were also having KLRF rides at the same time but New Orleans was the focus because of the free concert in the Dome.  It featured Huey Lewis and the News (a big draw in the early 1980s) and the Hooters and would be fed live to stadiums in cities across the nation with KLRF rides of their own.

          I was there in that sweaty throng on that muggy morn but my recollections of the event are less than reliable.  A veteran cyclist by that time, I don't even remember what I rode.  I do remember the ride was about 17-mile loop and crossed the CBD, the French Quarter and Lakeview.  I was soaked by a brief isolated rain shower in Lakeview.  Back at the Dome, the ride finished with a free box lunch.  The League of American Wheelman (LAW), a national non-profit that has promoted cycling since the late 19th century, was, in part, responsible for organizing the ride.  Locally, members of the Crescent City Cyclists served as volunteer ride captains.
             But other than those few fuzzy details, I really don't remember much about such a significant event promoting cycling in New Orleans.  The free food and concert were enough to yank my chain.  For once I didn't feel like asking a lot of questions.
              So when I got the invite to an afternoon cookout at the home of Marc Weiss, a co-founder of the Crescent City Cyclists and as president of the CCC at the time of the KLRF, worked with the LAW in pulling the event off, I was excited.  We could talk about old times and he could refresh my memories of the ride. (Marc left the city about 25 years ago to live "up north" and only recently bought a home in N.O. to spend winters in the Crescent City.)
               Well, having another eyewitness to quiz about the event didn't add much clarity to my own sketchy memories.  The scene of the two of us standing next to the grill talking has he flipped burgers was a lot like one scene in the movie "Blue Lagoon" where two teenagers, a boy and a girl, are marooned on a desert island.  After some time (their clothes had almost rotted off) they tried to amuse themselves by trying to remember the words to Christmas carols they learned as children.  They couldn't.  And we couldn't remember much about KLRF either.
                 So what I had hoped would be a detailed account of one of the more significant bicycle rides held in New Orleans is going to be not much more than documented proof I don't remember as much or as accurately as I think I do, a picture of the T-shirt commemorating the event and Marc smiling at the camera at his cookout last April (2017).


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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bike path on Mississippi River levee near New Orleans to grow by nearly three miles.

     

By Jack Curry Jr.

         Bicycle paths began to appear on the tops of Mississippi River levees in the metro New Orleans (LA) area in the late 1990s.  Responding to pressure from cyclists and others who pushed to replace the bumpy shell surface with a blacktop path that would promote bicycle commuting into the city from the upriver neighborhoods, parish governments, along with the Army Corps of Engineers worked together to make the paths happen.    Since then about 30 miles of blacktop connecting Audubon Park to the Bonnet Carre Spillway, has been built on the East Bank of the river.
          On the West Bank three sections have been built but they do not connect.  Starting down river, about four miles has been built from Merrill St upriver to Gretna.  There is a gap where there is no levee path from Gretna upriver to Klein St, about four miles.  About five miles have been built from Klein St. in Westwego to 12th. St in Bridge City.  There is no path through the former site of the Avondale Shipyard.   A 17-mile stretch has been built from what was the boundary of Avondale Shipyard up river to Elm St. in Hahnville in St. Charles Parish.
           Plans to close these gaps in the bike path and make it one continuous path from Algiers upriver to past Hahnville (and beyond) have been on parish master plans for years.  There are highways parallel to the levee at ground level but they are narrow, have no shoulders and carry heavy traffic, discouraging bicyclists who might be looking for a detour around the levee path gaps.
            Now it looks like the gap between Klein Rd. and Gretna may close a bit.
            The next sections to be done are; 1.6 miles from Klein St. in Westwego downriver to Douglass Lane in Marrero and a 1.2 mile section beginning at Douglass Lane ending at the Harvey Canal.  These two sections will extend a section of existing path at begins at 12th Street in Bridge City to about seven miles, according to a story that ran in the New Orleans Advocate, Sunday, May 7, 2017.
            The Klein St./Douglass Lane stretch could open by mid-2018 but the 1.2 mile stretch is still at least two years away, the paper reports.
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