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 said he felt a sharp pain in his back and rolled to a stop to investigate.  Shortly after that he was taken to a hospital where doctors determined the small caliber bullet  (the wound was initially thought to be caused by a pellet) 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 coming back from their regular Saturday ride to Fort Pike, headed west on Bullard Avenue.  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:
          As of Monday, May 21, nearly 10,000 worldwide have signed the petition.  About 800 of the signers are from Louisiana.

Thousands of bicyclists take to the streets of New Orleans in 1986

             New Orleans became the center of the recreational cycling universe for one day, May 18, 1986, when thousands of bicyclists took to the streets on a muggy Saturday for the Kodak Liberty Ride Festival (KLRF).  The non-competitive ride began with a massed start--riders packed curb to curb on streets and side streets near the Louisiana Superdome.  From there it wound slowly through the city following a 17-mile loop route (with stops) through the CBD, the French Quarter out to Lake Pontchartrain and back to the Louisiana Superdome.
            At the Superdome, finishers were treated to box lunches on the grounds before entering the Dome for a concert featuring Huey Lewis and the News (a big draw in the early 1980s) the Hooters, Daryl Hall and John Oates and Crescent City native sons, the Neville Brothers.

          KLRF rides were held in about a hundred other cities in the U.S. at the same time.  The concert in the Louisiana Superdome, named "America Rocks" was televised via satellite to some of the other cities with KLRF rides of their own.  One purpose of the event was to raise $5 million to restore the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  Admission to the event was $26 but volunteers in New Orleans had their fees waived and received yellow T-shirts with "Official" printed on the back.  The standard KLRF T-shirt was white.  Tickets at the other KLFR events were $21.
            I think local print and television media ignored the event despite its significance to the cycling in the city which at the time had very few cycling specific facilities:  The Jefferson Davis Parkway Path, the St. Anthony Path, the incomplete path along Lake Pontchartrain in Jefferson Parish and bike lanes in Audubon Park.  And a signed bike route using mostly the back streets of Uptown.
           A committed cyclist with 16 years in the saddle to my credit, I was there in that sweaty throng of happy, smiling but mostly inexperienced cyclists.  Would not have missed it for anything.   But my recollections of the event are less than reliable.  I don't even remember what bike I rode.  Slides I shot that day (remember film cameras?) were ruined after soaking in the toxic marinate of post Hurricane Katrina (2005) floodwaters, but this is an excuse I use a lot when I try to prove my attendance at an event I may or may not have attended.  My only proof I was there is the yellow KLRF T-shirt pictured above.  (There must have been many more shirts to give out than there were riders because in the summer of 1986, KLRF T-shirts seemed to be a favorite clothing choice of the down and out living on the streets and in shelters of the city.)
           (Many consider the ride a flop.  The turnout nationally was much smaller than expected; less than 100 riders showed up at the KLRF in Orlando, FL.  Some complained the event was too expensive for families.  The quality of the satellite transmission of the concert in the Superdome had both poor sound and poor video prompting many to leave their local events early.)
           I do remember my clothes were dampened by a brief isolated rain shower in Lakeview and that The League of American Wheelman (LAW) now named Bicycle USA, 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 Uptown home of Marc Weiss, a co-founder of the Crescent City Cyclists, I was excited.  As president of the CCC at the time of the KLRF, Marc worked with the LAW in pulling the event off.  We could have some adult drinks and talk about old times.  He would refresh my memories of the ride and fill me in on the administrative details I had been oblivious to.   (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 not remembering as 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 April 2017 backyard cookout.


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.