Bike Month aims to raise the profile for the city’s two-wheeled community
By Jeremy HarperPosted Apr 3, 2013
Baton Rouge’s bicycle community, endlessly pushing for more visibility amid an ocean of largely indifferent motorists, will elbow its way into the spotlight this month with a series of bike-themed events across the city.
The event officially kicked off on March 27 when Mayor-President Kip Holden and the Metro Council designated April as Bike Month in Baton Rouge. National Bike Month usually takes place in May, but local bike enthusiasts hoping to avoid the summer heat have adopted April as their month to celebrate cycling.
The area events will reach their peak April 13-14 with the 2013 Velo Louisiane Bicycle Festival, a series of bike-themed events that will take place across the city, often in conjunction with other cultural happenings.
Mayor-President Kip Holden and his wife, Lois, will lead a Saturday morning community ride on April 13 as part of the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative. Holden leads the ride annually but this year’s event will connect the Bike Day festivities to Better Block BR, which will be taking place on Government Street that same weekend.
The Better Blocks initiative is designed to give area residents and policy makers a glimpse into what the evolving corridor could become with a little planning and investment, and bicycles will play a major role in the demonstration. A coalition of public and private groups will transform two mid-city blocks of Government Street into an urban area with bike lanes, outdoor cafes and green spaces.
It’s one of several initiatives in the works – including new bike trails and greenways – designed to make it easier for bicycles to travel the city. Gilles Morin, advance planner for the Baton Rouge City-Parish Planning Commission, said Bike Month will help push health and fitness and increase awareness of Baton Rouge’s biking possibilities.
“We want to show people that we can actually bike and be safe in this city,” Morin said “It is possible. Hopefully it will catch on.”
Morin said the city-parish has secured a grant through the state Department of Transportation and Development to extend the levee bike path from BREC’s Farr Park Equestrian Center to Ben Hur Road. He said that path is important because it’s approaching the L’Auberge Casino property.
“We’re almost to the parish line, and that’s pretty huge,” he said.
Other bike-friendly projects in the works include the Downtown Greenway, 2.75 miles of networked multi-use paths designed to guide cyclists and pedestrians through the downtown area. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has selected the project for planning assistance through the “Greening America’s Capitals” project – an annual commitment from the government agency to assist in designing environmentally friendly projects proposed by capital cities across the country.
The Greenway would extend the bike path on Dalrymple and link, among many locations, LSU to BRCC, BREC’s Memorial Stadium to City Park, and several other local parks to historically significant communities like Spanish Town.
The area cycling community continues to push, often unsuccessfully, for safer routes across the city away from major traffic corridors. Bicycling in many areas of Baton Rouge, particularly heading east and west cross the city, can often be a dangerous endeavor.
January 2012, 30-year-old Nathaniel Crowson was killed while riding his bicycle on Perkins Road. Crowson and a friend were riding east on Perkins at night when a man, who police say was drunk, struck them from behind and ran over them, according to police reports. That September, Jason Stablier, 27, died after he was struck by an SUV on Perkins Road near Congress Boulevard. Last month, 49-year-old Frank Bercegeay of Prairieville was found in a ditch on the side of Black Bayou Road in Ascension Parish. Police said he was struck and killed by a vehicle, whose driver fled the scene.
Organizers of the April activities are hoping they can make the roadways a little safer for cyclists.
“We’re trying to bring awareness to the lack of infrastructure in Baton Rouge for bicyclists and the need for everyone to recognize to share the road and respect bicycles in the road,” said Cory Beldon, a local engineer who is organizing Bike to Work Week, set for April 15-19.
Beldon said about 30-40 riders turned out for last year’s event, the first official local event, but interest in biking to work appears on the rise in 2013.
“It was pretty small,” Beldon said. “This year it’s definitely growing.”
Throughout the week cyclists can participate in morning rides leaving from Goodwood Park at 7 a.m. and City Park at 7:30 a.m., and heading downtown. Another group will leave daily from downtown and head to LSU.
Zeeland Street Market and Hotel Indigo will offer free breakfast for participating riders. Organizers will also have a stand in town square every morning where riders can pick up food and drinks and register for prizes. Cyclists who stop by the stand and post that they are biking to work on Twitter or Facebook will be entered in a drawing for a number of prizes. The Downtown YMCA will provide riders a place to shower before heading into the office during Bike to Work Week.
Mark these April Bike Month dates and events on your calendar:
Sunday, April 7
Velo des Artes Public Art Bicycle Ride
Bike Baton Rouge in partnership with the Greater Baton Rouge Area Arts Council is hosting a public ride and tour of art in the downtown area starting at 9:30 a.m. April 7. The ride ride will begin at the Louisiana State Museum downtown and make stops at the State Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion and Galvez Plaza. From there riders will head to Old South Baton Rouge via BREC’s Interstate Park to peruse public art. The ride will then head to City Park for a rest stop then wind around the lakes, through Brooks Park, Beauregard Town and back to Town Square for FestForAll.
Saturday, April 13
Mayor’s Bike Ride
Mayor-President Kip Holden and his wife Lois will lead the annual Mayor’s Family Bike Ride starting in the B’nai Israel Parking Lot, 3354 Kleinert Ave. from 9-11:30 a.m. The ride will connect the Bike Day festivities to Better Block BR on Government Street.
Bricks & Bombs, 449 Hearthstone, is hosting an annual fundraiser featuring a variety of bike-themed art from 7-9 p.m.
Sunday, April 14
Velo Louisiane Bicycle Festival
The Velo Louisiane Bicycle Festival runs all day on Sunday, April 14 and features a number of bike-related events centered around North Boulevard Town Square. From noon to 3 p.m. Town Square will feature music, games, arts and crafts, vintage bike display and silent films of bicycles. A kids bike parade is set for 5 p.m. For a detailed list of events, visit brsafestreets.org.
Bike to Work Week
The Baton Rouge Bike to Work Week will feature morning rides from during the week of April 15-19. Throughout the week cyclists can participate in morning rides leaving from Goodwood Park at 7 a.m. and City Park at 7:30 a.m., and heading downtown. Another group will leave daily from downtown and head to LSU.