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Lafayette adjusts to cycling push

Lafayette's Joshuah Ordoyne rides his bike home down West Lewis Street. Ordoyne doesn't own a car, so he relies heavily on his bike for transportation.

Bruce Brown

Claudia B. Laws/

Now that Lafayette has a bicycle lane on Johnston Street, will it help improve safety for cyclists?

If they're paying attention, yes.

If motorists are paying attention, it would help even more.

"I think it's a good thing," said local businessman Roy Landry, an experienced cycling enthusiast who rides several times a week in the surrounding area but has avoided in-town riding in Lafayette.

"I'm looking forward to trying it. I think it can be safe. The more people use it, the safer it will be."

That would be a switch for Landry, who said "99.9 percent" of his riding is out of town.

"I avoid Lafayette," he said. "I'll start on the outskirts and go further out."

The new lane was part of recent improvements to Johnston, providing passage from the University of Louisiana to Ridge Road down one of the busiest streets in town.

"Casual cyclists do not know they're supposed to be part of traffic, and are supposed to obey traffic laws," said Carol Edwards, an information technology operations manager in UL's computing support services.

"They need to know how to ride properly and how to avoid an accident," she added. "You don't steer a bicycle, you lean with it. Most people don't think. They just get on the bike and go."

"There's a difference between cyclists and bike riders," Landry said. "There are people who jump on and ride all over the roads. You have to obey rules, stop for stop signs and red lights."

Both Edwards and Landry noted that intersections - especially at College Drive and at Guilbeau Road-Camellia Boulevard - remain the most hazardous points in the bike lane on Johnston Street.

"The lane ends at those points," Edwards said. "Where are you supposed to go there? People don't know what they're supposed to do, especially if they're turning left."

"The most dangerous places are the intersections," Landry said, "because at intersections cars can turn right in front of you. You should be able to ride through the intersection on a green light. You have to listen and watch for traffic. You can hear if a car slows down as it comes up behind you.

"A few years back, before they had the bike path, I rode on Johnston from the mall to UL, and three cars turned in front of me."

"Might may not be right, but it will kill you," Edwards said. "The lane is not a bad idea, but it will depend on how you use it."

Edwards also pointed out that riders need to be aware of debris on the side of the road and the hazards that can cause, as well as knowing proper hand signals and the danger of wearing headphones and thus blocking out traffic noise.

"Naturally," she added, "it's stupidity if you're not wearing a helmet. And you need gloves, not only while riding, but they can cushion a fall. And if you ride at night, you should have lights on front and back of the bike."

Bicycle riding can be both a mode of transportation and an enjoyable way to exercise. The bicycle path on Johnston can make that practice safer, but riders and drivers need to do their part.

Originally published July 2, 2005

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