This is my first of six blogs and it is on travelling and transportation more generally. I’d love to just rant endlessly about how every time I take a plane it seems to get delayed or cancelled for the most unusual reasons I’ve heard of. For example, in 2008 my flight to Toronto via Chicago was delayed over night because Air Force One had to close Chicago O’Hare and land George W. Bush due to bad weather on his route. And don’t even get me started on buses and their tendency to be hours late (no joke, HOURS on multiple occasions). Anyways, my main point on travelling is that it often depends on a system of tight coupling between buses, customs, connecting flights, and an array of other random things like weather and whether or not your luggage shows up. If one small part of this system falls out-of-place, chances are everything will be effected, making part of your trip hectic and stressful. However, if you go into travelling expecting something to go wrong, you prepare yourself and won’t be stressed out as much if something does go wrong, and if nothing goes wrong then you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I have traveled quite a bit so I have more stories to share, however, I am done talking about how stressful travelling can be, and I want to talk about a more serious topic regarding transportation in New Orleans specifically. I am talking about biking in the city. Biking around downtown is fine, but once you start taking side streets, the side walks disappears in spots and if you ride on the road you have to avoid potholes, and cars avoiding potholes. I had a few cars come much too close because they were swerving out of the way of potholes.
The real death trap though, is for any bikers that need to cross the St Claude bridge. Which is the only way to get from the Upper Ninth to the Lower Ninth on bike without taking over an hour detour north. When I was in New Orleans in May we went across that bridge in big vans and liked the bumps Pascal made the bridge do. But as I saw bikes go over it I wondered how scary it would be to bike across it. I even remember seeing signs that someone put up that said “be kind, share the road” and had a picture of a bike.
Anyways a couple of months go by and I’m back on this bridge, but this time with a bike. YIKES! Let me tell you, going over that bridge on a bike felt illegal. There is not enough room for a bike and a car to cross at once, let alone a van or a truck. So to go over you have to hold up traffic behind you at the middle funnel; I had at least 3 cars honk at me, and once I got through they sped past me. I quickly rode to the end of the bridge thankful to have my life and decided I wasn’t going on that bridge again. On the way home I rode my bike under the bridge, carried it up some stairs, walked it through the pedestrian walkway, and then down the stairs on the other end. I stated to think that maybe bikers were supposed to use this walkway too and only those who were in a hurry took the bridge. So I asked someone who has lived in the city for 20 years, works for Sierra Club and is an advocate for biking in the city (in fact he put up some of the signs I mentioned earlier). He said not only are bikers not supposed to use that walkway, but that it was actually illegal!!!
I was debating whether or not I wanted to include this post on travelling and transportation, but 3 days after I got home Tanya sent me an email on a police report about a man on a bike was hit and killed after being thrown from his bike on the St. Claude bridge.
I find it extremely scary that somebody died in the same spot I feared for my own life only weeks ago. This is obviously saying something about the bridge and I feel something has to be done. However, I don’t want to end any of my NOLA blogs on a downer. So I will end by encouraging everyone who is going to New Orleans to be safe on your bike (or be kind and share the road if your driving) and to watch out for free guided bike tours from Daryll Malek-Wiley. Or swing by his Sierra Club office and pick up a Lower Ninth Ward Self-Guided bike tour pamphlet (Darryl.Malek-Wiley@sierraclub.org).
Look for my 2nd blog “taste of the culture” later this week.
Bryan McGill (Env. Studies @ YorkU)