Hundreds of cyclists show for Forward Lafayette ride

by Christiaan Mader

The awareness ride will it make hard for the mayor-president to overlook popular support for the bike lanes along West Bayou Parkway.

Photo by Robin May

Thursday evening, more than 300 bikes and human-powered transportation machines took to the Mickey Shunick Memorial Bike Loop, braving the heat and demonstrating a vision in the extreme of a more bikeable Lafayette. To be sure, the likelihood that we will ever see so many bikes using these lanes at such density on a daily basis is slim, but it does demonstrate that even in a city not yet fully culturally or infrastructurally equipped to mature as a bike culture, there can be multi-modal harmony on the streets.

Forward Lafayette organizer Mark Declouet says that the turnout was beyond early expectations. He credits the larger turnout to awareness created by the controversy over extant bike lanes on West Bayou Parkway, noting the kerfuffle has served to bring even more attention to Lafayette’s as yet not fully utilized bike infrastructure. He reports that in the two weeks since residents in the affluent neighborhood submitted a petition to Mayor-President Joel Robideaux requesting that the city pay to remove bike lanes added as part of the Comprehensive Plan last year, more cyclists have been reported along the neighborhood thoroughfare.

View Robin May's photo gallery from Thursday's ride through Lafayette here.

Given the tension between the camps, you would expect some hostility to confront the riders as they glided along the memorial bike ride, but Declouet says that the event was a convivial parade met with “waves and honks” along the eight-mile loop.

The fate of the bike lanes along West Bayou is still up to Robideaux, who will reportedly decide the issue over the summer. Declouet reports that he met with Robideaux this morning, delivering him a petition with more than 2,400 signatures.

The magnitude of support demonstrated by the number of signatures is impressive, considering Forward Lafayette managed to gather them in two hot summer weeks. Complete streets — city streets that accommodate multi-modal traffic like bikes and pedestrians — and road diets account for dramatic reductions in accidents, according to figures by the Federal Highway Administration. Given the outpour of support and studies supporting their cause, it should be difficult for Robideaux to ignore the case made by Declouet. It is, after all, one that has been successful in cities across America in the past few decades.

“I think we have the momentum where we want it to be,” says Declouet.