There is something special about biking around town that makes you feel more connected to the city than if you were commuting in a car. I bike to work most days and to anyone new in town, my immediate question is, “Did you buy a bike yet?”
Here in New Orleans a bike equals freedom. No parking, no paying for gas and minimal costs for repairs means this is an economical way to get around town. Aside from the health benefits of getting a workout it is also a fun way to get to know the city in a more intimate way. I have a car but my preferred method of transportation is my mountain bike. I love varying my route to work and serendipitously stumbling upon an interesting sculpture in someone’s front yard or noticing a new sandwich shop for the first time.
That said, if you aren’t sightseeing and just need to get somewhere fast, knowing which streets to take is helpful, especially if you prefer a bump-free ride. When heading from the University area to the Garden District, try taking smoother streets such as Dryades, Carondelet, or Laurel. Camp is good, but unless you have a bike with suspension, it is a bumpy ride. Avoid riding down busy streets such as St. Charles Avenue and even Prytania, and look for streets thoroughfares with bike lanes such as Carrollton Avenue.
Summer N., sales and marketing manager of the Creole Cottage, is a new bike enthusiast who is slowly learning how to reap the benefits of two wheels. Her reasons for starting were simple. “I needed to get some exercise in. I am what you call the ‘lazy’ workout person. I would drive to Audubon to run, but at times when I didn’t feel like driving that way, I would skip out on a workout. Biking to work forces me to get some element of daily exercise in.” She opted for a cruiser for her first bicycle but plans on upgrading to a hybrid once she gets the hang of it.
While her main safety concerns are crossing busy intersections, she also worries about her ride getting stolen, which is something that worries many pedaling commuters. Parking in a heavy foot traffic area and investing in a quality lock are two ways to squelch this fear. Another fear for many cyclists is getting hit by a car. Taking less-traveled side streets is a smart choice, and always wear reflective clothing and make sure your bike is well lit at night.
Biking is really enjoyable and New Orleans is the perfect city to get around, especially when the weather is nice. As long as you have a solid plan in place and aren’t afraid of a little sweat you’re in for a nice ride.
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.