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Cycling in the Crescent City: Rider rules for Carnival

A rack such as this "Where Ya' Rack" is an ideal place to lock your bike.

As Krewe du Vieux rolls this weekend and Carnival continues its raucous, revelrous ride through Super Bowl weekend on to Mardi Gras, now is an important time to keep bicycle theft prevention and safety in mind.

Don’t get me wrong. We should always be conscious of security and safety.

But, let’s face it. Throughout the next few weeks there will be a lot of parades, a lot of parties and a lot more people realizing that the best way to get through all the traffic and on to the next soiree (or home from the last one) is by bike.

There will also be a lot of drinking, a lot of forgetting and a lot of opportunistic lowlifes out there to take advantage of all the improperly and/or inadequately locked bikes during the “Greatest Free Show Diversion on Earth.”

With the above in mind, the following are a few recommended practices and warnings - none of which (and by that I mean all of them) are based on personal experience - when it comes to secure and safe cycling during Carnival:

1. Lock your bicycle properly and adequately to something in a well-lit high-traffic area that is immovable and is at least as strong as your lock(s).

As reported last Thursday by NOLA Defender, failure to do so increases the likelihood of this.

According to Josh Baer and Jonathan Kennedy, local bike locking experts, theft prevention vigilantes, and creators of the @BicycleAlert Twitter feed that allows victims to quickly spread the word about a bike theft incident, the bikes in the videos were most likely locked with only a flimsy cable or cheaply made chain, and “what many don’t realize is that a small pair of snips or bolt cutters can easily cut through [such low-grade locking apparatus].”

Generally speaking, the recommended “best practice” for bike locking is to use, at minimum, a U-lock through the frame, one of your wheels and whatever it is you’re locking to as well as a heavy-duty cable through the frame, the other wheel and your U-lock.

2. Do not leave your bike overnight or drink too much and forget where you locked it.

No matter how well you lock your bike, leaving it on the street for an extended period of time is asking for trouble.

If you do, you will not be able to enjoy whatever it is you get swept off to anyway, because you will be too worried about the safety of your faithful steed to enjoy yourself. Not to mention, it will be a pain to track down and/or get a ride back to in the morning.

So, avoid the worry and the hassle and keep it with you. In the event that you do ignore this warning, here's hoping that you followed recommended practice No. 1 and also can take solace in the fact that you did not ignore No. 3.

3. Do not drink too much and try to ride your bike, lest you crash at least twice in your attempts to get wherever you’re going.

Ignore this recommendation at your own peril.

All jokes aside, bicycle theft is a serious issue that cost New Orleanians thousands of dollars in personal property last year and, though I make light of it, riding while intoxicated is extremely dangerous and illegal.

While avoidance of the latter may fall completely within the realm of our control, the former, sadly, does not. The good news is we can significantly decrease our chances of becoming bike theft victims by locking our bikes as described in recommendation No. 1.

Should you or anyone you know, however, suffer the misfortune of a stolen bike in spite of all your best efforts this Carnival season, @BicycleAlert really is a great way to eliminate the market for bikes known to be stolen and has been successful in recovering missing bikes.

Because they know theft prevention is a heck of a lot easier than recovery, Josh and Jonathan have also started grading bikes on their security and posting the photos on @BicycleAlert, in addition to notifying the public and local bike shops of stolen bike incidents.

Have a happy, safe Carnival and in the immortal words of Le Krewe D’Etat’s Dictator, “Vivite ut Vehatis. Vehite ut Vivatis.”* It really is the best way to get around. Just remember where you left it.

(The Krewe d'Etat motto translates roughly as "Live to Ride, Ride to Live.")

M.T. Hinson writes about the cycling community in New Orleans for NolaVie.