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The HUB: Bikers call for zero tolerance for bike fatalities

Editor's Note: New Orleans is getting more bike lanes. And it's no coincidence. Folks here care about bikes, talk about bikes and are definitely riding bikes. THE HUB is a new collaborative space for bike enthusiasts of every type -- from racers to tricksters, explorers to commuters. Each month, a HUB contributor will take the mic and talk bike. Here you'll get information on events, new stylings, local biker profiles, and commentary on the two-wheel life.

Today, we hear from Marin Tockman about the Vision Zero policy.

  Memorial for bicyclist killed by truck, Elysian Fields & St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans.


Memorial for bicyclist killed by a truck at Elysian Fields and St. Claude avenues, New Orleans.

If I made a dollar for every traffic violation commited daily by people riding bicycles, walking and driving, I would become a seriously rich lady. In reality though, our seemingly benign traffic misdemeanors (speeding ahead of the traffic limit, failing to use our blinkers, fully stopping at stop signs, or yielding to one another) blur into our daily comings and goings.

Unfortunately, in the last year alone, some of those "benign" moments have turned fatal, including the death of 6-year-old Shaud Wilson, who was struck by a speeding driver while on his way to school on Paris Avenue; 36-year-old Frank Guinn, who was struck and killed by a suspended driver while training for an Ironman competition; 52-year-old Phillip “Geric” Geck, who was struck and killed by the operator of a commercial tractor-trailer truck that failed to signal while turning on St. Claude Avenue; and, most recently, a male pedestrian who was struck and killed on Elysian Fields.

These individuals, now lost to our community, matter. In one fast moment their lives were taken – and we as citizens need to stop and ask why and how it happened. Is it our behavior on the streets? Are our roads designed safely for us to use? Are the people we elect and hire for jobs like maintaining and improving our safety on our streets thinking about how we use them?

It’s time that New Orleans made a firm commitment to eliminating preventable tragedies on city streets. We need to look Screen shot 2014-08-25 at 12.43.13 PMat our how our city works holistically, and instead of patching pot holes in the system, start investing in what it takes to improve and save lives.

There is data from other cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco -- all of which are trying to tackle these same issues -- that show that investing in a policy that calls for an all-out reduction to zero needless traffic-related injuries and deaths can make a difference in changing the safety on city streets.  Called Vision Zero, it was created 15 years ago in Sweden and empowers communities to invest real tax dollars in engineering projects, better enforcement policies regarding traffic violence and deaths, and education and outreach in the community that prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of the citizens on urban streets.

So, when can this happen here in New Orleans?  Soon, we hope. Local bicycle advocacy organization Bike Easy is calling for a Vision Zero policy to be enacted by the New Orleans mayor and City Council.

Help us stand up together as community members, neighbors and hopeful citizens across New Orleans in marindemanding a Vision Zero Policy be enacted.  If this is a cause that calls to you, contact your City Councilperson and Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and stand up with us.

Marin Tockman is a transportation advocate living in New Orleans. She is the owner of Dashing Bicycles & Accessories, a local bike shop/coffee shop in the French Quarter.