Riding in Baton Rouge - A note on riding on sidewalks

Cranksgiving 2015

Cranksgiving 2015

Can you ride on a sidewalk in Baton Rouge? And should you?

Louisiana state law does not prohibit riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. City ordinance, however, restricts riding on sidewalks in 'business districts', which are defined by Louisiana state law as "... territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, railroad stations and public buildings which occupy at least three hundred feet frontage on one side or three hundred feet collectively on both sides of the highway."

Uh. What?

We read it a handful of times and managed to condense it down into something a little more manageable. A sidewalk counts as being in a business district when there are a total of 300 feet or more of public or business buildings on either side of the road within a 600 foot length of that road. If you don't have a tape measure with you while riding, then as a rule of thumb, if 25% or more of the roadway is lined with public or business buildings, you're probably in a 'business district'.

Here are a few examples from around Baton Rouge for what these kinds of areas look like.

Business Districts :

3rd Street (1200 feet of public business or business buildings)
Highland Road (900 feet of public or business buildings)
South Boulevard (350 feet of public or business buildings)

Not Business Districts :

Perkins Road (150 feet of public or business buildings)
Jefferson Highway (0 feet of public or business buildings)

What does all that mean?

In 'business districts', riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is illegal. Period. Outside of business districts, riding on the sidewalk is legal as long as it's not otherwise signed, and as long as bicyclists yield the right of way to pedestrians and gives audible signals before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. (Note that in this context, letting pedestrians know you're about to pass them is not only mandatory - it's good manners, too!)

If you ARE going to ride on the sidewalk, then there are a couple of other things to consider. The main one is driveways. Drivers who are pulling out of driveways that cross sidewalks expect to encounter pedestrians, who are likely travelling at no more than three miles per hour. If you're pedaling along at ten miles per hour, or more, then you're outside of the area that a driver may look - and could end up being hit as the driver pulls out. You're even more likely to be hit if you're riding on the sidewalk against traffic (on the 'left' side of the road), as drivers will be looking towards traffic to their left as you're approaching from their right.

Take note, also, of the sidewalk condition - which often may be bumpy, cracked, or otherwise hazardous.

If you're riding on the sidewalk use caution at all driveways, and assume that drivers will NOT see you - particularly if you're riding against traffic.

When do I have to ride on the sidewalk?

Never! If a sidewalk exists outside of a business district, then if you choose to ride on it, by all means have at it! But you're just as welcome to ride on the road.

Louisiana law does not make use of sidewalks, bike lanes, shoulders, or separated bike paths mandatory at any time, but Baton Rouge city ordinance states that 'Whenever a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the roadway'.  Note the inclusion of the word 'usable'. If the path is blocked, in a state of disrepair, in any way substandard to the roadway, or otherwise 'unusable' - then you may ride in the roadway if you so choose.

We would argue that given a) the state of sidewalks in Baton Rouge, b) the connectivity of sidewalks in Baton Rouge, and c) the inherent danger of riding on sidewalks as described above, that all sidewalks in Baton Rouge could be argued to be 'unusable' in this context.

(Edit made to the above passage on 4/14/17)

As always, if you're having trouble getting around by bike safely and easily - check out our bike map for the best routes in Baton Rouge!


NOTE : We're not lawyers. We're not legal experts. Sometimes we don't wear pants while we're writing this stuff. Don't take our word (or anyone else's word) for anything. Read the law yourself so that you can be well informed!

PRESS RELEASE : Bike Baton Rouge announce winners of annual Mike Bitton Awards

Bike Baton Rouge announce winners of annual Mike Bitton Awards
4/11/16, Baton Rouge, LA

Bike Baton Rouge today announced the recipients of the annual Mike Bitton Awards that recognize community members who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to make Baton Rouge a better place to bike. The Mike Bitton Awards are named after former LSU student Mike Bitton, who became a spokesperson and advocate for bicycle safety and awareness following a hit and run crash on River Road that left Mike with life threatening injuries.

Award recipients will include Gabby Loubiere Higgins of Brew Ha-Ha, who will be awarded the Bike Friendly Business Award for her long time support of bicycling in Baton Rouge; Kathy Stites and the BREC Capital Area Pathways Project, who will receive the Bike Friendly Professional Award for their leading the way in design and installation of bicycle facilities throughout Baton Rouge; and finally Larry Reilly, former board member and long time volunteer for Bike Baton Rouge, who will be awarded the Mike Bitton Award for his services to bicycling in Baton Rouge, including running the Bicycling BR bike calendar, leading advocacy efforts to create the Dawson Creek bike trail, and more.

“Mr. Reilly is an unsung hero,” said Doug Moore, Bike Baton Rouge Vice President. “His advocacy in helping make the Pennington trails a reality and his civic engagement in general make him an outstanding recipient, and he's a role model for those of us fortunate enough to know him and work with him."

The award ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday April 19 at WHYR Community Radio (1623 Main Street). Bike Baton Rouge members, non-members and the general public are invited to join Bike Baton Rouge and our award recipients for some fun, food and festivities. More details about the ceremony are available on Facebook.

For more information, visit bikebr.org, look up Bike Baton Rouge on facebook, or email Bike Baton Rouge at bikebatonrouge@gmail.com

Mika Torkkola
225 571 2906

Bike Baton Rouge is a local non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization and has been dedicated to making bicycling trips in Baton Rouge safer and more enjoyable since 2006.

2016 winners (left to right) Gilles Morin, Beaux Jones, Juan Cruz and Dave Cano

PRESS RELEASE : Bike Baton Rouge promotes spring bike safety with tips for motorists and bicyclists

Bike Baton Rouge promotes spring bike safety with tips for motorists and bicyclists
3/21/17, Baton Rouge, LA

Bike Baton Rouge, a local non-profit bicycle advocacy organization, today released a short list of bike safety tips which they hope will result in increased safety amongst bicyclists and motorists sharing the road. Spring sees greatly increased bicycling as the warmer weather and extended evening daylight hours allow for more people to bicycle after work or school.

The last two weeks have seen several bicyclists and pedestrians involved in motor vehicle crashes in Baton Rouge, particularly along Florida Boulevard - a road, that Bike Baton Rouge notes, has no bicycle or pedestrian facilities on a near eleven mile stretch between North 19th Street and the East Baton Rouge Parish border at the Amite river.

Louisiana ranks third in the nation for adult bicycling deaths after Delaware (second) and Florida (first) according to a 2015 study by the Center for Disease Control, but Torkkola says that Louisiana rankings will improve as both bicyclists and motorists become more accustomed to the increased numbers of people riding bicycles in the state.

“We wanted to keep things really simple with our safety tips to give maximum impact from a small and easily digestible amount of information.” said Mika Torkkola, Bike Baton Rouge President, “And we wanted to acknowledge that both bicyclists and motorists have the responsibility to avoid causing crashes on our roads.”

The complete set of Spring Safety Tip graphics are available at bikebr.org/safety, and include tips for both bicyclists and motorists, complete with statistics that show the resulting safety increases associated with correctly following each tip. Each safety tip is based on Louisiana road law.

Read the full list of Spring Safety Tips and learn more about bicycle safety at bikebr.org/safety

Mika Torkkola
225 571 2906

Bike Baton Rouge is a local non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization and has been dedicated to making bicycling trips in Baton Rouge safer and more enjoyable since 2006.

Meet the Board - Sarah Schramm

Sarah is a landscape architect from Wisconsin who brings great enthusiasm and creativity to the Bike Baton Rouge board.

Sarah is a landscape architect from Wisconsin who brings great enthusiasm and creativity to the Bike Baton Rouge board.

Who are you and where are you from? 
I'm a landscape architect/ecologist/adventurer from Milwaukee, WI.

Why do you love bicycling? 
I love bicycling because I love being outside and I like the feeling of speed.  I also like the social and functional aspects of it.

Why did you join the Bike Baton Rouge board? 
I feel like I can be helpful to the organization and I support the mission of Bike Baton Rouge.  A perfect combination!

What do you see YOUR role as with Bike Baton Rouge? What do you do and what are you good at?
Currently I think I help build relationships within the group by reaching out to and engaging with members at the rides and other social events.  I think I could help more in a wide range of capacities including organizing events, researching policy and making hand-outs, finding and applying to grants, and attending local policy meetings.  I'm good at organizing, research, graphics, and writing.

What would you consider the greatest challenge to bicycling in Baton Rouge?  
I consider the lack of connectivity between places to be the greatest challenge to bicycling in Baton Rouge.  There are often few side-roads available to get to different areas outside of a core area in Baton Rouge. The main road options are inhospitable for bicyclists.

What are you and Bike Baton Rouge doing to tackle that challenge?
To tackle those challenges, Bike Baton Rouge attends public meetings to voice support for transportation plans that include bike lanes, bike paths, and sidewalks.  Also, Bike Baton Rouge has been working with BREC to connect neighborhoods with bike paths through city park land.

What will bicycling in Baton Rouge look like in 1/5/20 years time?
With more bike paths and complete streets, and more bike-focused social events, I think we will see more people on bikes in Baton Rouge.

What is does your 'ideal' day of bike riding in Baton Rouge look like?
I wake up early on a sunny, crisp morning, meet up with my pals, and bike to a camp site where we grill out, throw a frisbee, and tell funny stories. Also, there are potato chips.

PRESS RELEASE : Bike Baton Rouge presents #mybikestory week

Bike Baton Rouge presents #mybikestory week
2/16/16, Baton Rouge, LA

A local non-profit organization, Bike Baton Rouge, will next week be holding a social media campaign to help dispel the myth that bicycling in Baton Rouge can be difficult or dangerous.

"Too often, people only hear about bicycling when something bad happens." said Bike Baton Rouge President Mika Torkkola. "We're encouraging folks to help change that perception by letting the world know how fun, how relaxing, or even in many cases, how mundane your average bike ride in Baton Rouge can be."

During #mybikestory week, bicyclists can post stories, photos, and videos of their daily bike rides on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets using the #mybikestory hashtag. Bike Baton Rouge hopes that by hearing more about the experiences of bicyclists in Baton Rouge, potential bicyclists will see that the benefits of bicycling in Baton Rouge greatly outweigh the risks, which are often exaggerated by social media.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s 2016 City Stats Survey found that 39% of Baton Rouge residents surveyed would be interested in riding to work if conditions were safer, a number that has grown from surveys in previous years.

#mybikestory week runs from Monday, February 20th through Sunday, February 26th. Submissions from previous events can be found at bikebr.org/mybikestory, and Bike Baton Rouge will be updating that page regularly throughout the week as well as sharing their favourite stories on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Mika Torkkola
225 571 2906

Bike Baton Rouge is a local non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization and has been dedicated to making bicycling trips in Baton Rouge safer and more enjoyable since 2006.