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After Cycling Politician is Killed, Louisiana Parish Seeks to Make Biking Harder

The Louisiana parish where a prominent local politician was killed while riding his bike has taken the wrong lessons from the tragedy.

Baton Rouge Metro Councilman and cyclist Buddy Amoroso was killed by a distracted driver on June 30, but West Feliciana Parish is poised to punish bike riders rather than undertaking broader measures to protect them.

After the death, parish council committee took testimony from local cyclists, including the man who was riding with Amoroso when he was killed — but Chairman Mel Percy instead offered new proposed rules for cyclists rather than for drivers, the Advocate reported. His proposals include:

    • Requiring cyclists to wear an outer garment with at least 400 square inches (2.78 square feet) of a high-visibility, fluorescent color. Percy said he lifted the wording from the state's hunting regulations, with a modification on the color.
    • Requiring lights on the rear of bikes that are visible for one mile. [Editor's note: A mile? LOL wut?]
    • Putting a laser device at the front and rear bikes in a group ride to warn cyclists of oncoming vehicles.
    • Demanding rear-view mirrors on bicycle handlebars or riders' helmets.
    • Requiring cyclists to ride in single-file formations, within two feet of the right-hand pavement edge.

In response, local bike attorney Charles Thomas is challenging the legality of the suggestions.

"These requirements are ostensibly being proposed to promote safety, but in practice seem to effectively ban riding," he wrote. The parish does not have the legal authority to ban biking, even on local roads, he continued in a letter to the parish.

Experts in bike safety say this kind of punitive approach is not the best way to improve safety for bicyclists.

"While I appreciate the Parish's attempt to immediately respond, their efforts would better be focused on designing streets that are safe for drivers and bicyclists to share, instead of imposing ineffective requirements on bicyclists," said John Robert Smith, Senior Policy Advisor at Smart Growth America, a national organization promoting safer walking and biking.

Amoroso, a Republican, was a beloved local figure, a grandfather of three, a deacon at his church, a regional leader in the Boy Scouts and a progressive on transportation. When he was serving on Metro Counselor, he rode the CATS bus in Baton Rouge to better understand the bus system and was in charge of the city's "Smart City" efforts, WAFBreports.

The driver who killed him was charged with negligent homicide.

Biking fatalities have been on the rise in Louisiana and bike advocates at the committee hearing said they were specifically concerned about distracted drivers. The state had the second highest number of bike deaths per capita in 2014. And bike advocates point out that La. 66, where Amoroso was killed, is a popular area for cyclists. LSU professor Elisabeth Oliver was killed while biking in the same area in 2015.

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