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  1. #1
    Six feet please Noobtastic's Avatar
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    Commuting New Orleans?

    My friend is moving back to New Orleans to restore hurricane devastated homes with Americorps. She will be living 1-3 miles away from the french quarter but assumes that she will be doing work all over the city.
    At this time she has no transportation and not enough money to buy a solid and reliable car or motorcycle so I recommended that she consider commuting around the city on a bike. She is actually very excited about the idea; wants to buy a road bike asap and begin to condition herself for long distance commutes while here in Tallahassee. I'm excited about getting my friend on a saddle but I've never been to New Orleans so I don't know if I've given her good advice or if I need to change my suggestion to a moped or something.
    Has anyone here ever lived car free in New Orleans? Does it have many bike commuters? Is the infrastructure (roads, law enforcement, public transportation) bicycle friendly? Would she, as a woman in her late teens(not a regular cyclist), regret choosing a bicycle as her main mode of transportation?

  2. #2
    Mostly Harmless yoder's Avatar
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    Just ride like New Orleans' JoeyBike and she'll be fine. http://vimeo.com/joeybike/videos

  3. #3
    At least I'm not a poseur GiantDefyGuy's Avatar
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    She can definitely commute here (New Orleans). There are plenty other bike commuters here....especially by the french quarter, because parking is so bad around there.

    The infrastructure seems to actually be changing to favor cyclists. We have new bike lanes popping up everywhere, and there was this initiative recently to install these fleur-de-lis bike racks all over the place. We have a new police chief, and there are police all over the place now too. I have a short commute (3-4 miles) to work, but I don't have a problem riding around the city otherwise.

    The streets are pretty bad here though. That's the biggest problem she'll face. I would suggest NOT getting skinny 23mm tires if that's her only form of transportation. A friend and I were recently discussing how perfect it would be to have cyclocross bikes because those thin knobby tires would be perfect down here. Durable but still fast.

    I have a road bike, but it has 25mm tires, and I put one of those heavy slow-rolling kevlar tires on my back wheel because of too many flats. No problems since then. And I ride my MTN bike around without any problems. Those freakin' tires can go over anything (and there's lots of stuff to test them with too).

    I'd also like to remind her that Katrina was like 5 years ago. Most everyone has rebuilt or moved on by now. Whoever she ends up doing work for will not be the most upstanding citizens with the best work ethic. Just felt like I should throw that out there. She's going to be dealing with the people who have been waiting for 6 years for someone to come fix their house FOR them. Well, I guess that's what Amiricorps does, so maybe she's already aware of this. Actually, she probably signed on just to help people in need, which is cool. I actually hate to say negative stuff like this, but seeing it every day kinda lowers my tolerance for it, I guess. Sorry.

    Anyway, yeah, she can totally live here without a car, but I just suggest she get a bike that can handle some bad roads.

  4. #4
    Senior Member m_yates's Avatar
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    I grew up in New Orleans, and went to college there. Parts of the city are dangerous, and I do mean DANGEROUS. Particularly for a young single woman traveling alone. I worked for 7 years for a landscaping/property maintenance company. We did work all over the city and surrounding region, including some of the poorest parts of town. A lot of the work was on bank owned/foreclosed property. I'm fairly certain that if I had commuted by bike to those job sites, I'd have been harassed by the local drug dealers and addicts and imagine my bike would have been stolen one way or another before the end of the day.

    The 9th Ward (where a lot of restoration work is still going on) is not the safest area. Some areas like Central City are war zones that I wouldn't walk or ride through. I'm not trying to sound scary or shoot down the idea of bike commuting in New Orleans. However, she needs to talk to locals about different areas and where it is safe to travel. Bike commuting can be done there, but you have to be careful. I commuted by bike while in college in the Uptown area. It was safe, and I never had problems, but I was only commuting 3-4 miles each way. Getting across town can be difficult on bike. She will just need to be very careful and consult someone who knows the area for planning a route.

    I agree with the previous poster about road conditions. Some roads are rough, and some have potholes big enough to swallow your entire bike (and I'm not exaggerating).

  5. #5
    Scan Me DallasSoxFan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m_yates View Post
    I grew up in New Orleans, and went to college there. Parts of the city are dangerous, and I do mean DANGEROUS. Particularly for a young single woman traveling alone. I worked for 7 years for a landscaping/property maintenance company. We did work all over the city and surrounding region, including some of the poorest parts of town. A lot of the work was on bank owned/foreclosed property. I'm fairly certain that if I had commuted by bike to those job sites, I'd have been harassed by the local drug dealers and addicts and imagine my bike would have been stolen one way or another before the end of the day.

    The 9th Ward (where a lot of restoration work is still going on) is not the safest area. Some areas like Central City are war zones that I wouldn't walk or ride through. I'm not trying to sound scary or shoot down the idea of bike commuting in New Orleans. However, she needs to talk to locals about different areas and where it is safe to travel. Bike commuting can be done there, but you have to be careful. I commuted by bike while in college in the Uptown area. It was safe, and I never had problems, but I was only commuting 3-4 miles each way. Getting across town can be difficult on bike. She will just need to be very careful and consult someone who knows the area for planning a route.

    I agree with the previous poster about road conditions. Some roads are rough, and some have potholes big enough to swallow your entire bike (and I'm not exaggerating).
    +1 to all of this. I went to Tulane and lived there a few years after that.


    In new orleans, its almost more important to know the safety of the route between your start and destination than it is to know the safety of your destination.

    New Orleans taught me to trust my spidey sense.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Kojak's Avatar
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    Joeybike should chime in. He seems to have a lot of experience riding/commuting around New Orleans. If his perspective is accurate (and I have no reason to believe that it's not), Caution would be the word of the day. I would think that riding a bike is one of the best ways to get to know a new city. You cover more ground and at a faster pace than walking, but you still get a feel of what's around you, unlike riding a car. That said, there are places and NWO is probably one of them that one should know the details before they head out.
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  7. #7
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    i'm in agreement with most of what has been said. the roads are pretty bad, but there is almost always a decent way to go. i swapped out my 700x28s for some 700x32s and that made a big difference.

    i'm thinking about buying a three speed cafe style bike. Felt makes a pretty tasty one. i like my single speed IRO, but you really need to pay attention to all the cracks and holes in the pavement when you're riding on those skinny tires... there are even a couple spots with old abandoned street car tracks still in the street. i lost that particular battle. a wider tired cruiser/cafe type bike will let you enjoy the sights a little more.


    bullet proof tires. a must!

  8. #8
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    I lived in N.O. for about 10 years, but sadly, wasn't a bicyclist commuter then. Everything these guys say is pretty much how it is, the actual roads are rough, but things for cyclists are improving. If she's anywhere near the Quarter, downtown, or rough neighborhoods, she needs to be very careful about where to go, and when.

    The good thing is there are ferries to get you across the river to the Westbank, and plenty of bike shops.

  9. #9
    Fresh Garbage hairnet's Avatar
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    err, I spent a week there with my bicycle. The only thing I can say is that she will want a bike that can take fat tires like 28s or something. but coolest place to bike
    Quote Originally Posted by Scrodzilla View Post
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  10. #10
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    in disregard with the actual topic. I think that devastating as Katrina was, it will give the area a fresh start; a time to build bike friendly infrastructure and hopefully go green as a region.

  11. #11
    Senior Member rcschafer's Avatar
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    A lot depends on where your friend ends up living and working. Safety is a concern; as noted many areas can be dangerous. The population re-shuffling that occurred after Katrina has changed the landscape in terms of safe/unsafe zones; the projects are largely depopulated and don't generate crime in their vicinity like they used to; however, many areas that were once considered safe are no longer so. Night-time riding is especially problematic; service-industry employees biking home late with their nightly pay are targets.

    That being said, the flat terrain is very bike-friendly (not so much the roads) and there's a large community of bikers, especially in the Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods. There's also an active group of roadies that ride almost daily on the Lakeshore and levee trails. Biking here is a wonderful experience and I do it whenever I can; my car will sometimes spend the entire week in the driveway.

  12. #12
    Senior Member canyoneagle's Avatar
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    The roads are pretty crappy - lots of potholes / tree root cracks & bumps / settled divots, etc.
    If I were living there, I'd go with a cyclocross bike or with a sporty flat bar bike, with 32mm tires or bigger.
    Fenders would be high on my list, too, as N.O. gets alot of rain.

    N.O. is a very bikeable city, which is good, because your friend is gonna need some way to burn off all the extra calories she'll be taking in
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  13. #13
    On a Mission from God FunkyStickman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canyoneagle View Post
    n.o. Is a very bikeable city, which is good, because your friend is gonna need some way to burn off all the extra calories she'll be taking in
    truth!!!

  14. #14
    Six feet please Noobtastic's Avatar
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    Thank you for the input everyone, especially for the safety advice. I'll be sure to send her this thread. Joeybike's videos of downtown New Orleans are awesome, I love to look at how other people ride in their neighborhoods. Hopefully I'll get to tour downtown on two wheels by next year.

  15. #15
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    Lots of good advice posted in this thread. I also use my bike for most of my transportation in New Orleans and do not own a car. I would say that I am "car-free". but I find United Cab comes in handy on rainy days or if wearing a suit on a hot summer day. Our transportation network of buses and street cars also works well for me inside the city, perhaps not so well for some others. However, getting to the airport via public transportation or a taxi is a pain in the butt and expensive. Our transportation system to the airport is locked up by the taxi cab drivers to the detriment of many people. Light rail has been on the drawing board for over ten years but lacks traction. Getting to the Union bus and AmTrak terminal on a bike is much easier than traveling to the airport.

    Cycling here, just like anywhere, requires being aware of your surroundings. The relative "safety" of any given street can vary quite a bit from nearby streets, so one learns quickly which routes are better than others. In addition to the recommendations about tires (700x35 Panracer Ribmos for me), I will add that having a good lock is very important. I also will add that, because of the risk of theft, keeping a bike inside an apartment is much preferable to keeping the bike locked up outside or in a common area.

    IMO, your friend would regret NOT having a bicycle during her time in New Orleans and she should start shopping now for the "perfect" bike, preferably one with a rack or basket for when she MAKES groceries.

  16. #16
    NJS my life! roughrider504's Avatar
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    New Orleans is a completely different city upon nightfall, and not in the good party way. As long as you stick to the tourist areas you're fine, but venture a little too far out and trouble is easy to find.

    As my Mom would tell me "You're going to need a machine *** to get there!"

  17. #17
    Schwinnasaur Schwinnsta's Avatar
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    I would also add that bike theft is high in NOLA. It is best not to spend that much on a commuter bike if you need to lock it outside in the daytime. At night it should be kept inside. She will need to have a good lock.

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