The government would have you believe that bicycle paths are expensive because they cover long, narrow strips of nothingness.
A story in Monday’s Advocate promised 110 miles of bike path atop the Mississippi River levee from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.
Based on past experience with bicycle paths in Baton Rouge, the story’s “soon” would be the kind of “soon” expressed in geologic time.
That sort of “soon” is the time required for the Mississippi River to change course which would require the bicycle path to be called The Bicycle Route Atop the Former Mississippi River Levee and Express Cow Lane.
As luck would have it, there is hard land already in place where the bicycle route is supposed to go at a cost of $33 million. All that’s required is laying some asphalt on top of the levee where bicycle riders, runners and walkers have been working their muscles and lungs since shortly after the Great Flood.
At $33 million, the cost is a dirt cheap $300,000 a mile, though the newspaper story didn’t say if this was pre-Katrina dollars or post-Katrina dollars. If it’s post, we have to pay whatever the contractor says the storm cost in disruption of the asphalt market and mental stress on the asphalt workers.
Still, that’s cheap when compared to Baton Rouge’s million-dollar miles stretching a majestic 10,560 feet, less than two miles as the bicycle wobbles, from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine to Oz Between the Gambling Boats, a.k.a. Downtown.
Since Downtown became a capitalized word, no sum of money’s too great if it gets people there by car, bus (if you can take the day off to wait for one) or Zike-Bike.
Of course, when a new gateway to Downtown opens it’s reserved for cars. I’m thinking about the North Boulevard Overpass which prohibits bicycles. The view from up there, by the way, is lovely — if you’re not wearing a car. I wouldn’t know what it looks like from the seat of a bicycle. Someone who accidentally rode over on a bicycle told me.
Why do we keep flogging the bicycle path idea? If we wanted bicycle paths, we’d build streets wide enough to accommodate them. Then, we’d connect parks, neighborhoods and stores by bicycle path.
Baton Rouge likes cars. Bicycles will not thin traffic. Traffic WILL thin bicycle riders. But if Baton Rougeans could pedal down the driveway and onto a bicycle path, they might ride for relaxation and fitness.
Until that happens, you may ride the levee anytime you wish. When the expensive asphalt ends, downshift your mountain bike and pedal on. If you’re in good enough shape, you’ll reach New Orleans in, oh, eight hours.
If you need to spend the night somewhere, I can recommend the sheltering willows at river’s edge. You might catch a chill. Bugs may bite you, but no one will harm you. Most people who crave the urban outdoors are at bus stops waiting on mass transit the government says is coming soon.
You may reach Ed Cullen at (225) 388-0306 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I think the same thing 300,000 dollars a mile to add pavement wow.