In the days since Metro Council member Buddy Amoroso was killed while riding his bicycle in West Feliciana Parish, the Baton Rouge cycling community has engaged in what has become a familiar exercise of hand-wringing, public memorials and social media discussion about the dangers of riding a bike in the Capital Region.
As has happened with other cyclist deaths in recent years, members of groups like Bike Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Bike Club have taken to their Facebook pages and made the rounds on local media to advocate for better laws and tougher enforcement.
But will anything change?
“Sadly, I don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference,” says Clayton Weeks, manager at Capitol Cyclery, where Amoroso used to get his bike serviced. “We’re constantly talking about it but it’s always the same people engaged in the discussion and nothing ever changes.”
Ironically, Weeks saw in Amoroso an opportunity to open minds in some segments of the community that have traditionally been reticent to embrace public spending on amenities like bike paths and sidewalks. Just a week before his death, Amoroso went to see Weeks, a member of Bike Baton Rouge, to discuss ways of making the Baton Rouge area more bicycle friendly.
“I don’t know what he wanted to do but he was really good at getting people who didn’t agree with his politics to get on board with his ideas,” Weeks says. “He was our best hope for getting others involved. Without him it’s just going to be the same old people chitchatting.”
Bike Baton Rouge President Doug Moore says his group is working on the issue and will continue to push for greater bicycle safety.
In a city with the nation’s fourth-highest rate of pedestrian fatalities and in a state with the third-worst record for bicycle deaths, Moore says they can’t afford not to.
“There are things the city and state government can do to make it safer for people who ride,” he says. “If they say they don’t know what to do, that is not true. They can make roads safer with design elements. They can design for lower speeds. They can improve signage. They can reprioritize how they spend transportation dollars. To say we cannot afford it is simply not true.”