A group of residents in the Webb Park neighborhood is meeting tonight to discuss the possibility of removing the bike lanes along Hundred Oaks and Glenmore avenues that have been in place for nearly nine years. The group is also circulating a petition and hopes to gather enough signatures to bring the matter to the city-parish for action.
The lanes have become a source of controversy in the neighborhood in recent weeks—ever since the Baton Rouge Police Department issued tickets to a handful of violators parked in the bike lanes. Ironically, cycling enthusiasts, who were upset about violators parking in the bike lanes, brought the matter to the BRPD’s attention.
“Finally someone said something about it,” says Mark Martin, of Bike Baton Rouge. “It is patently illegal to park in a bike lane, but if you don’t enforce it then suddenly you start enforcing it, it catches people by surprise.”
Gene Groves is one of those Glenmore residents caught by surprise. He says he lived for nine years “in peace and harmony” with the bike lanes, though he occasionally parked in the lane that fronts his home. Groves says he thought it was legal. Now that he knows it’s not, he’s no longer sure bike lanes are a good idea.
“If someone told you you couldn’t park in front of your house, what would you say?” Groves asks.
A BRPD spokesman didn’t have the exact number of tickets that have been issued, though he says it’s just a few. City-parish Chief Traffic Engineer Ingolf Partenheimer says the law clearly prohibits parking in a bike lane.
“It’s a transit lane so parking in it is like parking in the middle of the street,” he says.
Partenheimer says his department is trying to come up with a solution that will satisfy residents on both sides of the issue. Metro Councilmember C. Denise Marcelle, who represents the district, is also trying to find a solution. She plans to attend tonight’s meeting, which is only open to members of the Webb Park Civic Association, and is bringing representatives from the Parish Attorney’s Office and the permits office to answer questions.
“I don’t want to see the bike paths removed,” she says. “This has been working for nine years. There has got to be a compromise.”
Officials with the Center for Planning Excellence, who have been working with the neighborhood on a variety of planning and smart street initiatives for the past several years, say they understand the complicated dynamics of the situation. But they point out that Baton Rouge’s FuturEBR master plan calls for more bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets and roads.