Consultants working with the city’s new bike share vendor planned to announce the date of the program’s initial rollout at a March 4 press conference.
But just two days earlier in New Orleans, a drunk driver mowed down several cyclists, killing two, while traveling at a high rate of speed in one of the city’s designated bike lanes on Esplanade Avenue near the Endymion Parade route.
The tragedy, coupled with availability issues due to the Mardi Gras holiday, prompted officials with the Bantam Strategy Group, the consulting firm, to postpone the announcement until later this month.
Lindsey West of Bantam Strategy Group says the press conference will likely be held in the next two weeks and confirms that the program itself will not be launching in mid-March, as stated in a speech last December by John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a group instrumental in bringing the bike share program to Baton Rouge.
“There are just a lot of final things to address when launching a system this big,” she says. “But it is on track and when we announce the date we will not be moving it.”
She would not divulge the planned launch date but says it will be later this spring, likely in late April or early May.
As to the impact of last weekend’s incident in New Orleans on attitudes towards the local program and bike share in general, West says it has motivated those who work for alternative modes of transportation and programs like bike share to push for more bike- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
“I think everybody is shaken by the tragedy but also it is inciting us a little more to do this and make it a reality,” she says. “There is safety in numbers and we know we need to build ridership. This kind of tragedy helps light a fire under us to make that happen.”
Baton Rouge’s bike share program will roll out in stages, the first of which will have nearly 500 bikes at stations downtown and on the campuses of LSU and Southern University. Subsequent stages will expand the program into Mid City and the Baton Rouge Health District.
Last fall, the Metro Council awarded a roughly $800,000 contract to run the program to South Carolina-based The Gotcha Group, which operates dozens of bike share programs nationwide.