Bicyclists Get Right of Way on Louisiana Campus

Planned bike path at UL Lafayette is long overdue, some say.

Published: 15-Jan-2004

YETTE — When Claire Connolly attended UL Lafayette, she made riding her bicycle to class a regular part of her schedule, even though it wasn’t the easiest thing to do.

“It became difficult at times to keep riding to work and school, competing with vehicles for room to ride on the road,” said Connolly, who graduated over a year ago.

Griff Blakewood, a renewable resources professor at the university known for riding his own bicycle to and from work, agreed that it hasn’t always been easy to get around campus, much less the city.

“Lafayette is so unfriendly toward bicyclists,” he said.

Now, a $1.2 million grant from the state Department of Transportation and Development awarded to UL Lafayette will help construct an extensive bicycle path.

The first phase of this transportation enhancement grant, $250,000, was recently awarded to the university for work to begin soon.

The bike path can’t come too soon, said some students who choose to cruise around campus on two wheels.

“It’s no fun riding down St. Mary, and cars are this far from you,” said Bobby Lirette, a junior, holding his hands just inches apart.

“I stay off the sidewalks because I don’t want to annoy people and whiz by them. It would be nice to have a side track,” Lirette said.

The path parallel Eraste Landry will continue down Cajundome Boulevard to Johnston Street, adjoining the two different sections of the university’s expanded campus. The plan includes 28.4 linear miles of bicycle and walking paths.

Sharing the pavement with horsepowered vehicles is sometimes risky, said Babir Siddique, a junior studying management. The Atlanta native lives on campus and said he either uses his bike or mass transit to get around town. But one place he stays away from is Johnston Street.

He laughed when asked what it’s like to ride down a busy street.

“Crazy,” he said. “People drive too fast. I tend to stay off of it, if at all possible.”

Bill Fontenot, district engineer administrator, said the initial phase will include the sidewalk and bike paths, as well as bicycle racks, sitting areas and trash cans.

He believes the work could be completed by the end of 2004, allowing additional phases of the entire University Common project to follow.

Walking and pedaling students alike said they think the bike path plan is needed.

“When you’re walking and the bikes are quiet and they come up behind you,” freshman Lacey Mayor said. “It’s a bit scary.”

Fontenot said 94 projects were submitted for the annual grant funding and 34 were approved.

Tom Sammons, director of the Community Design Workshop, said the entire plan combines the aspects of the area — the wetlands and the prairies.

“We wanted to link this part of campus to the traditional campus,” he said. “This is an exciting time at the university when we get to see things come together.”

Sammons said the bicycle path was designed by himself, other professors and a team of students who produced the graphic concept designs.

“We had to design the path, the landscaping, the lighting, get hard numbers and a budget,” he said.

Fontenot said a major goal of the project is to promote walking or the use of alternative modes of transportation. It could also help promote the university.

Now a student at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., Connolly said bike lanes and the public transit system offered at the campus there were major draws when she was selecting a graduate school.

“Although I live 10 minutes away from campus, there is a bike path from my front door that leads me directly to campus,” she said. “With the bike paths and great weather, I ride my bike regularly to campus.”

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