Biking Pol is Killed, So Louisiana Parish Blames Cyclists

Instead of protecting cyclists, West Feliciana Parish is poised to punish them.

Buddy Amoroso, a Baton Rouge metro councilman, was killed riding his bike in June. Photo: Buddy Amoroso/Facebook
Buddy Amoroso, a Baton Rouge metro councilman, was killed riding his bike in June. Photo: Buddy Amoroso/Facebook

The Louisiana parish where a prominent local politician was killed while riding his bike has taken the wrong lessons from the tragedy.

Baton Rouge Metro Councilman and cyclist Buddy Amoroso was killed by a distracted driver on June 30, but West Feliciana Parish is poised to punish bike riders rather than undertaking broader measures to protect them.

After the death, parish council committee took testimony from local cyclists, including the man who was riding with Amoroso when he was killed — but Chairman Mel Percy instead offered new proposed rules for cyclists rather than for drivers, the Advocate reported. His proposals include:

  • Requiring cyclists to wear an outer garment with at least 400 square inches (2.78 square feet) of a high-visibility, fluorescent color. Percy said he lifted the wording from the state’s hunting regulations, with a modification on the color.
  • Requiring lights on the rear of bikes that are visible for one mile. [Editor’s note: A mile? LOL wut?]
  • Putting a laser device at the front and rear bikes in a group ride to warn cyclists of oncoming vehicles.
  • Demanding rear-view mirrors on bicycle handlebars or riders’ helmets.
  • Requiring cyclists to ride in single-file formations, within two feet of the right-hand pavement edge.

In response, local bike attorney Charles Thomas is challenging the legality of the suggestions.

“These requirements are ostensibly being proposed to promote safety, but in practice seem to effectively ban riding,” he wrote. The parish does not have the legal authority to ban biking, even on local roads, he continued in a letter to the parish.

Experts in bike safety say this kind of punitive approach is not the best way to improve safety for bicyclists.

“While I appreciate the Parish’s attempt to immediately respond, their efforts would better be focused on designing streets that are safe for drivers and bicyclists to share, instead of imposing ineffective requirements on bicyclists,” said John Robert Smith, Senior Policy Advisor at Smart Growth America, a national organization promoting safer walking and biking.

Amoroso, a Republican, was a beloved local figure, a grandfather of three, a deacon at his church, a regional leader in the Boy Scouts and somewhat progressive on transportation. When he was serving on Metro Counselor, he rode the CATS bus in Baton Rouge to better understand the bus system and was in charge of the city’s “Smart City” efforts, WAFB reports.

The driver who killed him was charged with negligent homicide.

Biking fatalities have been on the rise in Louisiana and bike advocates at the committee hearing said they were specifically concerned about distracted drivers. The state had the second highest number of bike deaths per capita in 2014. And bike advocates point out that La. 66, where Amoroso was killed, is a popular area for cyclists. LSU professor Elisabeth Oliver was killed while biking in the same area in 2015.

  • Stephen Simac

    Maybe LA could ban allowing drivers to have open containers of alcohol. They actually have the highest per capita and mile ridden bicycle fatality rate, and many roads are narrow without shoulders.

  • thielges

    These are just token rules. Their only purpose is to allow politicians to claim that they have done “something” to improve safety. The crash occurred in the middle of the day on a straight road with no visual obstructions. The bicyclists were riding single file. None of the proposed rules would have protected the bicyclists. The cause appears to be simply bad driving.

  • Where did this moron get these rules from? What research are they based on? Isn’t he aware the motorist was charged with negligent homicide?

  • Joe R.

    The rules on based on the research done by Dr. Roadsareforcars and described in the whitepaper “A Comparison of Methods For Getting Cyclists to Relinquish Cycling”. Besides the ones mentioned in the article, the research also found mandatory helmet use and no tolerance ticketing for petty traffic law violations were quite effective.

  • Camera_Shy

    Not sure why this article says homicide, according to the linked article the driver “has been charged with failure to stop and render aid”

  • OK, well that makes sense! Especially since the driver in this case is being prosecuted for killing the cyclist.

  • You’re right. The negligent homicide charge is actually connected to a different motorist who ran over someone at a bus stop a couple of days ago. Motorists are running over and killing so many people, apparently it is getting hard to keep track. If you follow the link in the penultimate paragraph in the blog post above, it leads to a story about a motorist running over someone at a bus stop. If you Google the name of the motorist, you come to this story:

    https://www.kxan.com/news/local/austin/pedestrian-hit-and-killed-in-south-austin/1338636349

  • Michael Cummings

    I live and ride in Louisiana. Our laws already require cyclist to ride as close to the curb as practical, prohibit riding two abreast, and also require a rear red light visible from 500 feet.
    The problem is that West Feliciana Parish is a rural parish (not like East Feliciana is a bustling metropolis) and they don’t have the tax base or political will to build out bike lanes.
    Personally, I stay off those rural roads and ride safely in the City of New Orleans. Where I have to worry about getting shot in lieu of being turned into a speed bump.

  • thielges

    A minor clarification: the “ride to the right” rule is “as close as practicable” (not practical). The difference is important when riding next to parallel parked cars. Though you can practically ride within inches of the car doors, that style of riding is not practicable because eventually you’ll get doored.

    In this case I don’t think anyone is expecting the WF Parish to install bike lanes. The could however ramp up enforcement and driver education on sharing the road. Or lower the speed limit on this road. Also note that this roadway has rumble strips which prevent bicyclists from riding to the far right of the pavement. Maybe those should be removed to add a few more inches of safety margin when passing bicyclists.

    [I’m a former LA biker though mostly in EBR and Ascension Parishes]

  • Samarkand Tony

    To be fair, insisting bikes have rear lights so bright they can be seen a mile away would appear to present other road users with the same effective ban. Or at least stop them getting within a few hundred feet of a cyclist they’re following.

    Also, ufo sightings will go up.

  • “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have cyclists with frickin’ laser beams attached to their bikes!”
    — Dr. E-bike

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