There are plenty of excellent reasons to support bicycling as a form of transportation: from the oil it takes to run a car and the wars needed to secure it, to health benefits, to ending the epidemic of car-related traffic fatalities killing pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. There are many local organizations trying to promote cycling, respect for bikes, and room for bicyclists on the roads: Metro Bicycle Coalition, Plan B, and RUBARB just to name a few.
At the same time the city is finally listening to these groups and installing a minimal amount of bike lanes and promoting bicycling, the NOPD has decided to issue tickets to bicyclists in the French Quarter. Sometimes our city has no policy coherency at all. This can be a good thing for those looking to escape this system and find zones of autonomy and opacity, but it also means the apparatus of control can be more capricious, arbitrary, and more catered to the service of the powerful minority. Which is why, when the rich, powerful Vieux Carre Property Owners Association (note: not a neighborhood association, a group specifically for owners of the most expensive property in the city) complained to the city about bicyclists running into them on the sidewalk as they exit their million dollar mansions (likely on a cell phone, carrying some shopping bags, expecting everyone to cater to their comfort and care like their servants do), the NOPD jumped into action, issuing $110 tickets to people riding bikes in the Quarter. Bikes that may have cost less than that to buy altogether.
What's next, ticketing the joggers that run into the oblivious rich trash stepping out of their mansions into public space with the arrogance to lay claim to the public areas of the French Quarter and demand they be treated like an extension of their private property? This is yet another glaring example of how the police protect and serve only the rich at the expense of others.
So what are bike riders to do? Will our local pro-cycling organizations step it up and organize bicyclists to oppose this unjustified, classist targeting by NOPD? Or will they leave the people they are advocating for out to dry in order to avoid conflict with the city and the cops? Perhaps they need to hear from bicyclists asking that they organize protests.
Critical Mass style protest rides downtown, perhaps weekly, until the ticketing ends could work. Perhaps rides where bikers borrow a labor struggle tactic and "ride-to-rule," meaning follow all traffic laws meticulously while riding slowly en masse, to show how many traffic problems it would cause, would work? Especially right around, say, City Hall at rush hour, maybe?
If bicyclists did not ignore the laws, which is something they must do in order to maintain their personal safety while riding on streets where cars are more likely to hit them if they ride legally, as well as to get anywhere in a timely manner, car traffic would be slowed to a crawl.
The targeting of cyclists by NOPD is an insult to the dozens of my friends who have been seriously injured by cars, often in hit-and-run collisions, despite NOPD's claim to be able to provide for the protection and safety of all. We all know from plenty of interactions with the NOPD that they could care less about cyclists being hit by cars. One friend who had been run over by a taxi and gotten his pelvis broken was even still in the hospital, sedated on painkillers, when a cop came in and made him sign a paper saying it was his fault when it wasn't!
But, if rich people have to look both ways before walking out of a doorway, NOPD is on the case and ticketing cyclists! Totally pathetic and sadly typical.