I Was Not Killed This Morning

Last night we had dinner with an old friend and his new wife. When the topic turned to cycling in New Orleans, she confessed she was fearful for her safety, and she enumerated an appallingly long list of friends and acquaintances who have been severely injured when their bicycles collided with automobiles.

This morning a number of friends contacted me, concerned that I was perhaps no longer among the living. I’m still here, but a man about my age was killed at Jeff Davis and Canal Street. He was riding a bike and was struck by a car, or so I read.

"A driver killed a cyclist here today."

I was not killed this morning, but it could have been me. Until the new year, I passed through this intersection at least twice a day. This is a dangerous intersection for bicyclists; there are not even stripes to designate where the Jeff Davis bike path crosses Canal Street.

No Stripes

This reminds me why I first got motivated to pursue the construction of a trail in the Lafitte Corridor ten years ago, and why the work of groups like FOLC and Bike Easy is so important. We need to do better by our cyclists and pedestrians.

For now, though, my heart goes out to the man who was killed this morning, and to his family.
Continue reading I Was Not Killed This Morning

Dear Stefano Pessina

Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
108 Wilmot Road
Deerfield, IL 60015

9 January 2015

For the attention of Stefano Pessina
Executive Vice Chairman Responsible for Strategy and Mergers and Acquisitions

Dear Stefano,

Let me be amongst the first to congratulate you on the recent coup. That Wasson guy was a fly in the gravy, but now that he’s out of the way, nothing will impede your progress. They say you’re just a temp while Walgreens looks for a new CEO, but I see you hanging around awhile. It’s a global empire now, and you’re sitting on top of the world. Make it last, that’s my advice.

I’ve always admired the ruthless efficiency of your Alliance Boots outfit. I guess that’s why you have your HQ in Switzerland. Lord knows your native Italy isn’t exactly famed for this sort of thing, at least not since that Mussolini guy made the trains run on time. The Swiss do have a flair for order, don’t they? And those tax rates — so reasonable! I know the Walgreens board got a little squeamish at the prospect of relocating to the Alps, but I’m sure under your leadership they’ll come to see the light! Obama can talk about “economic patriotism” but we all know he just wants to hold corporations captive and force them to pay higher taxes to advance his socialist agenda!! It’s getting so I don’t recognize my own country any more. Switzerland is the new America!!!

Enough with the pleasantries. Let me get down to brass tacks. The real reason I’m writing is this silly drive-through policy at Walgreens: no pedestrians or bicycles allowed. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Anti-American, even! A man of your sophisticated European sensibilities will see that in a moment.

No Bikes or Pedestrians Allowed

You see, Stefano, I’m not a jet-setter like you. I’m a humble man of the people, just riding my bike around the streets of New Orleans. And let me tell you, these are some mean streets. That’s why I’m so aggravated about the anti-bike policy. I’m out there risking my dome daily, only to roll up at Walgreens and be denied service? On grounds of safety? Sheer madness! Never mind the streets, what about the Walgreens parking lot? You should see how these crazed Americans drive! It’s like the Indy 500 out there.

If we really want to protect the safety of the customer, there is only one sane solution, and that’s to ban automobiles from the premises. I’m sure you see the wisdom of such a scheme, Stef. Cars are dangerous. Besides which, as we all know, my fellow countrymen tend toward the hefty side these days. Americans could use a little more exercise. You’d be doing us all a favor.

So how about it, pal: Any chance you could get this policy reversed?

Sincerely and respectfully,

Bart Everson


The first thing I did when I got to Bloomington was to ride the B-Line. Lucky me, I have generous friends who let me borrow a bicycle.


The B-Line is the local greenway, a recently constructed urban rail-trail, 3.1 miles in length, running alongside an active rail line for its final stretch. Does this sound familiar to New Orleanians? It should.

Of course I took some photos.

B-Line Bridge

I was frankly astonished at how nice the B-Line was. Lights, public art, landscaping, interpretive signage, bridges, the works. I saw lots of people enjoying it too.

People on the B-Line

My most astonishing moment on the B-Line came when I saw a groundskeeper zoom up in a little motorized vehicle, hop off, pick up two microscopic pieces of trash with a damn forceps, and then ride off.


Did I make a wrong turn and end up in Disneyland?

I found this salient quote on the website of the City of Bloomington:

“This is the most significant economic development project on the City’s agenda. It’s monumental in its scope and importance.”
– Mayor Mark Kruzan

Anyhow, I hope the citizens of Bloomington appreciate the B-Line. I know I did.

Auto Pilot

Autopilot Engaged

When I got into work this morning, as I fumbled with the keys to my office, I noticed I was distinctly dry. Not sweaty at all.

Granted, it’s cooler than it has been. It’s only 81ºF right now. Still it’s a wet morning, and the humidity is 84%.

But the key factor here is not climate but route. Now that I’m no longer taking my daughter to daycare in the morning, I have two potential routes to work. There’s a short way and a long way. The long way is more pleasant. I take it when I can. A little extra exercise won’t kill me.

I fully intended to take the long way this morning. But if I’d taken the long way, in this humidity, I’d definitely have broken a sweat.

Searching my mind, I discovered I had no recollection of coming by that longer route. In fact, the only images bouncing around in my head showed the grit and grime of the short ‘n’ ugly route.

I was perplexed. How could I have gone that way? I distinctly remember setting off to go the other way. I’d gotten my keys out of my pocket, but I was still fumbling in the fog of my mind.

After a minute or so it came back to me: I’d stopped to take a photo of a clogged storm drain. Tropical rains a-coming, y’know. Do you enjoy flood water in your home?

If you think the City of New Orleans is going to clean the catch basin in front of your home please rethink that plan. If you don’t clean the catch basin in front of your home it is you who will suffer the consequences.

But I digress.

After taking the photo, I was preoccupied with thoughts of tropical storm warnings and photography and street flooding and who knows what else. I was at the intersection of the two routes and headed off the other way.

The next thing I knew I was on campus.

So apparently I can turn off my brain and my body will still find its way to work. My old dorm buddy Andrew Pelloso describes this as “reverse-zen.”

That’s how it felt, anyhow. Of course, in reality, my brain still gets the credit. My boss, who is a psychologist, tells me I was running on memory. Not declarative memory, which we use for recalling facts and figures, but procedural memory.

When needed, procedural memories are automatically retrieved and utilized for the execution of the integrated procedures involved in both cognitive and motor skills; from tying shoes to flying an airplane to reading.

Riding a bike is another classic example of procedural memory. People often say you never forget how to do that. For my part, I was not only riding a bike, but navigating some fairly complex terrain with virtually no memory of having done so after the fact. Apparently I’ve reached the autonomous phase, the third and final phase of learning a task according to Fitts and Posner’s three stage model of learning. I can now execute this task with a high degree of automaticity.

And here I thought I just had my head stuck up my ass.

Photo credit: Autopilot Engaged by H. Micahel Miley, licensed under Creative Commons

In the Path


My main way of getting to work over the past decade has been on a bicycle; much of my ride has been on the Jeff Davis bike path. It’s so much less stressful to me than driving a car, and I am so glad I don’t have to start my day in an automobile. Nevertheless, I do encounter obstacles and hazards from time to time. I try not to get annoyed. But as I’ve noted previously, it’s “interesting how much annoyance seems to cluster around transportation. Getting from Point A to Point B is fraught with stress-inducing potential.”

As I often ride with a camera, it’s become an almost involuntary reflex to document problems on the bike path as I run into them. And so, just as I recently realized that I now have a little archive of back to school photos, I also realized I have an archive of bike-path problems. In fact, the fifth photo I posted to Flickr was of a mattress on the path, way back in 2004.

So I’d like to present this set of… Continue reading In the Path

How I Roll

I know I mentioned that some mysterious person gave me a couple hundred bucks after my last bike got stolen, but I don’t think I wrote about what I bought as a replacement.

It’s a Globe.

How I Roll

I don’t want anyone to think I am posting this as some sort of tribute to the make and model, because I most emphatically am not. In fact, it’s been nothing but trouble. The rear wheel kept breaking spokes and finally had to be completely rebuilt. The bike has bad balance: it’s prone to falling over which is not good when you’re carting a toddler around. Fortunately it’s never fallen over with Persephone in the seat. Speaking of which, my model of kid seat (which gets rave reviews wherever I go) does not fit well with this stem and handlebars. And finally I have to mention that the pedals scrape the ground whenever I lean into a curve. I’ve already destroyed one pair of pedals this way.

So all in all I would not buy this bike again. Sorry, Globe. I was much happier with my Raleigh and my Giant.

I bought an Elektra cruiser to get around while the Globe was in the shop with the wheel problem. I chose it because it was the cheapest thing at Bayou Bikes, but I ended up liking it quite a bit and kept riding it even when the Globe was fixed, until I caught a flat. Without a quick release, changing that tube is a pain and I procrastinated for many months. Finally yesterday I got it done, took a ride around the block, and was amazed at how much more I liked it. It rides much lower, which I think is a safety advantage for child-transport purposes. However, it lacks fenders, which are helpful in wet weather. It also lacks a rack, which I use for my side-mounted carryall, another essential on the way to daycare. In short, I like the cruiser, but I’m not quite ready to switch back. I don’t have a good place to keep an extra bike either.

The Globe has been getting us around for a while now so I have to give it a little respect. But the main reason for posting these photos was to showcase the Luxardo Amaro Abano I picked up at Cork & Bottle. I just thought it looked funny in the bottle rack.

How I Roll

And to my mysterious benefactor — thanks again!


I was headed to a meeting of the Lafitte Greenway Steering Advisory Committee this morning. I was riding down Conti, just a block or two from our old house, and I crossed through what appeared to be a small puddle. Mind, it hasn’t rained here in a couple weeks, so this puddle was bubbling up from a broken water main or sewer line of some sort. Midway through the puddle I discovered it was much deeper than it looked. As I lost momentum I had to put my foot down to maintain balance, and found myself up to my ankle.

I rode on a few more blocks and considered going to the meeting with a water-logged shoe, but when I reached Broad I thought better of it. I went back home, changed shoes and pants. I could still have made the tail end of the meeting, but I went to work instead.

By my count, this morning’s meeting is the eighth greenway-related meeting I’ve attended in as many days — or it would have been. I try to delegate, but people seem to want me at everything personally.

My shoe may be wet. My enthusiasm remains undampened. But I don’t feel too bad about missing this morning’s meeting.

Inexplicable Benediction

This morning as I rode to work, just as I approached the overpass, I saw a man who was pushing a wheelchair near the bike path. He wasn’t sitting in the wheelchair, he was pushing it along, with a pile of some clothes or other stuff on the seat. But as I passed near him he had stopped pushing and had lifted both arms in the air. He was saying something. As I passed I heard a few words, a snippet only, a brief fragment: “…everyone, this man on the bike, everyone…”


This morning I was surprised to find an envelope stuck in our front door with my name on it.

Inside, a card with the following note:

Bart, I heard about the theft of your bike. Hope this helps. You should know that the people who suck are few but the good and kind (like you) are many.

No signature. No clue who it might be from.

Oh, and there was $200 cash money in there as well. But the note is worth a lot more.

I could live on this for a month.

Hike & Bike

So how many people came out for our hike? Can we call it 200? The Times-Picayune did. So if you’re keeping score, the annual breakdown looks like this:

2005: 3
2006: 18
2007: 17
2008: 60
2009: 200


Photo by Charlie London

See also the video on WWL.

Our budget for publicity? More or less exactly zero. Word spread mainly through online means. It was listed on Meetup.com, for example.

The weather was beautiful, and that surely helped. But obviously this is an idea whose time has come, and the people of New Orleans are hungry for it. The voluminous turnout demonstrates that amply.

I was delighted and more than a little overwhelmed. It’s strange how you can be with such a large group and still feel mostly alone with your thoughts. That’s because I was usually out in front, trying to guide us the right way. After all, the path isn’t there yet — you have to use your imagination.

I enjoyed myself and still managed to take a few pictures, but such a large crowd did generate logistical challenges. I was worried we wouldn’t have adequate transportation back to the point of departure. We’d been planning on a modest increase in number, maybe 75 hikers. Our sponsor, Massey’s Profeesional Outfitters, scrambled to get extra food for lunch, but they had only chartered one bus.

Last year I said we might need to register people in advance, but we didn’t. Perhaps we should have. We will have to consider some major modifications to the game plan next year. If we break ground on this project at this time next year (could happen!) we might have 400 people or more.

It all worked out in the end, though, and I was pleased with the event as a whole. We had a number of speakers address the group at key points along the hike, which I think added a much-needed dimension of educational richness. A megaphone would have been handy.

I think this will go down in my books as one of the coolest days of my year, if not my life, except for one little blemish toward the end:

My bike got stolen. It was locked to the fence in front of Armstrong Park. Right there on Rampart Street. In the middle of the day. Someone must have had a pair of boltcutters and some big balls.

Getting My Stripes

After many phone calls and much wheedling, pleading and cajoling, it appears I’m getting my stripes.


Those are pedestrian crosswalk-style stripes to mark the Jeff Davis bike path as it crosses Tulane Avenue. Since they were resurfacing Tulane Avenue (and Airline Highway) it seemed like a good time.

The idea of course is that it’s a cheap way to enhance safety. Many motorists won’t notice the stripes at all, but a few will. If even a small percentage of people become more aware of the path it will help.

Of course, such striping would also be desirable at the dozen or so other street crossings the bike path makes, but Tulane Avenue is possibly the busiest. Canal Street would be good too.

However, the real hazard at Tulane Avenue is the fact that a cyclist can’t see when the light is about to change. Every so often I will get stranded on the neutral ground, which on Tulane is razor-thin, without even room for a bike. I have to turn my bike sideways while the cars whiz past on either side, way to close for comfort. Possible solutions would be a button to delay the light changing for a few seconds, or one of those countdown displays that lets you know when the light’s about to change.

I’m not holding my breath. But please allow me a moment to revel and bask in the glory of these stripes.

Jeff Davis Overpass Cleanup

I’ve often fantasized about organizing a cleanup of the Jeff Davis bike path. (For some reason I thought tribal drumming would provide a good accompaniment to the task.) It seems the Big Easy Roller Girls are actually doing it. Now I can fulfill two fantasies in one fell swoop.
Continue reading Jeff Davis Overpass Cleanup


I got Iked on my bike this morning.

I was partway to work, and I noticed the sky was getting dark — really dark. Hope I can make it there before… And then the heavens opened and the water poured down.

By the time I got to campus, the rain had practically stopped. I guess that was a feeder band for Hurricane Ike.

Ike in the Gulf

I got soaked. I mean drenched. To the skin. Every piece of clothing I had was saturated with rainwater, even my underwear.

I don’t remember when I last had such a thorough soaking on the way to work. That’s why I keep a set of clothes and a towel at the office. It’s always nice to have a legitimate reason for getting naked at work. Now if I can just get my shoes dry before I head home I’ll be happy.

A Few Humble Suggestions

The Louisiana Department of Transportation held a public meeting at City Park Tuesday night to gather input for a statewide bicycle/pedestrian master plan. I missed it, but good ole Charlie London tells me we can still send ideas to [email protected]

Here’s what I sent:

I commute to work every day in New Orleans using the Jefferson Davis Parkway bike path. A simple, cheap thing could be done to enhance the safety of this path — just put some of those white bumps on pavement where the path crosses the various streets. This would help motorists know the path is there. Also, how about a sign or two indicating there’s a bike path? And finally, where the path crosses Tulane Ave. is quite dangerous. Cyclists can’t tell when the light will change and I often get stuck on the neutral ground, which unfortunately is very narrow and difficult to be on with a bike because the cars are passing in very close proximity. I’m not sure what the best solution is here but something could surely be done.

I’m don’t know if this is the kind of information they were looking for. Probably not. Oh well. I’ve been wanting to make these suggestions for years and I’ll pretty much tell anyone who listens. I think this path is maintained by the city, not the state. Maybe I should send it to the Department of Public Works or Parks & Parkways.

Update: I got the following in reply.

Thanks for your comments. We are working on a statewide bicycle and pedestrian policy plan for the LDOTD, so while your comment can be part of the public record, which may be helpful to the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in the future, we aren’t doing a case by case look at all bike facilities in the state – we are focused on the policy that ‘drives’ the project development process.

It’s my understanding that that bike path is city maintained, so you may want to contact the public works department, or the Regional Planning Commission.

Transporting Persephone

In just a few weeks, Xy will start back teaching, which means we will be putting our infant daughter into daycare. Aside from all the other anxieties this engenders, I’m trying to solve the transportation puzzle.

See, I will be responsible for dropping the girl off in the mornings. The daycare is just four blocks from our house, a straight shot up a bumpy but relatively quiet street. I’d like to take her there and then proceed to work without doubling back to the house.

And, of course, I’d like to avoid using a car.

My first thought was I’d strap her to my body and ride my bike. She’s too young to sit in a bike seat. We’ve got a couple devices for strapping a baby to one’s chest, thanks to the generosity of friends, and one for the back too. Our pediatrician actually approved this plan, recommending we get her a helmet.

Shopping for a helmet gave me pause, though. They don’t make bike helmets for kids under the age of one, the general consensus being that kids that young should not be riding on a bike.

I’m not worried about traffic. I’m pretty tall, and I’ve got a big tall bike. If I were to fall over with a baby strapped to my body, she could be seriously injured.

Granted, I would be careful, and I haven’t wiped out on my bike for many years. In fact, I don’t think I’ve really taken a spill since I’ve moved to New Orleans, nine years ago.

I was contemplating this fact a couple days ago as I rode my bike home for work. Just as I was congratulating myself mentally, my left foot somehow got wedged between the pedal and the pavement, and I was jerked forward off the seat and very nearly lost the ability to procreate. (Good thing that mission is already accomplished.) I didn’t fall, but it was a near thing. The morning after next I woke to find a really nasty bruise on my inner thigh. It took me a while to figure out where it came from.

Anyway, that’s my long-winded way of saying I’m not sure my original plan was such a good one after all. So I’ve been considering alternatives.

They do make those trailers that trundle along behind the bike. That would be much safer, but I think she’s still too young. She’ll only be 5 1/2 months when daycare begins.

So now I’m thinking I’ll simply strap her on to my chest and walk my bike there. Then I can drop her off and ride the bike to work.

That’s the current state of my thinking, but I’m always open to new ideas.


My day started off with a bang. I’d just changed the inner tube on my bike because I ran over a screw the other day. First flat I’ve had in over a year, seems like. I pumped it back up, went to the sink to wash my hands and BANG. Really loud. Scared me. At first I thought the compressor on our new freezer had blown, or something crazy like that. It was the tube, of course. Had I simply over-inflated it?

So I drove to work. Xy didn’t need the car. I’m back on the java junk after six months or so of caffeine free living. But my second cup cooled off a little, so I stuck it in the microwave for a minute and BANG. Half the cup was splattered around the inside of the microwave. I’ve heard that can happen but never experienced it before. Later Janice noticed the microwave was not working any longer, so I unplugged it.

On the way home for lunch I picked up another inner tube. This time I checked the tire for any sharp protuberances. Didn’t find any. Pumped up the new tube. BANG. Again. Something about that loud noise makes the air look like it’s vibrating. I guess it is.

So I took the whole wheel in to my friendly neighborhood bike shop. They diagnose I need a new tire. So I get one, and I’m back in business.

Explosions. It seems like everything I touch today is blowing up.

But these incidents are nothing compared to the news that’s erupting through my computer. An old friend has been arrested. Another old friend’s dad died. Psychic explosions.

When I plugged the microwave back in, it worked.