By Dinah Rogers, Mid-City Messenger
Bikes of all sizes were pedaled and parked along one block of Esplanade Avenue in front of Alcée Fortier Park Saturday (Feb. 1) as neighbors gathered for Le Tour de Bean.
“We’re hoping for the whole neighborhood to come out,” said Devin de Wulf, Krewe of Red Beans founder and event organizer.
Cyclist and pedestrian safety are an important issue for the De Wulf family. “I rode bikes until I got pregnant with our oldest child, and just didn’t feel safe,” said Annelies de Wulf, an emergency room physician. “I see victims of bike and pedestrian accidents and the devastating effects on the communities.”
The street was closed off to vehicle traffic for the Carnival block party created and hosted by the Krewe of Red Beans and the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association to promote bicycle and pedestrian safety during special events.
The location and timing of the event were chosen to honor the lives of Sharee Walls and David Hynes who were killed nearly a year ago by a drunk driver as they were cycling that same stretch of Esplanade.
Walls, a Krewe of Red Beans member, and Hynes were killed two days before last year’s Krewe of Red Beans parade. Le Tour de Bean is one of two initiatives the walking krewe started this year to memorialize Walls and Hynes. The other is to make New Orleans streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, especially during the city’s many special events.
“New Orleans has the potential to be a bike-friendly and pedestrian city – but we suffer from a lack of bicycle infrastructure, street-use planning for special events, and the prevalence of drunk-driving,” the krewe stated in a press release,
Along with children’s activities, free food and live music, tables lined the block offering bike and pedestrian safety information and signs. City Council members gave brief speeches stressing the city’s commitment to continuing to create protected, dedicated bike ways.
Kelley Dair, a victim services specialist with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, read a letter from the Walls and Hynes families to those attending the event. “We applaud you coming together as a community to make something positive out of a horrible situation. Your efforts now and in the future will save lives and make this city a safer place to be,” the letter said in part.