Dressed in different shades of purple, cyclists pedaled together from Bayou St. John down Esplanade Avenue and through the Treme-Lafitte neighborhood in honor of Ralph “Peedy” Brooks, who died on May 30 after he was struck by a car while biking across North Claiborne Avenue.
Purple was Brooks’ favorite color.
The riders headed toward Duncan Plaza, directly across from New Orleans City Hall. They had a message for the New Orleans City Council and Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
When it comes to keeping the city’s cyclists safe, “New Orleans needs to do better,” Jenae Campbell, Brooks’ cousin, said.
Campbell and Brooks’ family members organized the ride along with Nola Homegrown TV and Bike Easy to raise awareness for cyclist safety. “And we want justice,” Campbell’s mother, Estonia Brooks added.
The family has been frustrated with what they say is a lack of communication from the New Orleans Police Department about its investigation into the crash.
“I want to know how is it OK for someone to hit someone on a bicycle and not get a slap on the wrist?” Brooks’ mother Cassandra Brooks said before the ride.
The driver who hit Brooks remained on the scene, but no arrest was made in Brooks’ death. An investigator with the NOPD wrote in a preliminary report that he did not believe the driver was impaired or distracted.
There were three cyclist deaths in New Orleans in May and June 2023, prompting Bike Easy to host a day of action on June 28. The advocacy organization asked concerned residents to write to their City Council members and to the Mayor’s Office to ask city officials to take quicker action to create safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians.
The group also circulated a petition asking the council to make a public statement acknowledging that cyclist traffic accidents represent “a crisis,” make safe infrastructure for every type of road user a priority and work with the state’s Department of Transportation and Development to improve road safety in the city.
On Thursday, after the ride, Allene La Spina, executive director of Bike Easy, hand delivered copies of the petition for each council member and for the mayor’s office to City Hall.
But before she gathered extra signatures and made copies of them at the nearby public library, the crowd listened to Brooks’ family members and others invested in cyclist safety speak.
Among the participants on Thursday was Nellie Catzen, co-chair of the New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition. Catzen was injured in a 2019 crash on Esplanade Avenue, following the Endymion parade, that left two people dead.
“Everything you see on our streets is the result of choices,” she said. “The country is investing in infrastructure. … We can make better choices.”
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