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Bicyclists rally to demand safer streets

The Times-Picayune: Bicyclists rally to demand safer streets

By Jonathan Bullington, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

on July 18, 2014 at 9:20 PM, updated July 19, 2014 at 7:59 AM

The day after a 52-year-old New Orleans cyclist lost his life in a collision with a tractor-trailer truck in the Marigny, members of the city's bicycling community organized a mass bike ride to demand safer conditions on the city's roads

"We're offered these two little white lines down the side of the road, and that's it," said Adam Traugott, 26, a St. Claude resident who organized the ride in response to Philip Geeck's death Thursday afternoon (July 17).

"The culture here treats bicyclists as illegitimate," he continued.

The group of more than 60 cyclists -- some bearded and tattooed, others in collared shirts and ties -- crowded the intersection of Royal Street and Franklin Avenue under intermittent rain.

One by one, they took turns sharing stories of the close calls, cursing motorists and gaping potholes that have become almost ubiquitous in their daily commute.

Traugott said he nearly lost his life on a bicycle four years ago while riding along St. Claude and Elysian Fields avenues -- the same intersection where police say Geeck was struck by a semi truck attempting to make a right turn from St. Claude onto Elysian.

Traugott's bicycle was totaled, he said, but he survived unharmed.

"It could have been worse," he said.

Geeck, 52, tried to brake as the truck made its turn, according to witness Victor Pizarro, but the truck's wheels caught Geeck's bicycle and "he kind of got sucked under."

The intersection, which cycling advocates called treacherous, was the site of a nearly identical crash in 2005.

No arrest was made and no citations given to the 51-year-old truck driver from Violet who struck Geeck. NOPD said the crash investigation continues.

The lack of charges in Geeck's death sparked outrage among the group of cyclists, who demanded enforcement of the city's existing bicycle laws.

"We want to publicly pressure the city and NOPD to charge the driver," Traugott told the gathered crowd.

Those who knew Geeck described him as a warm and creative man who had fallen on hard times recently after losing his home in Algiers.

"He was one of the nicest and sweetest people I ever met," said friend Shane Norris, 54. "I was a combat marine. I've seen a lot of death. This one hit me hard. He was such a nice man."

After discussing ways to pressure city officials for improved cycling conditions, the group took off from Royal and Franklin to the spot where Geeck was killed. There, they briefly blocked traffic at the intersection, chanting "Whose streets? Our streets!"

Several NOPD squad cars arrived and, after patiently negotiating with the group, the flow of traffic resumed.