BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to EMS, 13 pedestrians and cyclists have been hit on Florida Boulevard in 2017, bringing the total number for East Baton Rouge Parish to 227. It's a deadly problem that at least one councilwoman says needs to be addressed now.
"People should be able to ride their bikes without being concerned with, 'Am I going to get killed? Am I taking my life in my own hands if get on a bike,'" said District 10 Councilwoman Tara Wicker.
Wicker says while biking across town to visit family, she's seen firsthand the dangers that come with using two wheels instead of four.
"Parts of the city we were trying to get through, it was virtually impossible. We have to stop our bikes and literally I was terrified from time to time," she said.
The councilwoman says major corridors, more specifically Florida Boulevard, need improvements such as crosswalks and signs that remind motorists to be mindful of bicyclists.
Steven Walter Neal, 54, was hit from behind and killed while riding down the service road on the south side of Florida Boulevard. Police say Neal was wearing dark colored clothing and lacked proper lighting on his bike. The crash remains under investigation.
Cyclist, Doug Moore, with Bike Baton Rouge calls Florida Boulevard one of the most dangerous streets in the city. Moore says in a perfect world, cyclists wouldn't share the road with cars. However, he gave an example of how motorists and cyclists coexist in the city. There is a designated bike path that runs along the road in the Capital Heights neighborhood, however, that path doesn't stretch beyond those homes.
"If you've ever looked at a map of Baton Rouge, you'll see that the neighborhoods often don't connect, so you're left with no choice. You have to use dangerous, yet unavoidable streets sometimes," said Moore.
Right now Bike BR, in partnership with BREC, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and the City of Baton Rouge are working on the East Baton Rouge Parish Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan to make biking safer.
"It does deal with infrastructure improvements. It does deal with signage and numbering systems and everything that is necessary to make sure that if you're part of that bicycle community, you can literally get on your bike and get across the city," said Wicker.
Wicker also says they're still in the early stages of setting that plan into motion, but are working to improve education and stress the value of bicycling.
Experts say they want to remind drivers that cyclists are considered vehicles and are entitled to the same rights as cars, but it goes both ways. People on bikes need to remember to signal when turning, stop at traffic lights, and have proper lighting on their bike at all times.