Lafayette dedicates Atakapa-Ishak Biking trail
A ribbon cutting opened Phase I of the new bike trail that will connect the city to one of the longest bike trails in the nation. Consolidated Government's elected officials and staff, Atakapa-Ishak Tribal members, T.R.A.I.L. representatives, BikeLafayette, cycling advocacy groups, Community Foundation of Acadiana, and Downtown Lafayette gathered to dedicate the 2.4 mile Atakapa-Ishak Trail, a multi-phased, shared-use recreational trail, currently extending from Parc Sans Souci to Beaver Park.
City-Parish President, Joey Durel sentiments, "We can’t take those green
spaces for granted that were here when I was a kid.” He adds, "Lafayette is
continuing to show a strong interest in biking, and this trail is such an
important success for all of our residents. I hope this spurs future successes
that make Lafayette an even more attractive biking community for our residents
and for potential tourists. It is a great dynamic for Lafayette and there’s a
lot more to come.”
Rachel Mouton’s stirring remarks brought forth laughter and tears. The naming of the Trail for our people gives us "a rightful, visible presence in the community, it affords not only our tribe, but all of Acadiana, safe access to traditional Atakapa territory with a health and fitness advantage.” She continued, "The Atakapa people have a great historical significance in this region’s rich cultural history, as archeology proves our ancestors were here for thousands of years before the others came. We are not extinct; we are one Nation in our blood and in our heart.”
"Atakapa Ishak Trail gives cyclist peace of mind, a positive for safety,” mentioned Jennifer Severson, a planner for LCG's MPO. "It provides cyclists and pedestrians with a good urban bike route, a safe way to get from a downtown park to another park. Lafayette doesn’t have many biking lanes,” Severon acknowledged, with encouragement, "They are working to remedy that.”
A bikeway plan, network of bike paths along several corridors throughout the
city, was purposed in 1973. Some constructed paths still exist; Severson hopes
to utilize them for future bikeway projects.
Eventually 33 miles of shared bike lanes and sidewalks will connect Lafayette to Breaux Bridge, St. Martinville and Henderson. "I see commuters using the trail going to and from work,” Severson stated that Phase II is being funding though an FHWA Louisiana Grant.
BikeLafayette’s group led a ride to Beaver Park following the ribbon cutting. For Tony Bonomolo, BikeLafayette member Atakapa Ishak means "more and better bicycle transportation options for everyone.” He invites everyone, "Join up; cycling’s more than just riding for fun...I know exactly where honeysuckles are blooming; I know faces of neighbors three blocks away.”
Laura Phillips, MPO Transportation Demand Manager said that they are "working toward promoting bicycle safety in the school system, as we seek a source for dedicated funding.”
Shirley Barnaba, Prairie Laurent, "Atakapa Ishak Trail gives recognition to the people indigenous to Louisiana in the beginning--people who helped the Cajuns to survive.” She credited the Native American tribe that inhabited southeast Texas, and southwest La.’s coastal regions and prairies.
Chris Daigle, Eagle School of Cycling’s middle school safety instructor, interjected, "I see this getting more bikers out riding and could bring in tourism dollars for our local economy. In Cape Hatteras, they built a biking route that brings in $3.5 million in [tax revenues.]”
Safety is number one for cyclists. Department of Transportation and Development 2005-2010 data shows five serious crashes occurred on Johnston St., and three fatalities on Evangeline Thruway involving bicyclers. These crashes occurred at night, and all were males over age 40. Facts show that males are far more likely to be involved in cycle accidents.