People passionate about pedaling discuss the city’s cycling future as part of NOLA Bike to Work Week

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 NEW ORLEANS  (WGNO) - Leaving a smaller carbon footprint, staying fit, and enjoying the great outdoors are all reasons people give for spinning their wheels. But just how does New Orleans rate when it comes to being bike-friendly?

Dan Favre, the executive director of Bike Easy, says the city has come a long way.

"Bicycling has grown tremendously in New Orleans: From 2000 to 2013, we saw a 208 percent increase, and in fact, we are the fifth-ranked city for the most bicycle commuters in the country — with 3.6 percent of the population commuting to work," says Favre.

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A decade ago there were fewer than a dozen miles of bike trails in the city; now there are nearly 100. But cycling advocates say there's work to be done when it comes to educating the public about how cyclists and motor vehicles can travel together in harmony.

Tuesday night’s community forum, “Let’s Roll: The Future of Bicycling in New Orleans” was part of NOLA Bike to Work Week. Panelists and community leaders met at the Sojourner Truth Center in the Lafitte neighborhood to discuss ways to make biking safer, easier and more fun.

It began with a moment of silence for a cyclist killed on Saturday. Police say he was struck by two cars just outside Tulane Medical Center after witnesses say he disregarded a stop sign.

Bike Law Louisiana member Charlie Thomas says accidents like that are typically avoidable.

"And that’s what makes it so tragic. So if you're a motorist running a stop sign, or a cyclist running a light it's terrible because you are putting everybody at risk," Thomas says.

He reminds cyclists to “Follow the laws, be predictable, be visible and really show a common courtesy and a mutual respect.”

These community leaders hope better communication will mean fewer accidents.

And Favre urges everyone to join the campaign and bike to work this week, or any week. Click here for info on events and contests for NOLA Bike to Work Week.

"Cycling is a great way to unwind on your way home from work. Everyone has their own reasons to ride, but it's really important that we have this as an easy, fun and safe transportation option in New Orleans," he says.