On one Tuesday each year, the streets are closed in New Orleans while parades roll. Mardi Gras Day showcases the krewes of Zulu and Rex, two of the oldest and most iconic parades, rolling down St. Charles Avenue. Not surprisingly, thick crowds turn out to watch Rex’s procession of hand-made floats (assembled this way since 1872) or catch a hand-painted coconut from a Zulu krewe member wearing a grass skirt. Experiencing this day by bicycle is a foregone conclusion.
Nevertheless, with overcast skies and a “feels like” temperature in the 20s, Mardi Gras 2015 was only for the brave and stubborn. My toddler daughter and pregnant wife stayed warm at home. I took to the streets on my Voodoo 853-tubed cyclocross bike with my friend Chris Kijko. An avid cyclist, Chris joined us at our Bike Law Summit in Austin last month and is an honorary member of our team. More importantly today, Chris and his family have attended nearly every parade over the last two weeks, and he wasn’t about to get an absentee mark on Fat Tuesday. Neither was I.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Mardi Gras setup in Uptown New Orleans, St. Charles Avenue has a wide neutral ground (median) separating directions of travel. Floats roll down one side while the other is turned into a corridor for people primarily walking or biking, whether in costumes or not. In essence, this is seemingly the oldest implementation of the Complete Streets concept as all roadway users are accommodated. Mind you, the organization and predictability of each user’s travel is lacking.
After leaving my house, I met Chris off the parade route and we set out to enjoy Mardi Gras by bicycle. Chris was riding his cyclocross bike, which like mine, proved valuable at low-speed maneuvering around the dozens of unforeseen obstacles (cotton candy grocery-cart vendors, roller-bladers, a guy who is unable to see through his full-body banana costume, a pig, etc.) that necessarily come with the day.
We spent the majority of our ride on St. Charles, making stops to see different family and friends. Rather than describe the rest of the ride in mere text, I’ve uploaded a 1 minute ride summary taken from my GoPro Hero 4 Black. Enjoy and happy Mardi Gras!