We’ve got the best bets for a family bicycling adventure in New Orleans and beyond

            New Orleans is known for great outdoor fun. From festivals to the bayous, from Audubon Zoo to City Park, locals have always braved the heat for the sake of a good time, cher!

            And now the city has added to its outdoor activities in another family-friendly way – bicycling. After the federal levee failures during Hurricane Katrina and the successive drainage improvements that followed, the city added bike lanes along many busy corridors, with the ultimate goal of creating 100 miles of paths throughout New Orleans.

            “Things like cycling lanes are about quality of life,” says Bill Burke, an avid local cyclist and a multi-sport race director for events across the United States. “There’s still room to improve – a lot more. But it’s a great start. People need safe and convenient pathways for recreation.” 

            Further, the city is implementing a new bike sharing program, set to launch this fall in an effort to promote healthy lifestyles, low-cost transportation and parking relief. Riders will be able to rent a bicycle from one station and return it to the station closest to their destination.

            May is National Bike Month, and there’s no better way to celebrate than for families to get outside, get some exercise and start cycling! To help, Nola Family has compiled the best places to bike across New Orleans and beyond!

  • Lafitte Greenway – This 2.6-mile linear park opened in 2015 and cuts a swath from Basin Street in the Tremé neighborhood to the intersection of N. Alexander and St. Louis streets, just four blocks past Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City. With its 12-foot-wide path, there is plenty of room for bikers, joggers and walkers. “It’s a great option for my wife, 9-year-old daughter and me to go out and get some riding in without going to City Park,” says Chris Dufour, who lives in the Bayou St. John neighborhood. “And if we want to ride a bit farther, we’ll go to the end of the trail and take a right, which is a straight shot to City Park.” Dufour bikes downtown to work three or four times a week and says the Greenway gets him there a bit quicker than his other regular route down Esplanade Avenue.
  • Mississippi River Levee Trail – This popular path runs unabated from Audubon Park all the way to Norco in St. Charles Parish, more than 20 miles away. While novice cyclists are regular riders along the trail, they should be careful because it can be windy near the water, Burke says. “A lot of bad things happened during Hurricane Katrina, but one of the good things to come from it is that we raised the levees and, at the same time, put in these wonderful paved paths along the top of them,” he says. “They’re flat and are ideal for riding or running.”
  • Lake Pontchartrain Levee Trail – Beginning in Bucktown and running 11 miles west to the St. Charles Parish line, this is Burke’s favorite trail to ride. Its design is practically identical to the Mississippi River levee, only it’s located on the north side of town. “I live in Lakeview, and I get on the path at the Coast Guard Station in Bucktown,” Burke says. “The levee is being raised in a few spots right now, so you can’t ride the full way without stopping at times. But that will be complete soon.” Access points include the Bonnabel Boat Launch and Clearview Parkway in Metairie, and the end of Williams Boulevard, near the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner. “There’s plenty of parking at all those spots too,” Burke says. “It’s a great place to ride.”
  • Tammany Trace – This 31-mile, Rails-to-Trails conversion was once the bed of the Illinois Central Railroad. Now it’s a tourist attraction, luring more than 300,000 locals and visitors to St. Tammany Parish each year for a scenic bicycle tour. The Trace runs from downtown Covington to Slidell, passing through Abita Springs, Mandeville and Lacombe along the route. All five municipalities have trailheads, and the Trace’s headquarters is located at Koop Drive, just north of Interstate 12 near Mandeville. Steve Sperier, a Mandeville resident and long-time endurance cycling enthusiast, says the Trace is ideal for beginners and serious cyclists alike. “For recreational riders, it’s a safe place to ride,” he says. “For a guy like me, it’s a surfaced inner-city street that takes me to the long cycling highways – places where we train like Louisiana highways 1082 and 40, and out past Abita and Bush.”

 

Looking for a great spot to teach the kids?

            If the goal is to teach a child how to ride, the Lafitte Greenway and the Tammany Trace are well-suited for this purpose. The paths provide wider spaces for turning around and stopping, plus they are more “park-like” in scope, with benches and shade areas.

            Another great spot for kids is New Orleans City Park, where 4 miles of bike paths await the novice cyclist. While the paths are good for adults, too, the seclusion and distance from the road makes them ideal for children. Audubon Park is perfect for kids as well, with a 1.8-mile loop track that touches both the St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street sides of the tree-filled oasis.

            In Jefferson Parish, Wally Pontiff Jr. Playground is a biking hot spot. The park is located in a quiet area off Palm Street in Old Metairie and is an ideal space for kids to hone their riding skills. Lafreniere Park on Downs Boulevard in Metairie also offers paved paths specifically for biking, walking and running.

            Possibly the prettiest spot for riding, Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve on the West Bank offers miles of wide, paved paths that wind past cypress trees and scenic waterways – the perfect south Louisiana scenery to get those little legs pedaling for the very first time.

 

 

 

Andrew Canulette is a journalist and father of four whose work has appeared in Nola Family, The Times-Picayune, ESPN Outdoors and Bassmaster.com.