Anyway, I recently learned about the murder of San Francisco activist Kristen Brydum. I get pretty shaken up every time I hear about a young, innocent woman my own age being murdered in New Orleans. Usually I wouldn’t try to talk about murders that happen in our city on here, but there is a detail of this story which I think is really important that cyclists in New Orleans know about.
Kristen was murdered while biking back by herself from a bar. This is something all of us have probably done at one time or another. Another important fact – she was a visitor who had just gotten into town. This was her first trip to New Orleans.
This is what I’m trying to say – being on a bike can make you fell safe, untouchable, but you’re not any safer than walking if someone has a gun.
You’re not safe if your traveling alone, say at 5 am, coming back from the bar. You’re drunk, you might get lost, and you’re not going to as aware as you usually are. If you have to, leave your bike locked up the Quarter and take a cab right to your front door. It’s better that your bike get stolen then someone to hurt or kill you. This is especially true if you have to bike home through neighborhoods that are dangerous. I don’t want to say that it’s safe to do so through Uptown or whatever, you need to use your own judgement. This is just my advice. I’ve biked damn near everything in this city during the day without trouble, but it’s always good to be with someone else. You’re always safer than way.
Take care of your visitors! I really have to thank my friends I stayed with my first overnight trip to New Orleans. They drilled it in me not to walk alone anywhere anytime (this is a good rule for people who don’t know where they’re going and might get lost) and told me what roads to take to get everywhere I needed to go. Their advice – stay on main streets like Royal, Canal, and Magazine – well-light and well-traveled – these are pretty safe roads to send your out-of-town friends on. They didn’t encourage me to explore the 9th Ward without them. But the didn’t scare me senseless – they just told it to me like it is. You need to do this when your friends (or friends of friends, or couchsurfers, or whoever) are in town. If your friends are traveling on bike, encourage them to bike in pairs or groups and avoid dangerous neighborhoods, especially at night or in the early morning. I’ve been up by where Kristen was murdered on my bike before, but with 2 people from the neighborhood in the afternoon. If your friends what to bike out to 9th Ward or whatever to see the Katrina damage, take them in the afternoon or around dinner time when people are out on their porches and cars are on the roads. Don’t let them go on their own. Many people who live in the Upper and Lower 9th are great, friendly people and it can be a pretty enjoyable ride, but at night those good people are asleep or working 3rd shift and its people who are taking advantage of the neighborhood’s dark streets and empty homes that are out.
Give your visitors a map and mark out easy and safe routes from your house to popular destination if they’re going to be going around town on their own. While I don’t know the details of the case, I’m going to bet Kristen got lost and ended up in the wrong place and the wrong time, alone, without any protection, and no one around to help her. There is almost no one living in that area right now – it’s a ghost town. Probably not somewhere she meant to end up.
People – be safe. Take care of one another. Inform visitors of dangers and don’t let them travel alone – on foot or on bike.
If you want to learn more about Kristen and her really amazing ideas and actions, check out her friends’ memorial site. She was a core organizer of SF’s Really Really Free Market, which people come with stuff to give away and you take whatever you need – there is no money and no trading. Just giving and taking. Personally, I think it’d be a really wonderful idea if people in Nola could do a Really Really Free Market in her honor. She was really into bike co-ops, radical health collectives, book collectives and Food Not Bombs. It’s so terrible that such an active, inspiring young person like Kristen was murdered. Everyone has such great potential, so please, please, look out for one another and try to keep visitors safe.