By Chase Berenson
At first glance, Baton Rouge only seems like a bicycle-friendly city in a couple of distinct areas, such as University Lake and downtown.
These biking oases also feel disconnected from each other without feasible thoroughfares connecting them. But initial impressions can be deceiving.
Baton Rouge doesn’t have very many bike trails, but the ones that do exist are located strategically to connect lesser-used roads and allow bicyclists a much easier way to cross the city. When I recently learned that it is possible to ride from Capitol Cyclery on Essen all the way to City Park Lake, the LSU campus, and on to the levee without getting on any main roads, I figured that I’d have to give it a try.
Using a dirt trail through a surprisingly big meadow connecting the Pollard Estates subdivision on Perkins to the area by Glasgow Middle School, there’s a direct link from Kenilworth to Southdowns.
When traveling through at a bike’s pace rather than a car’s, the bike rider can notice more details and truly appreciate all of these stately homes. Sitting at the traffic light to cross Lee even gives the ride a bit of an urban feel, but in a pleasantly shady and cool residential neighborhood.
Southdowns brings you to University and City Park Lakes, which are then within easy reach of LSU’s campus, and campus connects you straight to the levee.
The top of the levee has a bike trail, which is paved all the way downtown if you head north and want to reach the city. If you head south, the trail is paved until Farr Park, and then turns into a dirt trail all the way to L’Auberge Casino and beyond.
Unfortunately, the ride from campus to L’Auberge is a lot longer than one might think if they haven’t checked a map first, but it’s a great trip. Towards Elbow Bayou the levee has absolutely zero traffic, and riders can go for miles with only a couple cars even passing on River Road.
After seven bumpy, dusty miles, L’Auberge sneaks up on you, and without warning you find yourself thrust from the lonely levee into the shaded porte-cochere surrounded by gamblers looking at you confusedly.
From L’Auberge, there are two miles of battling cars on Gardere Lane before a rider can slip up onto Staring’s sidewalk for a peaceful jaunt back to the bike shop.
If you don’t already have a bicycle of your own, get in touch with Gaston at Baton Rouge Bicycle Rentals and he will hook you up for $25 per day, including complimentary bike drop-off and pick-up and your house or dorm.
For suggestions on where to go, the staff at Capitol Cyclery was very helpful with showing me maps and (literally) getting me going the right direction.