Blind bike club takes riders on a sensory journey of New Orleans’ sights and sounds

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 10:04 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - On any given Saturday, you may see them tooling along Bayou St. John or Esplanade Avenue; a special group of bikers experiencing a unique opportunity to cruise New Orleans with a little help from their friends.

For a growing number of bikers, the serenity of the bayou, the Esplanade Avenue architecture, and the sights of the French Quarter lay out in front of them with no windshield in the way. But imagine that ride... in the dark.

For those who used to be able to see, the sounds, smells, and memories recreate the route.

“I do have a photographic memory where I can identify all these intersections and streets and some of the buildings,” said David Green.

The group rides blind thanks to their pilots - or tour guides of sorts.

Green thought his bike riding days were over after progressive retinal disease robbed him of his sight 20 years ago.

“I was having fun,” he said. “I was living and doing everything that a young man wanted to do.”

For years, his eyesight deteriorated to the point where he could no longer see. His desire to remain active, however, never wavered.

“I said if I’m gonna have it, I’ve got to live with it,” Green said.

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Green collected eight tandem bicycles and a posse of biking enthusiasts willing to guide, pedal, and steer blind riders on a sensory journey through New Orleans. A ride some thought they might never take.

“They hear the church bells and then you have the band and then you get to the smells of food,” he explains.

The group calls out for one another and announces when cars are approaching from the rear to ward off potential danger.

Safety concerns for bikers riding blind are real. Over the years, many bike riders have been killed on the streets of New Orleans by drivers who disregarded bike lanes.

The group prefers to ride on Saturday mornings when traffic is typically lighter. Thankfully there have been no mishaps outside of the occasional flat tire or two.

Green started the Blind Bike Club to get exercise and now it provides those who can’t see a glimpse of a world millions enjoy each year - a world which they might otherwise be shut out from without their volunteer pilots.

“This has been a game changer for me to come out and enjoy these activities,” Duronne Walker said. “I got a wonderful guide here describing some of the landmarks of the city.”

“I enjoy the whole ride from beginning to end,” said Quick Bright. “Especially on a beautiful day like this. You can’t beat it.”

For those riding blind, they look forward to each Saturday when they can do it all over again, thanks to a blind man with a vision and volunteers who see a way to carry it through.

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