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Biking is easier in the Big Easy



New Orleans is a magnificent city by bicycle. It's flat, temperate for much of the year, has lots of streets with slow or no traffic, and, as reported in the Times-Picayune, a growing number of bike lanes (about 30 miles and counting). To tap into the local biking scene, start with the Metro Bicycle Coalition. From there you might check out the monthly New Orleans Critical Mass ride, and the racing group New Orleans Bicycle Club.Rent some wheels from any of several services throughout the city. I got a comfy coaster bike from Joy Ride Bike Rentals (504-982-1617). $30 gets you a bike, helmet, and lock-all delivered to and picked up from your hotel or other location anywhere in the city. That was the cheapest and most convenient of the services I looked into, but others include Mike the Bike Guy in the Touro district (4411 Magazine St., 504-899-1344); or in the Faubourg Marigny district, there's Bicycle Michael's (622 Frenchman St., 504-945-9505).

Now, what to do once you're on your bike? There's ample information online about the city's famous French Quarter, Garden District, and other areas. For information on these and other districts, visit NOLA.com, or check the comprehensive listings offered by the alternative weekly Gambit New Orleans. That said, let me highlight a couple less well-trafficked neighborhoods, both of which happen to be just north of more famous and touristy areas.

Cruise around Central City (just north of the Garden District) and look for signs for the "I-Witness" project. Dial the main number on the sign (504-265-1116), punch in the code for that spot, and you'll hear a story from a local about what the neighborhood used to be like, or maybe a jazz funeral that took place there. Stumble upon stories at random, or check the website for a map. (I must reverse myself to say just one thing about the Garden District. A lazy trip on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, which runs through the district, is one of the most sublimely pleasant experiences I've enjoyed in the city. You might consider taking the streetcar-or your bicycle-all the way out St. Charles Avenue to Audubon Park, which is also home to the city's zoo.)

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