Dear Jazz Fest, how we love your weekends and your revelry, but oh how we hate the traffic that it causes. Both Jazz Fest weekends and Mardi Gras are arguably the worst times to drive and/or park your car here in New Orleans. With Uber, taxis, and pedicabs there are so many options NOT to drive that I really do question why anyone does it.
For those who wish to bike ride around during festival season--and to Jazz Fest in particular--here is a little bit of advice on how to do it safely and without being a nuisance yourself.
Know your route. It’s fun to ride down unknown streets and see another part of New Orleans, but relatively few people know the names of the streets surrounding the Fairgrounds, thus their way back home. When you want to leave in a hurry as you are sunburn, tired, and a little tipsy it’s best to know the your way home. The homes around the Fairgrounds are just those, homes, so be courteous if you are trying to use a gate to lock your bike. There are few poles or streets signs over in this area which is the great thing about the next point.
Bike parking lot. It’s huge but it is packed. Don’t take up too much space by locking your bike to another or at an angle so no one else can get around you. When you approach the Fairgrounds entrance the parking lot will be to your left. It is a free-for-all so play nice!
Safety, in general. Bring your lights and do not try to ride if you are one beer shy of taking a nap on the ground during your last concert. You’re really just going to create a lot more trouble for your friends.
Travel with people, especially after the festival. When you’re in a pack do know where you are going so you do NOT crowd the already busy streets and add confusion. The bike rides are longer and more treacherous than most are used to so traveling with friends is always a good choice. From the French Quarter alone it’s about a three mile journey across many intersections and the notorious Broad Street.
Bring presents. You’re on a bike which means you can haul a gallon of daiquiri or a few beers to enjoy before you cross the threshold into the Disneyland-priced arena. People will really think you planned ahead even if you buy it at a convenience store on the way.
What NOT to do: i.e. ride on sidewalks (which will be packed with people), bike anywhere to the right of the Fairgrounds gate (not because it’s scary over there, but trust me, it’s not the direction you are intending to go, i.e. French Quarter, Mid-City,...home), cut off cars (they are already in traffic and don’t need more reasons to hate bikes).
Enjoy the after parties. There are lots of bands that play on infamous Mystery Street and Fortin Street to the southwest of the Fairgrounds. Expect Brazilian drum band Bate Bunda to lead the way dressed all in blue and yellow. This is a great way to ease out of the festivities because as we know the party continues even after you leave the Fairgrounds.