Bike Friendly New Orleans

10 Oct

If you know anything about New Orleans, you probably think “bike friendly” is one serious typo.

Photo by Rusty Costanza, The Times-Picayune

According to Kari Dequine, of the Times Picayune, New Orleans ranks sixth among cities with populations greater than 250,000, of the number of workers who primarily use a bicycle to get to work.  This accounts for 2.4% of New Orleans’ commuters; for comparison, Portland, OR ranks 1st with nearly 6% of workers commuting by bike. 

Ms. Dequine reported in her article today, that prior to Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans had only seven miles of bike network (bike lanes, shared lanes and paths).  There are now 30 miles of bike network with 14 more scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

Thirty miles may not sound like a lot, but they have more than quadrupled their network for bicycling in just five years – that’s impressive!  Plus, with almost 50% more by the end of the year.  That is a sea change in attitude and more importantly, commitment to bicycling as a bona fide means of transportation.

These improvements have come from state and federal recovery cash and thus have not had to be pulled from other needs according to Dequine. 

How did all this happen and why did New Orleans commit to investing in bicycling infrastructure?  The article indicates in part it was because of the economic downturn and need for cheaper transportation, as well as growing environmental concerns. 

It seems to me, the framework or driver (no pun intended) for the change was the commitment by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development when they adopted a policy last July that requires each state road construction project to consider the best design for accommodating all forms of transportation – including bicycles, public transit and pedestrians.

Sounds like to me that Louisiana DODT adopted the Complete Streets philosophy.  Without that shift in policy, I doubt that many of these changes would have happened.  In my mind it is the single most important thing a state can do.  One I would love to see Oklahoma and all other states do! 

Complete Streets provides a comprehensive framework for the types of improvements needed for safe bicycle riding to occur, as well as various resources to help states pull it off without reinventing the wheel – another pun, sorry.

If Louisiana did in fact adopt the Complete Street policy, I would love to know how the bicycling community worked to get it adopted.

Photo by Rusty Costanza, The Times-Picayune

It was just yesterday I posted about the growth of cycle tourism in Europe, and now today I read that New Orleans has made great strides in increasing their network of lanes, paths shared roads for bicyclists.

One can only hope other cities/states take notice and make the same commitment and policy changes.  The Secretary of Transportation, Ray Lahood, certainly is committed to it and issued a statement this past March specifying that pedestrians and bicyclists were to be considered equals as modes of transportation to motorized transportation. (Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation)

Suffice it to say, as Velo Hobo pointed out to me in his comment yesterday to the Cycle Tourism post, there is an increase in bicycle touring in the U.S. and an increase in cyclists as a whole.

We are a growing presence and a growing force. 

The tide may turn slowly, but improvements are being made.  I will continue to look for examples of improvements and positive changes for the bicycling community and post about them.  Let me know of any you are aware of in your area or if you would want to do a guest post about it.

Wishing you safe riding.

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