Bikes, Tourists, and all that Jazz
When you think of New Orleans, what comes to mind? The tragic reminds us of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation that followed it and still remains. The celebratory conjures up images of parades, trombones, and music flowing into the streets. Those streets – destroyed, recovering, or flourishing with jazz –are the focus of Bike Easy, and local advocates are working to ensure that bicycles are included in how we use them.
Last week, the Louisiana State Legislature drafted a bill that would create $40 million in new revenue to invest in infrastructure improvements in New Orleans’ “Hospitality Zone” (The French Quarter and Central Business District). The bill would allow a citywide election on tourist tax increases that are estimated to bring in over $12 million per year. The timing is aligned with the 2013 Super Bowl, which will be held in NOLA.
The Department of Public Works has been asked to start designing these projects that include resurfacing projects and on-street bike parking infrastructure in NOLA's historic district.
“The good news is that several improvements are being considered for pedestrian crossings such as pedestrian heads, new medians, pedestrian sanctuaries and tree plantings to calm traffic,” says Jamie Wine, Executive Director of Bike Easy. “However, only a few will have the minimum in bicycle facilities (shared-lane markings) and minimal way-finding signage, even though there is room on the street for much more progressive treatments such as cycle tracks and bicycle lanes.” Currently, a traffic study is required to eliminate a lane of traffic or parking.
Bike Easy has been awarded a $3,000 Advocacy Advance Rapid Response Grant to support their advocacy efforts to include bicycle infrastructure in these improvements. They will use funds to conduct a grassroots campaign and to lobby elected officials and Department of Public Works planners and engineers to allocate money for traffic studies.
In the long-term, these critical corridors are important to connect the Mississippi River Trail across the downtown core with bike lanes, boulevards and separated facilities. Using new state funding sources to improve bicycle facilities on these roads will also demonstrate implementation of Louisiana’s Complete Streets Policy, passed last July and encourage a change in agency culture to include bicycles by default in road projects.
Advocacy Advance will be in NOLA in November for an Action 2020 Workshop to further work with advocates, agency staff and elected officials to identify opportunities to increase federal transportation funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects in New Orleans and Louisiana.