Baronne St Bike Lane: Six Months Later
Executive Director, Dan Favre, Tells His Baronne Street Story
In the fall of last year, I found myself sitting in the auditorium at the Contemporary Arts Center listening to a variety of back and forth arguments about what a reconfigured Baronne Street should look like. The thought of becoming Bike Easy’s Executive Director hadn’t even crossed my mind yet, but as someone who regularly rides a bicycle, I was very interested in the potential for a bike lane on Baronne.
I already had a long history with the street at that point. It’s where I worked for my first 5 years in the city, and even once our offices moved, I often chose Baronne for my route to bike across the CBD and then continue on towards Uptown. I regularly ate lunch at P&G, had coffee at Dee’s, and I absolutely loved it when Rouse’s opened on Baronne.
Today, I ride down the Baronne Street bike lane almost every morning on my way to work at Bike Easy’s offices in Central City and anytime I’m heading from my home downtown to destinations uptown. I also continue to frequent the growing number of businesses along the street, and quickly locking up my bike right outside to run inside for a quick purchase sure beats finding a place to park!
Back at that public meeting, I was surprised to hear some of the doomsday scenarios from opponents of the Baronne bike lane alluding to everything from business being devastated to hours waiting in traffic congestion. Of course, I was more inclined to support the folks who talked about healthy transportation, who cited studies of economic development spurred by bike lanes, and who were primarily concerned with the safety of all the people using the street.
Turns out, six months since the City made the right decision to support a vibrant, healthy Baronne St by adding a dedicated bike lane, the sky hasn’t fallen and things are well on their way to be safer and healthier. Many thanks to Mayor Landrieu and his team for choosing to prioritize healthy transportation and forward-thinking city planning!
Now, is Baronne St perfect as it is today? Of course not. I get frustrated by the problems that exist around the bike lane – people driving taxis, buses, and cars in the bike lane; folks in delivery vehicles using the lane as a loading zone, and people on bikes coming towards me in the lane (looking forward to that companion lane on O’Keefe!) – but Baronne St has mightily improved with the addition of a buffered bike lane.
While the official data is still being processed, through my years of experience on Baronne St, I can anecdotally vouch for a large increase in the number of people riding bikes on Baronne St since the bike lane was installed. I love riding along the lane in the good company of many other folks on bikes – some are in suits, others chef pants, and yet others in yoga clothes or their casual weekend wear. And while safety challenges persist, I think we all feel safer pedaling down Baronne St today in an imperfect bike lane than we did six months ago in an unnecessary motor vehicle lane.
As I ride down Baronne most days, I wish that I’d see more police pulling over the worst offenders – people in cars dangerously using the bike lane to pass other cars on the right, folks who blithely drive down the lane for blocks, and all the people I watch obliviously texting while driving. Of course, I care about a lot of other issues related to policing and crime in this city as well, so I understand that these types of citations may not be top priority.
I often think back to some of the other recommendations I heard at that public hearing in the fall, and there’s one I heard from Bike Easy that really sticks out – install a parking-protected bike lane. Imagine how safe it would feel – for anyone from age 8 to 80 – to bike down a lane that is protected by a row of parked cars. It’d be easy on Baronne St – just swap the buffer and bike lane with the right-hand parking lane, and voila! There is still plenty of parking available, people on bikes feel (and are) safer, and illegal use of the bike lane is discouraged by design.
I look forward to continuing to ride on the Baronne St. bike lane everyday for many years into the future, and I’m happy to lead Bike Easy’s work to ensure the safest, most accessible bicycle facilities on Baronne St and throughout the city’s growing network. And it feels good to have so many great partners, including the Mayor and his administration, involved in those efforts with us! Together, we’re making New Orleans a top-notch bicycling city and ensuring healthy, safe transportation options for everyone.
Dan Favre is Bike Easy’s Executive Director.