Final Review of the Kenner Pop-Up Protected Bikeway

Posted by Oliver Anderson on April 30, 2018 in Advocacy

What we learned from installing the first on-road protected bikeway in Jefferson Parish

Last month, community volunteers, Bike Easy and City of Kenner staff, and Complete Streets Ambassadors installed the first protected bike lanes in Jefferson Parish. The route ran for six blocks, both lake-bound and river-bound, along Loyola Drive in Kenner between West Esplanade and East / West Loyola Drive. Although the route was just temporary, this pop-up bikeway highlighted the importance of safe and reliable biking infrastructure and how best existing roads in Jefferson Parish can be built to share among people who bike, walk, take transit, and drive.

Father and Daughter riding the bikeway

We chose to create a protected bike lane for this project because across the country, bike lanes with some sort of physical barrier – whether planters, plastic bollards, or a row of parked cars – have proven safer for everyone on the street versus just a painted line separating bikes from cars. People biking down the route, instead of jostling for space on the sidewalk or worrying about their safety when biking in the “No Parking” lane, could see how it felt to ride in a protected lane while they go to the store, a park, or work their way to the levee trails. And people enjoyed it! Of the folks who filled out our follow-up survey, either online or in person, 79% said their overall opinion of the bikeway was “Great” or “Excellent”.

Graph of statisticsOne of the main reasons people ride in Jefferson Parish is to stay healthy and active and have a enjoy a little time outside. Of the people we surveyed who ride bikes, 93% said they ride for either “exercise and health” or “fun and recreation”. And the levee trail system and various parks around Jefferson Parish are the main ways to do so. With this bikeway demonstration, a safer and more accessible bike route was created to places like Kenner City Park, Wentwood Playground, and the levee trail by way of West Esplanade. It was also easier to access shopping centers such as Walmart and Walgreens, Oschner Hospital, and various schools close to the route. From our surveying, 67% of respondents said they would ride more if there were more bike lanes available similar to the one we installed on Loyola Drive.

This project would not have been possible without collaboration between various city departments and the help of dozens of amazing volunteers. Paul and Audrey at Paint Day Kenner’s Department of Public Works provided the barricades and cones to ensure the route was safe and helped with maintenance while it was in use and Mike Ince Interim Director of the City of Kenner Office of Community Development was instrumental in seeing this project through. Our community volunteers helped every step of the way. We had three weekends of canvassing where volunteers and Bike Easy staff went around the neighborhood knocking on doors to gather local residents’ opinions about biking safety along Loyola Drive. Cheri Ben-Iesau, a local artist and Jefferson Parish resident, led the effort to design and paint the covers for the barricades that lined the route. She welcomed eight volunteers to her home for a paint day to ensure we had 32 barricade covers finished! And dozens of volunteers from all over the parish and region came out on installation day to help spray lines on the road, put up signs, and place barricades. During our press event after the official installation, Mayor Zahn and other officials from the Kenner City Council applauded the project and underscored the importance of this type of infrastructure. Mayor Zahn made sure to mention that he hopes to be back on Loyola Drive in the near future to cut the ribbon on a permanent bike lane along this route.

There is a growing culture of riding in Jefferson Parish. This is made especially evident by the hundreds of riders who show up to the Gretna social ride every Friday night with lights and music, the spandex-clad riders cruising the levee at dawn, and the families teaching their kids how to ride on the weekends. From the data we gathered and conversations we had and continue to have with the bikers of Jefferson parish, however, there is room for improvement. It is nearly impossible to cross the Parish going from lake to river, with I-10 and train tracks as serious obstacles. The parish lacks any permanent fully safe and accessible on-road bike infrastructure, and bikers are forced to jostle for space on roads with high speed limits. Cities around Jefferson Parish are pursuing individual projects to improve safety for bikers, but we need to ensure that those projects are done within a larger vision that truly serves the needs of bikers. Bike Easy hopes to continue our work with the riding community and parish government to bring a network of safe, accessible, and protected bike routes to all communities across Jefferson Parish.

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