Report praises Orleans, Jefferson bike and pedestrian efforts but calls for prioritizing low-income
Sunday, Dec 10, 2017
New Orleans and Jefferson Parish are making progress in adding bike lanes and other features designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety to their roads, but they could do more to focus those efforts on low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, according to a report from advocates for those programs.
The report, published last week, focuses in part on the health benefits that can be gained by designing and building roads that are more amenable to walking and biking. It argues that doing so will encourage exercise, reduce harmful emissions and reduce crashes that injure or kill bikers and pedestrians.
The report was put together by three groups: Bike Easy, the National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America.
“Safe, convenient transportation options for everyone in greater New Orleans are essential to our vision of an equitable, vibrant future,” Bike Easy Executive Director Dan Favre writes in the report’s foreword. “People of all ages and abilities must be able to bike, walk and take transit, no matter how much they earn or where they live.”
The report praises work that both parishes have done in recent years to move toward more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly policies, including the adoption of a “complete streets” ordinance in New Orleans in 2011. Since then, New Orleans has more than doubled the number of miles of bikeways in the city.
So-called “complete streets” are roadways designed to accommodate not only cars but also pedestrians, bikes and other forms of transportation. The goal is both to increase safety for all those who use the streets — particularly those who are not in cars — and to improve the way they connect with the areas around them.
Jefferson Parish does not have a complete streets ordinance, but the report notes that it passed a bicycle master plan in 2014 and that of $192 million in road funds approved last year, almost $56 million is for projects that have some elements that support walking and biking.
The report calls for both parishes to expand bike-friendly infrastructure into more low-income areas. At present, the largest concentration of such streets in New Orleans is in and around the Central Business District, while in Jefferson bikepaths are located largely along Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.
Among the new projects in Jefferson are some in lower-income ZIP codes, according to the report.
“Using complete streets to reduce disparities in health means prioritizing the projects that connect low-income residents to employment opportunities or neighborhoods with high rates of chronic disease to healthy foods,” according to the report.
Saying that the percentage of people who bike to work in New Orleans increased by 50 percent between 2011 and 2015, the report argues that expanding the bike network further would provide better access to jobs for those in low-income areas, including areas like New Orleans East, the Lower 9th Ward and Algiers that are far from major employment centers.
It also argues that low-income communities are most in need of improvements to protect bicyclists and pedestrians.
Two-thirds of crashes involving pedestrians or bicycles in New Orleans and Jefferson occurred in census tracts with poverty rates higher than 20 percent, though those areas account for only about a third of the population, the report says.
Between 2009 and 2015, the risk of being struck while walking increased by 80.3 percent, while the risk of being struck while biking decreased by 29.3 percent, it says.
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