NOLA.com - New Orleans area needs more bike lanes in poor neighborhoods, report says
Thursday, Dec 7, 2017
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Bicycling is on the rise in the New Orleans area, but a lack of bike lanes and other infrastructure in poor neighborhoods is keeping bicycling from being a safe and viable transportation option for all residents, according a new report released Tuesday by the advocacy group Bike Easy.
The report, called “Complete Streets for Health Equity,” praises both New Orleans and Jefferson Parish for boosting the number of bike lanes on roads and pumping more funds into bike-friendly infrastructure like shared lanes, bicycle trails, bicycle racks and the city’s new bike-share program, which launched Tuesday (Dec. 5).
The report also notes that New Orleans has more than doubled its mileage of bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure since 2011. Jefferson Parish earmarked $56 million last year for future projects catering to biking and walking, according to the report.
Despite the progress, the report says there are too few bike lanes and other cycling amenities in low-income neighborhoods, including parts of New Orleans East, Algiers and Central City in Orleans Parish, as well as central Metairie and Williams Boulevard in Jefferson Parish. The report found reported bicycle crashes are particularly high in these underserved neighborhoods.
Dan Favre, Bike Easy’s executive director, said adding more bicycle lanes, paths and other infrastructure in high-need areas would not only improve public safety, but also help cut down disparities in income and public health, giving all residents an option to both get to work and get exercise.
Favre and the report advocate for so-called “complete streets” that interweave sidewalks, bike lane, crosswalk, sheltered transit stops, handicap-accessible curbs, traffic signals and stormwater management.
“The city of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish really do understand and recognize the importance of ‘complete streets,’” Favre said. “It’s just a matter of coming together with how we’re gauging and measuring success.”
The report relies on population, income and transportation data from multiple sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the Regional Planning Commission.
According to the report, bicycle use has jumped in New Orleans, with the number of residents who reported commuting to work by bike increasing by 50 percent between 2011 and 2015. Growth has been slower in neighboring Jefferson Parish, where work commutes by bike were largely unchanged during the same time period.
The report found roughly two-thirds of all bicycle crashes reported in the New Orleans area since 2004 happened in low-income neighborhoods. About one-third of the local population lives in what is considered a low-income area, the report notes.
In addition, the report found minority residents living in lower-income areas are disproportionately involved in bicycle accidents. African-American cyclists are especially at risk.
African-Americans account for roughly one-fourth of cyclists in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. But nearly half of all bike-involved crashes in both parishes since 2004 inolved an African-American cyclist, according to the report.
That comes as ridership among African-Americans appears to be rising. The Regional Planning Commission, which the report says regularly surveys pedestrians and bicyclists at various points across the city, observed a 150 percent increase in the number of African-Americans cyclists riding in the city from 2010 to 2015.
The Bike Easy report is critical of the City of New Orleans for concentrating new bike lanes in and around the downtown area. The report calls for more attention to lower-income areas like Algiers and New Orleans East, which it noted are relatively untouched. It also urges the city to start conducting quarterly and annual assessments to determine how bike-friendly local roads are, a plan previously laid out in a 2011 ordinance.
As for Jefferson Parish, the report calls on officials to continue to direct most of the $56 million in planned bike and pedestrian infrastructure spending to low-income areas. More than half of that funding has already been pledged for low-income area investment, the report notes.
Both parishes could keep better records, expand data collection and field more community input on infrastructure projects, the report contends.
“Providing connections for low-income communities with high rates of chronic diseases and low access to jobs, healthy foods, personal vehicles, and other resources should now be the priority as New Orleans and Jefferson Parish expand their active transportation networks,” the report concludes.
Erin Burns, a spokesman for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office, noted in an email Wednesday that the city last year “issued a policy memorandum establishing goals to guide the direction of the plan” outlined in the 2011 ordinance. Burns wrote also that the city has convened a working group to craft a bike-centric policy involving metrics and reporting that’s expected to roll out in spring 2018, and that the city plans to conduct two “internal workshops” with input from national experts aimed at integrating water management “and other best practices” into the policy.
“Not only have we increased bike lanes in the city, but we are doubling down our efforts to increase the amount of safe protected bike lanes,” Burns said. “We remain committed to fully implementing the Complete Streets Program.”
A spokesman for Jefferson Parish did not respond to requests Wednesday for comment on the report.
Original story on nola.com
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