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Thursday, Dec 27, 2018

What’s next for New Orleans’ bike lane network as the Connect the Crescent demonstration ends?
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What’s next for New Orleans’ bike lane network as the Connect the Crescent demonstration ends?

By Kevin Litten, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
The Times-Picayune

“Connect the Crescent, the temporary network of protected bike lanes throughout the New Orleans’ historic core, is coming down this month. The nonprofit behind the effort is taking away some lessons learned and will be looking to city officials to make a permanent, expanded version in 2019.

The ambitious project involved more than 150 volunteers laying out several miles of protected bike lanes who spent more than 1,000 hours building the network. The project was aimed most of all at getting a “deeper more robust” conversation about mobility, said Dan Favre, Bike Easy executive director. It was also a learning process for the advocacy organization, as it gathered feedback from cyclists, residents and business owners near the newly configured lanes.

“The idea behind Connect the Crescent was to demonstrate how we can affordably transform the streets to be safe and equitable,” Favre said. “It was a way to start the conversation.”

For example, flooding at Dryades and Calliope streets, near Oretha Castle Boulevard, was a persistent complaint from cyclists. The intersection was a major connection between the Warehouse District and Central City in the temporary network. Bike Easy also decided against a protected bike lane along Decatur Street after realizing how tricky the current traffic flow on the French Quarter artery can be.

Connect The Crescent, a traffic pop-up, will add safety features to downtown streets through Dec. 15.

The organization is now analyzing results from about 1,000 surveys turned in by bicyclists. The responses include feedback about streets they thought were too bumpy to be part of the network, or cyclists who said they couldn’t use protected lanes because of giant puddles.

Bike Easy chose the fall for its test because it’s less rainy than other times of the year, but this past October ended up being the third-rainiest since 2008.

The rain highlighted the importance of choosing good lane-marking materials.

“The tape needs dry ground to go on,” Favre said. “We were doing a lot more maintenance” than expected.

The grant will fund various studies and could lead to more protected bike lanes.

Bike Easy spent about $60,000 on its demonstration, but there’s a lot more money on the line in 2019. The city has been awarded a $2.6 million grant to create a more permanent bike lane network, with city officials determining where it runs.

Favre’s organization has signed on to help manage the project and handle community engagement. The grant is part of a two-year, $10 million commitment to create “aggressive low-stress bike infrastructure improvements by the end of 2020,” Laura Bryan, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s transportation office director, wrote in an August email.

The grant provides funding for 75 miles of bike lanes, a citywide bicycle plan and a public relations campaign to shift public opinion about bike infrastructure. The vision, according to Bryan, is to see bicycle infrastructure “as a benefit instead of a detriment.”

Connect the Crescent was an important start to that process, Favre said.

“The idea of the pop-up demonstration was a tool to get people involved in the transportation process and people who have traditionally been left out of that process” to become engaged, he said. “It’s going to take a lot of work with the planning and design and the construction but we have a lot to look forward to.”

The survey and comment form to gather public feedback on Connect the Crescent is open until early January.

Kevin Litten covers New Orleans City Hall for NOLA.com | The Times Picayune. Reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 504-826-3524. Follow him on Twitter @kevinlitten.

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