nola.com - Sharing the road in New Orleans with drivers, trekkers and cyclists

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Original posting on nola.com.

Sharing the road in New Orleans with drivers, trekkers and cyclists

By Penny DeNoble, guest columnist

On any given day around New Orleans, you might see a group of black women in blue T-shirts walking the streets as part of the national health movement called GirlTrek.

We’re walking in neighborhoods, communities and parks, and showing up at city events. We’re using the streets of New Orleans as our gyms and playgrounds to move, to walk, bike, and run. We’re on a mission to live longer and healthier lives. We’re GirlTrekkers, and we wear our Superhero Blue.

And as citizens of New Orleans, we have the right to safe and accessible streets. We expect best practices for safely sharing the road with drivers, walkers and people biking. Our whole lives, our roadways have given preferential treatment to people driving cars.

Well, as a proud trekker, I am here to say I have rights too, and need them respected.

Beyond our rights is our health. America is facing an obesity epidemic. New Orleans is the 50th unhealthiest city in the United States, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, who advises walking as a remedy. Our mayor and the city Health Department have issued initiatives for us to get moving, but how can we ask people to walk more when so many streets and sidewalks are broken, cratered or simply not there at all?

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association says that from January through June 2018 there were 77 pedestrian deaths in Louisiana, eight more than the previous year, a 12 percent increase. In September 2018, an analysis by The Wall Street Journal concluded that Louisiana is second nationally in bicyclists’ death per capita, behind only Florida. The same review also lists New Orleans as the sixth most-dangerous of 50 metro areas for people biking.

Where y’at, New Orleans?! We must do better to make moving on our streets safer and more accessible for everyone in our community.

Regardless of our ZIP code or mode of transportation, we all play an important role in creating a safe environment where fewer crashes occur, along with less frustrated bad behavior, and where rules are followed.

We’re a vibrant and bustling city, and with that should come investments in road infrastructure and community education that inspires us to feel empowered and safe as we travel the city for our daily needs.

As a solo trekker, my weekly walk includes Esplanade Avenue. My heart continues to be wrenched in pain and compassion for the families of those killed and injured in the crash during Mardi Gras. That Saturday night, a driver chose to get behind the wheel of a car after having too much to drink, an everyday occurrence as we all know.

As a pedestrian and a driver, I see the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and Ponce De Leon Street from both perspectives. It’s obviously a difficult place to make turns. Why isn’t signage there and other similar areas to let people know to be especially cautious?

Where y’at New Orleans? There’s no city that regrets making its streets safe and accessible. We need to accept the fact that our roads aren’t meant for cars alone and that actual people are walking and biking, people like myself and the thousands of black women and girls of GirlTrek

We GirlTrekkers have just embarked on a 10-week Walking Challenge. We will be in the streets walking in our Superhero Blue shirts with friends and families, and even solo. PLEASE SEE US. We are choosing to walk for our health, to live longer and to encourage our community to walk. Like everyone else, we just want to get where we’re going happy, healthy and in one piece.

Penny DeNoble is a walker, health enthusiast, and committed member of GirlTrek. She resides in the 7th Ward.

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