Jul 142016
 

A standard bike lane on Bienville Street in Mid-City. City officials are considering converting some roads to “bike boulevards” that would have even more protections for cyclists. (courtesy of Paths to Progress)

When Mayor Mitch Landrieu brought his annual city-budget listening session to KIPP Central City Academy on Thursday evening, nobody really wanted to talk to him about the problems most traditionally associated with New Orleans. No one asked about crime rates, police staffing or officer misconduct. No one talked about potholes, property taxes, bad roads, blighted houses or street flooding. No one even mentioned Confederate statues.

Instead, the residents of City Council District B mostly wanted to talk about bicycle transportation and housing issues like AirBnB.

Several of the 17 people who asked questions of the mayor on Thursday complained that the relationship between bicyclists and drivers remains fraught with danger and uncertainty, even after the city has created 100 miles of bicycle lanes. Some specifically asked for more details about the plans for a bicycle lane on Napoleon Avenue, and others urged more efforts to teach both drivers and cyclists to share the road.

The new bike lanes don’t fully serve the bicycling public, said Uptown resident Clark Thompson, because they remain too dangerously close to traffic for many riders to be safe on. Thompson said he wouldn’t want either his father or his children trying to bicycle anywhere on Napoleon Avenue, for example — and suggested that converting some interior streets into “bike boulevards” would solve the problem more completely.

In reply, Landrieu affirmed the “bicycle boulevard” idea is under active consideration by administration officials, specifically soon-to-be-departing Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin.

“Dedicated streets for bikes is a pretty good idea, I think,” Landrieu said. “I just don’t know whether or not we can do that at this time. … It’s something that we’re thinking about, and we’re trying to do.”

A bicycle boulevard is not a total conversion of a street into a bicycle-only thoroughfare, Kopplin explained after the meeting concluded. Instead, the bicycle lane becomes the primary lane, and traffic calming measures are used to discourage motorists from using the street for anything other than local traffic to and from individual homes.

For example, Kopplin said, the bicycle boulevard might force cars to turn off every few blocks, making it unattractive to drivers. Meanwhile, the increased safety might draw bicyclists to use that route instead of the busier main streets.

“If you live on a bike boulevard, you can get to your house and park in front of it just like you do now,” Kopplin said. “But it makes it difficult for it to be a through-street. … Because it changes traffic patterns, it’s a more disruptive piece of bike infrastructure than just a bike lane.”

“And every biker we have on the street is one less car,” said city spokesman Hayne Rainey.

A Google search for “bike boulevard” shows that Portland, Ore., has experimented with the concept, among other cities. Kopplin said the idea is still in the discussion phase within the city, and that no streets are currently being considered for conversion into bicycle boulevards at the moment.

“It does disrupt traffic patterns, so it takes a lot of analysis to determine whether it’s going to be a good idea,” Kopplin said. “But for low-traveled streets, it may be appropriate.”

A number of speakers also challenged Landrieu on housing issues. Several supported the idea of a rental registry, to ensure that rental units are held to higher standards, while others worried that whole-home rentals through sites like AirBnB are taking up too many rental units in the city and driving prices up for those remaining.

Landrieu said described those housing issues — including how best to regulate AirBnB and the exact form a rental registry should take — as questions facing cities nationwide. New Orleans in the 1960s hit a peak population of 680,000, however, so it should have ample room to find places for everyone to live today with 40 percent fewer people.

But the housing issues are also too complex to be solved in a single year’s budget or with a single policy, Landrieu said. For example, while residents at the District B meeting are describing the need for more affordable housing, residents of New Orleans East at the recent District E budget meeting were overwhelmingly vocal against more affordable housing near them.

“Not everyone is excited about having more affordable housing,” Landrieu said.

The district-level budget meeting was the 39th of Landrieu’s seven years as mayor, the final session for 2016, and perhaps the final one he ever conducts, since next summer will be embroiled in city elections. It was also the shortest he could recall, he said, with fewer than 40 minutes of questions compared to some nights that have gone on for hours.

To read our live coverage of all the issues raised, see below.

Live Blog District B Budgeting for Outcomes meeting – July 14, 2016
 

  • boathead12

    I don’t feel the Mayor or Mr. Koplin fully articulate what a boon this would be to motorists. Bike Boulevards will be a “win-win” improvement for the transportation situation in the city. We hear constantly about how infuriating cyclists on Magazine or Prytania are to motorists. I expect that motorists will be similarly incensed with cyclists proliferating on Napoleon Ave. A “Bike Boulevard” up Milan from Tchoup to Broad and another on Chestnut from Audubon to Jackson would take a lot of pressure off those major streets. Cyclists would be safer, and motorists would have to contend with fewer cyclists.

    Furthermore, slower motorized traffic on your street will bring a rise in property values, so really, this improvement is a win for property owners as well.

    • Turlet

      If this was the 1800s, it would be a “win-win” for everyone. However, cars exist. All of these bike lane/boulevard ideas are just variations of how to restrict drivers and increase traffic problems. I’d imagine there are at least 100 cars for every bicycle on the road. Democrats are willing to ruin bathrooms, roads, and lots of other things for nearly everyone so that some tiny minority can feel better about themselves. In this case, the tiny minority are people on bicycles.

      • @Androsity101

        The idea is that when safer lanes of Boulevards exist and riders are legitimately safer then more folks(example: myself) will use said blvds, and therefore decrease cars on the road. Not happening over night but we gotta start somewhere.

        • Turlet

          The decrease in available roads would increase traffic congestion unless there were tens or even a hundred thousand people like you ready to abandon the internal combustion engine. Any intentional degradation of the traffic infrastructure needs a realistic cost benefit analysis. How many hours of driver time would be wasted for each hour of bicycler time gained? Radical leftists are certainly not going to question the practicality of their utopian vision.

          • @Androsity101

            I actively use these streets in my combustion engine car precisely because they don’t have stop signs and are generally faster than the heavily trafficked main artery. Thing is not many others are on these streets driving with me and my time saved is insignificant compared to the gains for a safe cyclist.

            This isn’t a radical leftist thing either. This has more to do with public safety than redistributing taxes more equitably, or funding health care like other western countries do through a national system. No, bike blvds is more a practical thing. I’m really tired of slow riders on magazine, camp, carondelet, Chartres, esplanade…get tf out of my way! Lol, and the safer that option is the better for both drivers & cyclists.

          • Turlet

            I am talking about a sense of proportion. If the rapture took everyone up to heaven except you in your car, and the Beast on his bicycle, then bike boulevards might make sense. The ratio of cars to bicycles would be 1:1. In light of the massive majority held by drivers, if a counterintuitive proposal like this was truly more efficient, shouldn’t there first at least be some kind of legitimate research by traffic engineers?

            Bicycles over cars is definitely a leftist pet cause which has been shown in opinion polls examining the ideological spectrum. Much like the existence of bums, the fact that they are allowed to mess up traffic in the first place is usually the sign of a leftist government. Also, the fact that other countries do something is not a reason in itself for us to do it. Otherwise, George Washington would have been king.

          • Mitchell Brown

            You should be ignored. Ridiculed, and then ignored.

            “The fate of the ridiculous is to be ridiculed.” — James Howard Kunstler

          • Turlet

            Good luck speaking this way in real life.

    • Noah Rahman

      Have you driven down Milan recently? It’s not the smoothest of rides between St. Charles and Broad….

  • Muffin Bernstein

    If they had just built Protected bike lanes like Denmark has this would not be a problem. Don’t add speed bumps to side streets making it even worse for cars. Give cars back the lanes. Or protect bikes. But don’t please just don’t add “bike boulevards”. It’s gonna make things worse not better.

    • San Lorenzo

      Bike boulevards exist all over the Netherlands and Denmark. It is the default system for most neighborhood streets. It’s not either-or. It’s much more difficult to drive in a straight line in Denmark and Netherlands than it is in New Orleans, even on large streets.

  • ultimateliberal

    Instead of bike boulevards, our narrow streets should ALL be ONE-WAY, and the police need to ticket cyclists riding in the wrong direction.
    I am a cyclist. It’s my ONLY transportation, other than the bus. I have never had a problem, except from potholes. Motorists respect cyclists who signal turns, stay to the right, and stop fro red lights.
    What is so difficult about obeying traffic laws?
    Give us one-way streets!

    • Taylor Sky Collins

      did you know that it’s been proven 100% that converting 2-way streets to one-way increases speeding and driver apathy? Read up on the theory of ‘Risk Homeostasis’

      • Mitchell Brown

        Jane Jacobs outlines why one-way streets are bad. William H. Whyte does too. These are two GIANTS in the study of the urban form.

        Kevin Lynch wil offer excellent insight into why one-way streets are awful. Check his compendium of works in “City Sense & City Design”.

        For another excellent site check out http://www.strongtowns.org Its run by a guy named Charles Marohn. You might even be able to get him to speak if you’re active in your community. He travels the country speaking to elected officials and community groups.

    • San Lorenzo

      Please don’t give us one-way streets. They are terrible for small neighborhood streets, as Taylor says. New Orleans neighborhood streets are light-years ahead of most cities in terms of width and being bi-directional. It’s called a “yield street” and it’s what lots of cities are trying to go back to.

    • Mitchell Brown

      One-way streets are awful. Any student of the urban form will tell you this. Even Jane Jacobs, 55 years ago, in her seminal work: “The Death & Life of Great American Cities” outlined why this is.

      No One Way Streets

      NOWS!

  • Muffin Bernstein

    Also there are still signs uptown on side streets that say bike path. In the old days people used side streets to bike on. I don’t understand why Broad n Gálvez must both have bike lanes. It seems like one or the other would be appropriate. However there seems to be no actual planning involved in any of the bike lanes that start n stop randomly causing traffic nightmares like the one at Esplande heading to the river from the museum.

  • Taylor Sky Collins

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/df044d2086d38c8a916439187af942ac6543a04d37bf226e0a788082395e1680.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/98e182368da7c4359edf603b9c67f0fd7e8a2d333ea55ebccd3e63338f9fcf37.jpg

    I’ve considered the issue of dedicated or semi-dedicated bicycle routes for Up-Down travel in Garden District and Uptown areas. There are a few minor streets that stretch all the way from Audubon Park to Calliope and these would be the ideal. Not only would they take bike traffic off of streets like Magazine, but the ‘interference’ with auto traffic in these cases would be a boon if streets were targeted that currently are used as through-streets. The effect would be to render them useless for taking ‘shortcuts’ parallel to Magazine and Tchoup. There is plenty of guidance in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide on how to implement these improvements and I think that there are a few options. On Camp for example, there are four different implementations: rebuilt street with bi-directional bicycle traffic (either shared or striped lanes) and all-way stops at ALL intersections (with an Idaho Stop law in place), the same as previous but with forced turns at regular intervals to stop the street from being used as a through route to avoid jams on Magz, the same as previous but with 1-way auto traffic configurations that alternate between Audubon Park and Calliope, and finally a completely rebuilt street with a ‘yield street’ layout for cars and a completely separated 2-way cycle track along one curb.

  • LGD Resident

    The cheapest and safest method for both cars and bikes uptown is to repave Camp St and paint bike lines, parking lanes and crosswalks. No need to reinvent the wheel, just get bikes onto a less busy and wider street and off of magazine. Camp is very wide and runs from the park to the CBD and is the most ideal and practical bike thoroughfare. So many bikes use magazine because it is one of the few that is paved.

  • uptownguy

    I agree with The Goat’s initial comment, as well as that of ultimateliberal. I ride my bike all over uptown, and with adherence to the rules of the road, and a little planning, it is easy to move around and not be an inconsiderate cyclist. Those that ride their bikes down streets like Magazine and Oak simply don’t care about the inconvenience they pose to others. It’s dangerous as well. I can safely get from Riverbend to Tipitina’s in about 20 minutes with little vehicular interaction at all.

  • San Lorenzo

    The caption is wrong. The picture is Esplanade Avenue, not Bienville Street. (The little bike sign says Esplanade) There are no bike lanes anywhere on Bienville Street.

  • boathead12

    Here is an interesting way to “try before you buy.” http://www.bikemore.net/news/pop-up-cycle-track-on-east-pratt-street

  • Robert Moldaner

    I was just in Chattanooga recently, and they had a great setup for bike lanes. They have two curbs, the regular one, and then another one that’s 6-8 feet out from the first one. Parallel parking spaces are set up against the outer curb, and the bike lane runs between the two curbs. This leaves the parked cars as a buffer between the bike lane and traffic. Its hard to describe by typing, but it seems to work very well. And downtown Chattanooga also has city bike rentals that you rent by the day. You take a bike, use it, and leave it at any rack. When you need to move on, you take whatever bike is available. Two ideas that would work well here.