Owen Courreges: Why the new Baronne Street bike lane isn’t really for bicyclists

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Owen Courreges

With certain issues, there’s often a central figure whose opinion you always want to know.  If there’s a foreign policy incident, the Secretary of State should probably be consulted.  If there’s a disease outbreak, the head of the Center for Disease Control should probably be on board.  Want to gauge response to a major crime?  Let’s see what the chief of police has to say.

And if you want to take some radical step pertaining to city streets, like taking out a traffic lane in the middle of downtown New Orleans, surely you’d want to know what Chief Traffic Engineer Allen Yrle thinks of it. Heck, you might think his support would be considered crucial.

Alas, you would be wrong.

Stating December 1st, a dedicated, buffered bicycle lane will replace one of the existing traffic lanes on Baronne Street from Calliope to Canal for most of the way.  Laughably, this is being pitched as a six-month “pilot project,” because we all know that the city is just going to throw its hands up and say “my bad” if traffic snarls result, especially after committing so much time and money to this plan.

Leaving the nitty-gritty to his subordinates, Mayor Landrieu announced the move with a typically dull, generic statement that can basically be summed up with “bikes are good.”

“Biking is an important mode of transportation in New Orleans that is a healthy, safe, and equitable commuting option for our residents and visitors,” said Landrieu. “As bicycle ridership increases, the City is committed to expanding our network of bikeways.”

The Landrieu Administration also claimed, quite counterintuitively, that the impact on vehicular traffic would be minimal. The city commissioned a New Orleans consulting firm, GCR, to study the issue using data generated by the Department of Public Works.   GCR in turn concluded that the delay for motorists would only be in the range of 1 to 2 minutes – and this was supposedly a highly conservative estimate.

If that doesn’t sound right to you just on a raw, intuitive level, it’s because it’s not.  That was certainly Yrle’s take, which just came to light this past week.

“There is no mention of the fact that the traffic using the intersections of Poydras and Baronne and Howard and Baronne will experience significant delay during the peak period (including level-of-service F at Howard when future traffic is added).” Yrle wrote in an e-mail to  Public Works Department Director Mark Jernigan back in September, criticizing the GCR report.  “The in-house analysis done in May shows that these delays increase between 100 percent and 300 percent.”

Yrle also noted that the city could not tweak light times to compensate.  “In our CBD grid system, we do not have the luxury of increasing green time at the traffic signals until the Baronne demand is met,” Yrle argued. “Poydras and Howard are operating at or near capacity already and cannot afford to lose any green time.”

For his part, Jernigan gave an appropriately limp defense to moving forward with the plan.  At a subsequent public meeting, he acknowledged that service on Baronne is predicted to go from a “C” to a “D,” and also admitted that, under his own figures, the actual average delay for vehicles could be as high as six minutes, presumably with greater potential delays at peak travel times.

Ultimately, Jernigan indicated that the city would have to push forward to know for sure what the impact would be.  I’m not sure that’s comforting, at least given the record of opposition from his own traffic engineer.

This doesn’t look good.  It would certainly appear that the city decided to add the Baronne bike lane and then marshaled the data to support a plan that they had already decided to move forward with.  The question then becomes exactly why the Landrieu Administration is so adamant that Baronne receive a bike lane.

The answer is redevelopment.  There are a number of new residential projects in the CBD.  Chief among them is the $200 million South Market District project, squeezed between Loyola Avenue and Baronne, which is presently nearing completion.  The city already built the farcically ineffectual Loyola Streetcar line on one side of the project, and now they seek to top it off with a dubious bike lane one block over on the other side.

The proximity to the South Market District and similar redevelopment is not coincidental.  Indeed, Public Works and the GCR specifically highlighted them as justifications for the Baronne bike lane.   It wasn’t sufficient that developers have received local tax breaks and massive federal loans.  No, that’s just not enough – the city also has to invest in useless infrastructure and give through traffic the short shrift with an ill-conceived bike lane.  The powers-that-be are so obsessed with bolstering downtown redevelopment schemes that all other considerations have become secondary.

Businesses along Baronne are understandably furious.  “I witness the congestion every day. If they’re reducing a traffic lane, that’s going to cause chaos,” complained one Baronne Street business owner to the New Orleans Advocate.

Nevertheless, as long as the Landrieu administration is comfortable making whatever sacrifices are necessary to the god of urban redevelopment, the needs of ordinary New Orleanians are bound to fall into that particular, insatiable maw.  The practical realities of moving traffic in the CBD were never really at issue.  They didn’t matter one bit.

And that, dear readers, is why the city’s chief traffic engineer was at loggerheads with the head of his department and Landrieu.

If you want to know about how to move traffic efficiently, you need to have a traffic engineer on board.

If you want to crassly promote real estate redevelopment schemes, you don’t.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

102 thoughts on “Owen Courreges: Why the new Baronne Street bike lane isn’t really for bicyclists

  1. And, of course, who owns large parcels of property in the new “South Market District”? Why, the Landrieu family, of course!

    • The cyclists in the city that support the installation of the bike lane are concerned with their safety. I think this whole conspiracy theory about the bike lane having anything at all to do with the South Market development is silly. The only thing the development has to do with the bike lane is the fact that the CBD is getting more residential developments and we can’t address the associated increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic without dedicated infrastructure. DPW seems to understand that, even if the traffic engineer doesn’t. Honestly I would like to see a traffic engineer that was less concerned with level of service (that only takes into account car traffic) than creating a balanced system that provides a satisfactory level of service and most of all SAFETY for all modes of traffic. I would rather prioritize safety over speed, as I have had too many near-death experiences in my car and on my bike and I would rather die of natural causes.

      • RE: the importance of SAFETY I am in full agreement!

        This all reminds me of that old joke: Why did the lawyer oppose the bike lane? Because chasing ambulances on a ten-speed is too difficult!

  2. This is my commute. I still don’t understand why, if they must have this bike lane (and I was an avid cyclist in California, so I do get it), they don’t remove parking on one side of the street rather than a lane of traffic. So, so, so stupid.

    • It isn’t about what commuters want, Angie, it’s about what government wants, and what government wants is for you and me to shut up, pay our taxes, and go to work while the “experts” figure out what is best for you and me and proceed to shove it down our throats. Wake up.

      • I guess bicycle commuters don’t count. Let’s all forget that New Orleans is #5 in the nation for bike commuting (up from #8, and the number is rising), and a significant number of those commuting by bike are traversing the CBD every single day.

        This project is exactly what bicycle commuters want. Traversing the CBD via bicycle is an absolute nightmare, and many more would do it to avoid traffic if there were infrastructure that made them feel safe while doing it.

    • Angie,

      The answer is probably lost revenue from metered parking and opposition from hotels that would lose their loading/passenger zones (this plan only involves moving a single loading zone). That, and it might be that the city would have to rework the pavement rather than simply re-stripe the roadway, rendering the project more expensive.

      I appreciate the need to bike lanes in certain cases myself, but in an area like the CBD where traffic already moves slowly, there’s less need for dedicated bike lanes and, in any event, they shouldn’t take precedence over vehicular traffic. Also, I’m not convinced that there isn’t a reasonable way to rework a road in the CBD to accommodate a bike lane without sacrificing a traffic lane.

      • Try this Owen. Straight from http://www.nola.gov/dpw/documents/baronne-st-sept-17-2014-pub-mtg-summary-and-respon/, page 15:

        “The DPW did explore the feasibility of removing a parking lane, on either side of the roadway, as requested at the DDD stakeholder meeting. The impacts of removing those parking spaces were considered unacceptable.”

        So if you are wondering why they didn’t just take out a lane of parking, blame the DDD. As far as their reasoning, you would have to ask them.

        • ISupportTheBikeLane,

          Nope. It doesn’t say what you’re claiming.

          That doesn’t say that the DDD rejected it; rather, it says that the idea of removing the parking lane was raised at a DDD stakeholder meeting.

          It was the DPW that rejected the idea, the same DPW that didn’t listen to its own chief traffic engineer in approving the bike lane on Baronne.

          • I tend to agree with the determination, regardless. As with all decisions, the input of all the stakeholders was taken under advisement and DPW made the decision. From what I understand the DDD didn’t want to lose the parking either and that influenced the final decision, although I don’t have written minutes from the meeting and have no intention of trying to argue the point because it largely doesn’t matter. Taking out a parking lane was evaluated and taking out a lane of traffic was deemed to be the optimal solution. A single lane is sufficient for moving the current car traffic demand on Baronne St, and a dedicated bike lane that will safely convey bike traffic on a relatively low-volume street is sorely needed in this area.

      • Owen, you are also correct about the additional cost. The repaving work is being done under the Paths to Progress program, which is primarily mill and overlay. Reconfiguring the parking areas, sidewalks, ADA ramps, and other work required for a bike lane in the existing parking lane are very significant and would not be covered under the federal funding. The current proposal only requires the city to pay for the additional striping cost, which is minimal, especially given the fact that the contractor has already been mobilized and it is a small part of a larger contract.

        The bike lane is part of the City’s bicycle master plan, and consideration for bike infrastructure is part of the Complete Streets Ordinance. Although from your past articles, particularly “The Conspiracy to Landlock Uptown”, I would imagine you would disagree with that ordinance. I would urge you to reconsider, as the safety advantages of dedicated bike lanes and a balanced traffic system are significant and prevent avoidable death and injury – not just for cyclists but for drivers as well.

      • Um, bicycles are vehicles too, Owen. Why should motorized vehicles take priority over non-motorized vehicles? As a public road, shouldn’t it accommodate both, safely? When I lived in the LGD, I tried cycling through the CBD but found the danger from motorized vehicles too great; New Orleans is not known for having the safest or most courteous drivers. A protected bike lane is what the non-motorized vehicles require for safety.

        • D. Turgeon,

          The whole point here is that bicycles are receiving their own lane separate from other traffic with buffers. That means it’s the bicycles that will be receiving “priority,” not the other way around. I’m completely open to the idea of a shared lane, or finding a way to add a dedicated lane without removing a traffic lane, but this plan sacrifices general mobility and will increase congestion.

          Accordingly, I think it’s a bad idea that’s passing through based on knee-jerk reactions.

          • Shared lanes are useless. Incredibly useless. Bicycles are legally allowed on any roadway except the expressways. In most cases they are legally allowed to take the lane. A shared lane marker is just a reminder to motorists that yes, bicycles are allowed here, and yes they are allowed to ride in the center of the lane. Separated lanes actually provide a safe space for cyclists.

            I get it. You don’t think that cyclists should have safe, dedicated space on the roadway. But I think 2 dedicated lanes (Baronne and O’Keefe) through the CBD is hardly prioritizing bike traffic over car traffic.

          • You are missing my points. You stated, “they (bike lanes) shouldn’t take precedence over vehicular traffic.” To repeat, bicycles are vehicles every bit as much as motorized vehicles, and bicyclists (including bicycle commuters) deserve a safe route of passage of their own. The “general mobility” which you favour should include bicyclists. At the present time, motorized vehicles have ALL of the priority, and bicycles none. Shared lanes are NOT safe, as you yourself have admitted, and traffic safety should always be the first priority. Finding a way to accommodate a protected bike lane while keeping the current number of motorized traffic lanes would be ideal, I agree. But dissing a dedicated bike lane in favour of the current shared traffic lanes is neither a safe nor balanced policy.

          • D. Turgeon,

            Oh, you know what I mean when I speak of “vehicular traffic” — although a bicycle is technically a “vehicle” the word “vehicular” is primarily used to refer to cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc.

            I agree that “general mobility” should include cyclists, but creating a bottle neck for motor vehicles by adding a buffered bike lane does not strike me as a move to preserve general mobility, particularly when you’re leaving parking lanes on either side and cyclists could have joined in a specifically designated shared lane. I think this was the worst option, and better options that could perhaps have given a dedicated lane were not seriously considered.

          • Sure I “know what you mean”; what you mean is that you are totally car-centric, and cannot think of bicycles as a normal, everyday form of transportation. For many, their bicycle IS their vehicle, so perhaps you should not be giving it such short shrift.

          • Bicycles are absolutely vehicles, not just ‘technically’. I think “motorized” is what you are missing here. While these definitions are clear, I’d argue that parked cars are hardly motorized. Surely if bikes are too slow, they could be acknowledged as significantly slower!

      • Owen, if you went to the meetings, you would have seen that both the managers of the Marriotts (multiple in the area) and the Roosevelt have welcomed the bike lane with open arms. They came to the meetings and gave their opinions.

        As for the lost revenue of three (3) parking spots, I cannot see how a city would rather have that measley amount of money or have it be known that bicyclists get injured/killed because people wanted to rush home after work in cars.

  3. Barone St is a pathway to the ramp to the expressway. With 2 lanes for cars/trucks there is barely enough space to accommodate the traffic. Rampart St and University are the only options for bike lanes. Please listen to Yrle and do not cause this traffic jam.

    • Rampart is not the *only* option. In fact, it is an inferior option due to the fact that speeds are higher in many sections of Rampart (35MPH vs 25MPH, specifically from Elysian Fields to Canal, where RPC shows approximately twice as much traffic as Baronne – http://www.norpc.org/traffic_counts.html ). Look at St. Claude, which is the most dangerous bike corridor in the city with multiple cyclist deaths in the past few years. Baronne St. is absolutely the best option for a dedicated bike lane in the CBD.

    • ISupportTheBikeLane,

      I don’t care about the views of a self-selected group, and I don’t believe it was “90%” in support anyway. Some of the comments were just observational and didn’t really state any conclusion. I take them all with a grain of salt compared with the analysis of the city’s chief traffic engineer.

      Irrespectively, I already linked to the public comment and response in my column.

      • I think it’s fair to say you didn’t read it very well, as there are some factual elements that you chose to ignore, or seem to be unaware of. I addressed one of them in the comments above, and your conspiracy theory about the bike lane being simply to “crassly promote real estate redevelopment schemes” is indicative of the same.

        The people that showed up were the ones that cared enough to support a project that would directly benefit their safety. You can call that a “self-selected” group, but I don’t think it means it can be dismissed. The CAC was packed that night with supporters and it was standing-room only. Actually showing up and voicing an opinion shows a deeper commitment than just writing an article IMHO. Those people that showed up don’t have a monthly column to voice their opinion, so they had to show up and express it in the best public forum they had for speaking directly with the decision-makers.

        • Oh my 6 extra minutes. It may just make life unbearable. Bike lanes are badly needed all over New Orleans and this one is a great route for bicycle commuters through the CBD.

        • ISupportTheBikeLane,

          I think it’s fair to say you wrongly assume ignorance on the part of those who disagree with you, and also tend to make up facts to suit your argument.

          I did not allege a “conspiracy theory.” There’s nothing conspiratorial about it; the city openly acknowledges that the bike lane is driven in part by downtown redevelopment. What I’m pointing out is that the city’s own traffic engineer has opined that it’s a bad idea and that the impact on vehicular traffic is far greater than the city is letting on, suggesting that the city is trying to support redevelopment with this bike lane — that this is why it is using dubious data to support the plan.

          And as I have said repeatedly, using self-selected groups to make decisions in this city is stupid and reckless. You’re dealing with a small group of people that had time to show up for a meeting at a certain time in a set location. One interest group can easily skew the data by getting its members to show up, or the makeup can simply be determined by those who live near to the venue.

          Irrespectively, you’re flat-out lying about the makeup of the comments. I counted 18 out of 52 comments coming out clearly against the proposal. Of the remainder, one person didn’t show up and at least a few other comments didn’t state a clear opinion. Even excluding comments that didn’t state a clear opinion, that means that over 35% of those submitting comments were in opposition, and a few of those represented multiple property owners or larger organizations. It was never 10%. You just made that up.

          • We actually elect Mayors and Council Persons to make those decisions and not focus groups or traffic engineers. No disrespect to either, but it’s not there decision to make.

          • Kevin,

            True, we choose our elected officials. However, that doesn’t mean all of the decisions made by elected officials are popular, reasonable or prudent, which is why it’s important to take note in situations like this. Elected officials should be held accountable by the electorate.

          • You penned a pretty provocative article claiming that a bike lane isn’t for bikes. It seems like the presumption is that a dedicated bike lane’s purpose is for safety of bikers and the bar for rebutting that widely held theory is very high. Notwithstanding the opinion of the City’s Traffic Engineer that said bike lane would increase vehicle commute times, you’ve offered reckless conjecture that the Mayor has some diabolical side interest and could care less about promoting bicycling and bike safety. Furthermore, in your article and in your comments, I do not believe you addressed the issue of bike safety once. What is your view on bike safety and what role do you think the City should take, if any?

          • Kevin,

            I don’t think it’s “reckless conjecture” to say that the city is using everything in its arsenal to push these downtown redevelopment projects. They’re already getting major local tax breaks, plus there’s the insipid Loyola Streetcar. Even if you disagree, do you really think it’s a stretch to say that they chose to put a bike lane on this street, over the opposition of their own traffic engineer, because they wanted to bolster existing redevelopment plans?

            As for bike safety, I do understand the problem and I think working out a good location for a dedicated lane would likely be a good idea to improve bicycle safety. I accept the proposition that they can help reduce accident. However, I also believe that a dedicated bike shouldn’t normally take up an entire traffic lane on a busy street (one with only two lanes to begin with). I firmly believe that better options could have been explored, but weren’t.

          • I think the Street Car on Loyola had more to do with being Shovel Ready when the Great Recession stimulus money was being awarded. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a bike lane is a just place to ride a bike. I get it. You question the Mayors motives and I don’t. However, youbstruck a nerve, because there is no safe way to exit the CBD in the Uptown direction.

          • I think the primary debate among the traffic engineers is what type of traffic to prioritize, and to what extent. The Mayor is in support, the city councilmembers are in support, and the head engineer at DPW as well as other engineers within DPW are in support. Yrtle’s concerns are with car traffic, but his boss didn’t agree with his priorities. Both are civil engineers that are qualified to make to have an opinion, and they didn’t agree. People will see bias wherever they choose to see it.

            At the end of the day, the bike lane will be evaluated based on hard data collected by DPW to evaluate its performance. I think the only win for the groups interested in seeing safer cycling infrastructure is to get the city to take a chance and see what the effects are.

          • That was only the number of people who got up to speak. There were many more in attendance. There was no point in every single person getting up and saying the same thing. I am basing my assertion on the raising of hands in the room when DPW asked who was attending in favor of the bike lane. Your assumption that every single person made a spoken or written comment is false.

            Your assertion is that the bike lane is only largely driven by downtown redevelopment. False. It is driven by Paths to Progress and Complete Streets. Both have been a success. go look at the Paths to Progress and Submerged Roads programs and see how many of the bike lanes in this city have been installed as a piggyback with federally-funded roadway improvements. It is most of them. I think you were looking for a bogeyman in the political process and you made one up to suit your purposes.

          • ISupportTheBikeLane,

            >>I am basing my assertion on the raising of hands in the room when DPW asked who was attending in favor of the bike lane.<>Your assertion is that the bike lane is only largely driven by downtown redevelopment. False. It is driven by Paths to Progress and Complete Streets.<>I think you were looking for a bogeyman in the political process and you made one up to suit your purposes.<<

            You're the one making stuff up and repeatedly changing your story, so if I were you I'd show a smidgen of humility and refrain from speculating about my motives.

            I looked at the facts and came to the most reasonable conclusion given the overall circumstances. You, on the other hand, seem so blindly driven to support a dedicated bike lane — any dedicated bike lane — that you're overlooking how problematic this whole thing is and thus how obvious it is that redevelopment is the driving force behind it.

          • You don’t have to believe me. I was there. DPW was there. They called for a showing of hands for a reason – not everyone was able or willing to speak. The hands didn’t stay up long enough for me to count each one but it was an overwhelmingly positive response. Your complete dismissal of a group with a stake in having a safer street is disappointing, but considering your bias I am not surprised. You accuse me of the same bias, but your priorities are clear and have been clear from your past writings. I’m sure you will have a long-winded response but I am sure most people will see through it. I am open with my bias – I want to feel safe on the roadway when I am on my bicycle. I drive more than I bike, and I am willing to deal with a minor inconvenience if it makes everyone on the roadway safer. I think that is a reasonable conclusion given the overall circumstances.

            You should really speak directly with people who commute to work by bicycle through the CBD before you talk about a “perceived need”. People take their life in their hands every single day. It’s more than just a perception for them. Many have been harassed and hit, and just want to have a safe route to work.

            I stand by my assertion that you are using downtown redevelopment as a bogeyman. Yes, we are going to have to build infrastructure for alternative forms of transportation to accomodate new downtown developments, but those are not the primary driver. It is a facet of the issue and a consideration that must be given, but it is not the primary motivator. You may not agree, but I don’t expect you to. I think you can look at the pattern of installation of bike lanes in the city and clearly see that resurfacing projects have accomodated bike infrastructure (its part of the Complete Streets ordinance, which you also disagree with). Dedicated lanes in dense urban areas are a focus for cycling advocates because perception of safety is the largest demotivator for potential cyclists, and the need for dedicated lanes is greatest in the areas where the traffic is the heaviest. Look around the nation at other dedicated lanes and you will see the same pattern. The need for a connected bicycle infrastructure has been talked about endlessly, but when the pieces are finally in place to connect and extend bicycle infrastructure, it MUST be because of development! Pay no attention to the federally funded resurfacing program or the ordinance which requires consideration of safe streets for all roadway users (key word safe – sharrows are not safe) when resurfacing.

            Try asking yourself if your arguments about taking a lane to spur redevelopment would apply to St Bernard. Or Banks St. Or Esplanade. Or S. Carrollton. All of them were resurfaced under the same federal programs and received a dedicated and/or buffered lane. I think the argument that the Baronne lane is primarily driven by downtown redevelopment falls flat, but you are welcome to disagree.

          • ISupportTheBikeLane,

            >>You don’t have to believe me. I was there. DPW was there.<>I stand by my assertion that you are using downtown redevelopment as a bogeyman. Yes, we are going to have to build infrastructure for alternative forms of transportation to accomodate new downtown developments, but those are not the primary driver.<<

            Let's have some clarification here: Redevelopment was not necessarily the sole or ever primary driver for having a bike lane through the CBD per se. There are certainly good reasons to have that. However, I'm saying that redevelopment was the primary driver for approving a dedicated bike lane on Baronne in place of an existing traffic lane.

            That's what explains why the city fudged the numbers vis-a-vis increased congestion (to the ire of Mr. Yrle) while dismissing potential alternative configurations with little explanation. I didn't write this column because the prospect of a bike lane rose my ire independently of the facts; I wrote it because DPW ignored its own traffic engineer in reaching conclusions about the impact on traffic congestion. That was the suspicious bit. That was what required some explanation. You can disagree with my conclusions, sure, but it's still a black mark on this plan and it still raises questions.

            I think DPW was hell-bent on a bike lane for Baronne before it even started looking into the idea. I think Yrle was effectively the whistle blower on that. On balance, I still maintain the facts support me and they don't support your Pollyanna view.

        • Owen: We will be made to care, count on it. One thing you can always count on with progressives is their penchant for making the rest of us “care” about their issues, regardless of how many do not.

  4. ISupportTheBikeLane,

    I’m not going to reconsider this because the city’s own traffic engineer is against it because the traffic impacts will be severe. We can improve safety without creating gridlock. There is nothing “balanced” about this plan, and to the extent the city is justifying it with the Master Plan or the Complete Streets ordinance, I would suggest it just shows how bad those laws have proven to be.

  5. ISupportTheBikeLane,

    >>I think this whole conspiracy theory about the bike lane having anything at all to do with the South Market development is silly.<>CBD is getting more residential developments and we can’t address the associated increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic without dedicated infrastructure. DPW seems to understand that, even if the traffic engineer doesn’t.<<

    The traffic engineer does care about balancing, which is why he wants to avoid creating bottlenecks. Do you think that choking intersections with vehicle is good for either cyclists or pedestrians? This was pretty clearly made as a political decision that ignored the city's own traffic expert.

    • I’m sorry, but your statement that the dedicated bike lane is driven by a desire to “crassly promote real estate redevelopment schemes” is what I take issue with. Of course the city is taking the ongoing development (which is happening regardless of bike infrastructure) into account when designing infrastructure. But you see the bike lane it as promoting it. If it is going to cause backups and bottlenecks, how is that promoting downtown development? Something here doesn’t add up. Either the bike lane is helping meet future demand (not crassly promoting it, simply recognizing it and how it will increase demand on the existing system), or it is crippling downtown with bottlenecks and traffic backups. Which one is it?

  6. Leftists have decided that it makes sense to remove a functional lane of traffic so that an increasingly vocal minority can say, “Wheee!!!!” as they ride their bikes through the CBD. Meanwhile, drivers lose the ability to pass and are stuck behind Grandma. People on bikes have lots of time to waste, so it’s ok to waste everyone else’s time too? It seems the voices of reason and common sense migrated to more rational shores at the first sign of social experimentation years ago, leaving us on the Island of Dr. Landreau.

  7. The biggest shocker to me in this debate is the fact that there IS a traffic engineer in New Orleans. This city has THE worst traffic flow of anywhere I’ve seen in North America. The method of uptown – downtown vehicular movement in the CBD seems to be designed specifically to cause congestion. The timing of the traffic lights and their pattern (or lack there of) of synchronization seems to be designed to leave a line of cars blocking intersecting streets. I could go on all night on this subject but the point is this: any traffic engineer in NOLA who considers their work in this city as a success has immediately lost all credibility. If Yrle believes the bike lane will cause more congestion, then undoubtedly there will be no more than usual.

    For the record I’m pro bike lane anywhere, but as for CBD traffic congestion, the real culprit is total lack of coordination between Public Works, utility crews, construction projects and special NOPD “traffic plans” during events. As for “traffic engineering” in NOLA? It’s all madness, no method.

    • LDG Resident,

      As we’ve seen here, the problem is largely that DPW doesn’t even defer to the recommendations of its own traffic engineer, so you can’t blame Yrle for traffic issues. If the city provided him with funding and some degree of deference, I’d wager we’d all be better off. I don’t see how that’s the case at present, though.

  8. Not only is there no dedicated bike lane from Uptown to the CBD, there isn’t even a shared lane. Once you get into the CBD, there is a shared lane on Camp that is reasonably safe for bikers and fairly efficient for cars. I’d support a shared lane going in the opposite direction on Barone, if all the cars would share. Most cars do share, but too many do not respect the 3 foot passing law. Furthermore, it seems that NOPD rarely, if at all, enforces that 3 passing foot law designed to keep bikers from being struck by 2,000 + pound vehicles traveling at high speeds. Unless enforcement of the 3 foot rule is significantly improved, a dedicated bike lane on Barone is the best option to minimize the risk of serious injury, including the d word, to bikers.

      • Kevin,

        Sorry, I missed your comment earlier.

        I still disagree with the dedicated bike lane on Baronne, but I have no problem with shared lanes or a dedicated lane configuration that doesn’t cost a traffic lane. Increased enforcement of laws that are in place for the safety of bicycles also wouldn’t be a bad idea — I’ve already seen NOPD stopping cyclists for violations in the CBD, and what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

        But yes, at the very least a shared lane through the CBD is warranted.

  9. The Level of Service (LOS) calculations that Mr. Yrle and many of other traffic engineers use is fundementally flawed. The calculation, a relic of the 1960s, is designed to maximize throughput of automobiles and considers a person using a particular intersection or stretch of roadway by any means other than an automobile as a detriment to LOS. What this essentially means is that LOS doesn’t actually count the number of people being served, but the number of cars. Using LOS as the final metric for roadway design is how you get fast, overbuilt and unsafe arterials.Veterans, Causeway and the rest of Metairie didn’t just appear by accident.

    At the core of the Complete Streets Ordinance is a recognition that the highway design guidelines used by traffic engineers for decades, including LOS, are inappropriate for any roadway that is not a highway.

    Even if traffic backs up as much as Mr. Yrle says, which I doubt will happen, a little traffic congestion is a fairly small price for a significant increase in safety for everyone, especially those who don’t travel encased in 2 tons of steel.

    • Recovering,

      I disagree.

      First of all, we don’t know the model Yrle used. He might have been referring to a more modern multimodal LOS that incorporated cyclists. You don’t have enough information to say that he was using a “relic of the 1960s” based simply on the fact that he referred to the LOS.

      Secondly, let’s assume Yrle was using a traditional LOS – it goes without saying that if you’re trying to determine how much increased traffic congestion you’re going to see, then LOS is the way to go. You can certainly raise countervailing considerations, but the issue here was that the city was underestimating the traffic congestion that would result from adding a dedicated bike lane. Yrle was simply pointing this out, and the measure was clearly appropriate for that. Simply because it wasn’t appropriate for some other purpose doesn’t make it wrong.

      Furthermore, if you consider traffic congestion a “small price,” I think that’s a conceptual problem right off the bat. It’s a big price, even if you think the trade-off is worth it. Here, I don’t see any reason to believe that any increased cyclist volume on Baronne is going to be significant enough to offset the increased congestion, certainly not versus the alternative of adding a shared lane. Yrle was in a good position to understand all the options and he thought the cost here was too great. If the city had a better argument, it wouldn’t have fudged the numbers.

      • Owen, you are (again) ignoring the safety factor of a dedicated bike lane. Safety should always take priority over congestion, and shared lanes just do not cut it from a safety point of view.

        • D. Turgeon,

          Come now. If safety always took priority over congestion, we’d have 10 mph speed limits with speed humps on every road. Besides, I’m not necessarily against a dedicated bike lane anywhere; I’m against removing a needed traffic lane on a road that’s already rated a weak “C.”

          • Oh, come now. We don’t need any more hyperbole and exaggeration from you on this topic. If safety were not a priority, there would be NO speed limits or traffic calming measures. Safety can and does take a priority at speeds greater than 10 mph and with no speed bumps, as you well know. You do seem to value bicyclist safety far less than you do extending an automobile commute by a few minutes.

    • sooperpaz,

      What the heck does that have to do with anything?

      Not that this merits explanation, but I haven’t been impressed with Jindal’s job performance for at least the past few years. And I don’t know of anyone who determines peoples’ present preferences by antiquated Facebook “likes.” Troll somewhere else.

      • Troll? Let me explain some things you may not have realized.
        1. Climate change is real. Our reliance on cars needs to change in order to substantially affect our climate.
        2. Cars are expensive. Especially in Louisiana, with some of the highest insurance rates in the country, and one of the highest income gaps.
        3. New Orleans is basically an island. More and more people are developing and living downtown since building up saves space in our finite city footprint, and we will quickly get to a point where every downtown resident/worker cannot have a private car and parking space.

        So maybe the bike lane isn’t about some corporate appeasement, but rather a nobler effort to get more people to bike. More bikers and lanes mean less traffic, less pollution, more accessibility for low income residents, and a safer biking experience. As someone who has been in two hit and runs in the CBD on a bike, I’m just asking you to step out of your bubble for a minute and consider that the chief traffic engineer may be wrong, even though city officials have never steered us wrong in the past…

        You aren’t the only person living here. Just because you drive a car doesn’t mean you can ignore everyone else.

        • sooperpaz,

          If you’re trying to prove that you’re not a troll, you aren’t doing a very good job. Trying to argue climate change in relation to a local issue concerning a dedicated bike lane is, well, trolling.

          Nobody in government is arguing that they’re intentionally trying to hold up traffic to force people to bike to work. In fact, they’re arguing the contrary — that the new bike lane won’t have any significant impact on congestion, and thus it’s a win-win. That’s what my column is arguing against, and that’s the topic at hand.

          • Judging by the other comments on here, I’d say it’s a bigger issue than traffic congestion. If you don’t want want to hear opposition, keep your opinion to yourself. But, judging by YOUR other comments on here, that’s not a possibility.

          • sooperpaz,

            I am hearing opposition and responding accordingly, but I don’t appreciate trolling responses. By all means: Look again with what you led with, engage in some genuine introspection, and tell me you didn’t start out here as a troll.

            Sure, there is more to this than congestion, but the whole point here is that the plan sailed through because it wasn’t supposed to cause major congestion problems. The city’s own traffic engineer disagreed with that assessment.

            Moreover, there were at least arguably other ways to create a bike lane that would not have severe traffic impacts, but it’s clear that the city was set on this configuration and gave lip service, at best, to other options. It’s not about whether we should promote bicycle use or try to create more bike lanes. It’s about why the city is fudging the data to move forward with this clearly flawed plan.

          • you win, i’m exhausted and have better things to do. take the 50+ comments as an indicator that maybe you didn’t get the point across that you were trying to make.

  10. Owen – thanks for covering such an important topic with such great vigor! Please help me and these fellow commentors attempt to negate the progress this city is trying to accomplish in making our Downtown and Warehouse districts livable, walk-able, bike-able places not only to work but live in.

    Please help me and my fellow Orleanians reminisce of the good ol’ days of surface parking lots and empty buildings filling the CBD. The South Market District is bad as it is a sign of progress. Any tax break or infrastructure upgrade to encourage business into the city is quite terrible. I’m sure no other cities in the country do such practices!

    The CBD is also one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city and I’ll be the first to admit the additional 20-30,000 new residents who will move to the CBD/Warehouse over the next 10 years would be wholly against this bike lane.

    All bicyclists are hippies who have unlimited time to go entirely out of their way to find maybe one possibly safe road to commute by. I mean when I look at all of the the bicycles I see parked throughout the CBD I am confident they are all owned by Jimmy John’s delivery boys as no working professional would ever chose to travel by such methods as bicycling.

    I’m sure someone will comment about bicyclists breaking laws and therefore they should not be have access to bike lanes. I agree!! If there are some deviant, law breaking, or simply un-educated cyclists who don’t abide by the law NO CYCLISTS should get the privilege of safe transportation!

    I count a total of 15 vehicle lanes leaving the CBD parallel to the river towards Uptown. Please help my effort of allowing NONE of them to be converted to a car alternative. We can not give up one! Never!

  11. 2000 Alumni,

    That’s as much as six minutes on average, based on numbers that have already been called in question. At peak times it will likely be much higher than that, as Yrle pointed out. And if bike traffic still spreads out across the CBD because cyclists simply use the streets closest to their route (instead of detouring to Baronne) it might not be of that great a benefit to cyclists either.

    • The 2 minutes originally cited in the GCR report were called into question. The information from Yrtle’s emails only said 300% of existing, which is vague.

      Here is the exact quote from DPW. Interpret it however you like:

      “At this time, after completing field observations, the DPW is expecting to reduce the level of service along Baronne St. from a “C” to a “D”. The average time it would take a motorist traveling out of the CBD using Baronne St., from Canal to Calliope streets, would likely increase from 8-9 minutes to 12-14 minutes. Please note that at the public meeting, the anticipated delay was less than two minutes.”

  12. ISupportTheBikeLane,

    >>A single lane is sufficient for moving the current car traffic demand on Baronne St…<<

    Sure, a "D" rating is "sufficient," but barely, and it won't necessarily be sufficient in the future. Roads in the CBD are already stressed and taking out traffic lanes is virtually always going to be a bad idea.

    • On-street parking is almost always a bad idea. It’s insane in an area where roads run at capacity and have huge peak loads.

  13. ISupportTheBikeLane,

    The city could have done a shared lane or a dedicated lane without eliminating a much-needed traffic lane. That’s the problem.

    This wasn’t a Manichean choice between having a dedicated, buffered bike lane Baronne or doing nothings. This is a matter of the city pushing a bad scheme that its own traffic engineer rejected, and the question of why it did so.

    • Owen, this is Darrell. My experience with shared lanes both as a motorist and as a cyclist is that they’re basically useless. Some cyclists obstruct traffic by “occupying the lane” (i.e., riding right down the middle) and some motorists tend to buzz by cyclists as closely as they figure they can get away with. It’s an invitation for mutal douchebaggery. That said, I’d agree taking away an entire lane of traffic in a heavily traveled area is inviting trouble. Would it be possible to narrow the motor lanes slightly to accomodate a normal dedicated bike lane?

    • Uh…much needed traffic lane? So where do you get your data? Because the ADT (average daily traffic) for that road section is about 9k. One (1) lane can comfortably hold around 15k-18k or twice what is needed. Also, please state what the delay will be during the peak hour (yes, in New Orleans, rush hour is literally only one hour), you will lose about something like 20 or 30 seconds on the that route.
      And I am sad to read a little further below that you don’t even know what the rules are in a shared bike lane, yet you propose this is a better option than a dedicated lane? What is your purpose of this blog? Are you upset with the traffic? The loss of only three (yes, three) total parking spaces and one truck loading zone? Are you upset that you cannot zoom around into the 2nd lane to pass a car you deem too slow?
      Have you attended the meetings held on this and voiced your opinions there? I know I was there and I don’t recall seeing you, but I guess I could just check with the city and the sign-in sheets.
      Change is good. A dedicated bike lane is safe for bicyclists. One lane of traffic will slow down speeding and be safer for everyone including drivers and pedestrians as well as bicyclists. And if you want, I can provide documentation of other “bike cities” that show this kind of traffic change actually increases business and not limits this. But if you want Baronne to just be a thoroughfare for workers in their cars to leave the city at 5pm on weekdays, and not a vibrant place to live, that is your right. But for me, I want NOLA to be a fun, safe place to live…

  14. Should it be mentioned that increasing the safety and accessibility of biking encourages a healthy, active activity, and traffic snarlsdiscourage the use of a vehicle? There’s certainly a social benefit.

    In other words, if there’s a complaint about more traffic, perhaps a bike commute is worth a try.

    • Andrew,

      If Landrieu wants to argue that he’s intentionally creating traffic snarls to discourage automobile use, then by all means, he should make that argument and see how it plays. I’d really like to see that.

      • Here’s the thing: This is a trial. DPW is giving this a chance, but if it causes traffic snarls like you predict, then it won’t last longer than the 6 month trial period. As much as I would like to see a permanent dedicated lane, I think this is a reasonable approach by the city (the approach was recommended by GCR, to their credit). The street has been one-lane for construction for quite some time, and should see an improvement once the roadway and other (non-roadway) construction projects are complete. I have driven on Baronne during rush hour during construction when it was one-lane and while it was inconvenient, it was not a disaster. Once it has opened back up completely, even with one lane, it should be an improvement from that condition.

        I appreciate the City’s data-driven approach, even if Yrtle doesn’t want to give it a chance. We shouldn’t fight progress based solely on knee-jerk reactions. Let the hard data guide the decision-making process.

        • ISupportTheBikeLane,

          If you really think this is a trial, there’s a bridge over the Mississippi I might be interested in selling you.

          Once they’ve committed money to restriping the roadway, they’re not going to undo it no matter what the data says.

    • Some people absolutely cannot bike commute, period. If the public transportation in this city were reliable, I would definitely give up driving to my job, but it’s not, so I won’t.

  15. jimbo,

    Saw it was a strawman in the first few sentences and then stopped reading. How about actually engaging my ideas instead of spewing a nonresponsive, sarcastic rant?

        • Eugene,

          Do you know what “jingoistic” actually means? Goodness, can you actually make an argument, or do you specialize in vapid, drive-by insults?

          • You’re obviously lashing out. You posted an op-ed piece that didn’t go over as you expected, so you are compensating by acting arrogant and confrontational. You lost this round, so just suck it up and try again. I believe in you!

          • Right? This whole time I thought opinion pieces were just someone’s point of view. But apparently in this case, all of Owen’s views are indisputable facts.

            I just hate when op-eds have to put down entire sectors of the population for the writer to make his point, in this case Owen assuming the bike lane benefits no one in the city except real estate developers. You’re totally entitled to express your opinion, but it’s possible to do so without offending people, which he clearly has. Hopefully he’s realized to choose words a little more carefully and consider his audience before penning his next “opinion” piece.

          • sooperpaz,

            I didn’t “put down entire sectors of the population.” My argument was against Landrieu has his subordinates. Nor did I say that there was absolutely no benefit to anybody else; rather, I merely argued that the primary reason for pushing forward with the bike lane despite the projected impact on congestion was to support redevelopment projects in the CBD.

            Those who found this column “offensive” must have incredibly weak skin. This is pretty dry stuff and relates to a discrete issue.

          • Seriously? Please re-read your article and comments. I know you want to have the last word here, but please just stop. Go back to work.

          • Eugene,

            Actually, this piece went over pretty well. Many commented in support and a number were opposed, but it promoted seasoned debate on the issue. The only black spot has been people like you who simply come in and spout lame insults and sarcasm.

            In the future, just remember: Reasoned debate is appreciated; insults and vapid, dismissive verbiage are not.

          • Owen, you complain about people not citing facts, when half of your posts are filled with conjecture and assumptions. You have been called out on what is a very unreasonable position with and article title that is so far from the truth or the crux of your actual issues that you should at least admit that shortcoming. You may not like the bike lane, that is fine. You may think it is in an inappropriate location, that is fine. Those points are reasonably debatable. However, to say this bike lane is not for bikes is insane. As a GD property owner I am thrilled to have a great way to navigate the CBD on bike (my preferred method of transportation), which I previously did not have. Thus, it is for this bicyclist and obviously many more.

            That leads me to my last question on this thread as it has gotten into the absurd. If a bike lane is being driven by local development, why is that even a bad thing? I simply don’t understand why trying to increase bike usage, which aside from being extremely healthy, is also extremely “green” is a bad thing. We all know from obesity rates and an environmental standpoint, New Orleans could use all the help it can get.

          • In addition to your comments, I would add that the safer a bicycle route becomes, the more bicyclists will use it instead of their cars, thus reducing automobile traffic congestion.

  16. for real. this was a hugely unpopular article, suitable only for click bait. owen is being typically over-defensive and off-kilter with his responses. just a massive disappointment for such a great site. i wish for more news, less opinion.

    • Eugene,

      Plenty of people support the view I’ve stated in this column, and it’s not just “click-bait.” It comports with views I’ve stated before regarding these issues.

      • Good point, Eugene. Owen, I just think it’s important, as someone whose writing is being read by the public at-large, to consider that not everyone is a lawyer living uptown. If you did, you may notice the massive biking population that has been advocating for additional infrastructure and education. They have elected people like Mitch because he has, and continues to, support their efforts. Sorry for not seeing this as some financial ploy, but I see our elected officials delivering much needed change to an evolving city. Whether you like it or not, there are bikes and cars on the streets of New Orleans. Either they share the road or an entire group of commuters is being disenfranchised.

        • sooperpaz,

          I am all for providing more infrastructure for cyclists, but this was a bad way to go about it. I don’t believe it was actually driven by the positive motives you cite. I think you’re being naive about this, but I suppose that’s the source of our disagreement.

          • Yes, adding a bike lane is a bad way to provide more infrastructure to cyclists. Take your vendetta against Landrieu somewhere more effective and just stop this discussion.

  17. carbondate,

    You may be correct that shared lanes aren’t a great deal better than having no bike lane at all. I myself have often voiced that it’s unclear what exactly the rules in shared lanes are. I suppose the primary benefit is that motorists are placed on notice that it’s a shared lane, for what that’s worth.

    I think you’re on the right track with asking why we can’t possibly use narrower lanes to accommodate a dedicated bike lane. Narrow lanes might be problematic where traffic moves quickly, but that definitely isn’t the case in the CBD. I also think eliminating a parking lane would be preferable to getting rid of a traffic lane, even if that meant that more businesses would be opposed and some loading/passenger zones would become less convenient.

    A dedicated bike lane through the CBD is probably overdue, I’ll admit (we could probably use more than one, frankly). I just don’t think this is the right configuration. I think there’s a better way and the city is pushing this instead because it’s simple and situated to the benefit of the redevelopment crowd.

  18. ISupportTheBikeLane,

    Actually, the general rule is that bicycles are not permitted to occupy the lane, so a shared lane at least accomplishes that change.

    That said, I do agree that a dedicated bike lane is far better; where I don’t agree is the notion that this should require eliminating a traffic lane unless absolutely necessary and with minimal impacts on existing traffic. The city seems to see it the same way, only it appears they’re fudging on both counts to make the plan appear more reasonable than it actually is.

    • Bicycles can’t ride on the sidewalk in the CBD but also can’t occupy a lane? Ah, I see, so your interpretation of the law is that bicycles need to just cease to exist.

  19. sooperpaz,

    A lot of these comments are mine, or from a small number of people who comment who are arguing with me. There are actually a great deal of people here who support my stance if you’d bother to read them.

  20. ISupportTheBikeLane,

    I suppose the problem is that I see the redevelopment projects as being a primary cause. After the Loyola Streetcar I’ve become a wee bit cynical about private interests effectively controlling the use and creation of public infrastructure in the CBD, and I believe that this is a symptom of that. I don’t think the city is really thinking of how much bicycle traffic the lane can expect; I think they’re ignoring the negative impact on traffic and merely view it as another amenity being offered nearby redevelopment schemes. That’s why I view this as crass.

  21. Most shared lanes indicate that the cyclist ride down the middle. The idea is that the space isn’t dedicated only to bikes. In NOLA, some sharrows are placed up against parked cars, where you get hit by and aren’t visible to their passengers, and where the rest of the lane is not wide enough for a car to pass with any hint of safety. Doesn’t New Orleans have a 3′ rule? None of the right-side sharrows make even a 2′ clearance possible. Cyclists always have the right to take the lane in sharrowed lanes if they can’t safely share, just like cars can drive down the middle and keep you from passing them in that sliver on the right.

  22. Between Canal and Poydras, Carondelet and St Charles have streetcar tracks in the street. That is high risk for most bikes, but not for cars or motorbikes. So Baronne, Magazine and Camp are the right choices for bike lanes.

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