The new Napoleon Avenue revealed: narrower neutral ground, walking path, bike lanes

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Conceptual designs for the Napoleon Avenue after construction is finished. (image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Conceptual designs for the Napoleon Avenue after construction is finished. (image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

When construction is finished on the major section of Napoleon Avenue from South Claiborne to near St. Charles Avenue — expected by the end of the year — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to build a walking path down the center of the neutral ground similar to that in Broadmoor, but to narrow the neutral ground by nine feet to make room for new bike lanes in the street in each direction.

Those plans, as well as designs for post-construction Louisiana, Jefferson and South Claiborne avenues, were presented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at an open house on Thursday evening. Among the details attendees learned:

  • The Napoleon Avenue neutral ground will have a winding walking path similar to that built in Broadmoor after a similar project. A new five-foot bike lane will be added on each side of the street between the parking lane and the two driving lanes, and the neutral ground will be narrowed by about nine feet to create space for it.
  • Tree plantings on Louisiana, Napoleon and Jefferson Avenues will all follow a “natural” pattern, rather than a more formal arrangement or clustering. On Louisiana and Jefferson avenues, palm trees will be favored, though the exact species of trees to be planted on each avenue is still under discussion.
  • South Claiborne will have the natural tree pattern combined with meadows designed to help soak up excess rainwater.
  • While planners had considered public art installations along some of the thoroughfares, none are included in the current plans. The art project is still a possibility, but is dependent on funding and the wishes of individual neighborhoods.

While the walking path on Napoleon Avenue is something residents have long sought, the narrowing of it for the creation of bike lanes proved controversial among attendees. Faye Lieder said the last meeting on the landscaping ideas in October gave residents no idea that narrowing the neutral ground was under consideration, leaving them “blindsided” and “stunned” when the plans were revealed Thursday.

“Bike lanes may prevent some rear end collisions but create problems at intersections,” Lieder wrote in an email to Uptown Messenger after the meeting. “Aside from the questionable wisdom of bike lanes, why would the City ( just who made this decision anyway?) want to shrink green space on this beautiful oak lined avenue, already two lanes each way, where families gather on the median to watch Mardi Gras parades?”

Resident Richard Dimitry said at the meeting that the placement of the bike lanes next to the parking lanes is troubling, putting especially younger riders in danger of being hit by motorists opening their doors to get out of their vehicles.

“I can’t see that for the kids,” Dimitry said. “It’s not necessary to put them in danger.”

Jim Schnieders, who lives on Jefferson Avenue but enjoys bicycling all around Uptown, said he worries that a narrower neutral ground on Napoleon Avenue will make crossing the broad, busy road on cross streets more dangerous for drivers. Cars will have less room in the neutral ground to wait for an opening, Schnieders said.

“I’m like to ride my bicycle, but I don’t think we should create a potential safety hazard,” Schnieders said. “It would be safer for bikers if the bike lane was on the neutral ground also.”

Lori Wingate of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that placing the bike path in the neutral ground would present its own safety issue. Cars crossing the openings in the neutral ground would not expect bicycles heading toward them, leading to more collisions there.

“It’s much safer to put them in the side of the road, where the cars are,” Wingate said.

The plan for Louisiana Avenue.

The plan for Louisiana Avenue.

While Napoleon Avenue dominated much of the conversation at Thursday’s meeting, residents of other corridors also had concerns.

Larry Hameen, who lives between Liberty and Loyola near Louisiana Avenue, said he wondered why Louisiana couldn’t receive a similar walking path instead of the shrubbery. Second-line groups and others would appreciate the walking path, he said, and he worried that a heavily planted neutral ground could quickly become overgrown.

“They say they’re going to maintain it, but I tend not to believe that,” Hameen said.

Construction on Louisiana Avenue won’t be finished until much later than Napoleon, like 2018, so Wingate said there is more time to continue discussions on its design. Planners are still looking at the possibility of a walking path on some sections of Louisiana, particularly nearer the river where it is wider — though the neutral ground is already too narrow for a walking path in some areas.

The plan for South Claiborne Avenue.

The plan for South Claiborne Avenue.

Carrollton neighborhood activists said they were concerned about the treatment of South Claiborne Avenue. Neighborhood leader H.V. Nagendra said he appreciated the addition of some water management features, but felt more could be done.

“It is still not sufficient, but at least it is a gesture toward what we asked for,” Nagendra said. “But it is a slight improvement from what they showed us before.”

Jenel Hazlett said the construction there would have been an “opportunity to do something interesting” with a major entry point to the city, but instead it seemed to get the least attention. The plans show no bike path, and few trees — essentially the same as what’s there now.

“I think Claiborne is getting short shrift,” Hazlett said. “Every time you ignore what it could be, you make it less good.”

Wingate said that ways to enhance South Claiborne are still being discussed, particularly where it meets the Carrollton corridor. Nagendra said that special attention should be given to the configuration of the bus and public-transportation facilities there.

“There’s certainly something we can do to make the area more pronounced,” Wingate said.

The plan for Jefferson Avenue.

The plan for Jefferson Avenue.

40 thoughts on “The new Napoleon Avenue revealed: narrower neutral ground, walking path, bike lanes

    • That’s an interesting idea, but most motorists would never get the hang of it after generations of pulling up onto the sidewalk….LOL. And passengers would not be able to step onto the curb when it floods.

    • The problem with that is lack of visibility between the bike lane and the car lanes at intersections – would lead to collisions between bikes going forward and cars turning.

      • FritzNola – you are correct. Unless folks bike the only safe plan for Napoleon is wide neutral ground w center path, that’s the safest. Also kids should not be on these bike paths, this isn’t the area for young kids on busy streets as they cannot make emergency moves, period. Center lane is simple for all visual problems & the biker doesn’t have to avoid open doors, people, pets cars pulling out of driveways. thanks

  1. “Resident Richard Dimitry said at the meeting that the placement of the bike lanes next to the parking lanes is troubling, putting especially younger riders in danger of being hit by motorists opening their doors to get out of their vehicles.”

    I agree, Bike lanes should be an extension of the sidewalk and not the street. Putting bikers between the sidewalk and park cars gives an extra layer of safety, in addition it increases bike lane usage due to the fact that more people feel comfortable using the lanes.
    The bike lane on Baronne that currently has this design, and there are issues with people unloading and driving on it. We should learn from that mistake and design this bike lane correctly (in addition to fixing Baronne)

      • the streets in New Orleans uptown and around are narrow – they were made for horse drawn carriages and giving so much area to bike riders is ridiculous – let them take a side street with less traffic – or walk or take a bus -bikes are dangerous in the narrow streets.

        • Susann – agree. I bike all over. Side streets are safer. The bike lanes they have are dangerous as folks open doors & you have to dodge by going into traffic. Napoleon is too busy for this. A center neutral-ground sidewalk is great, bikers still have to stop & look as you do on Napoleon anyway. Side streets are safer, hands down. Also, they’re pulling the Delphi Technique used in UN Agenda 21 to trick us. Bike lanes on busy streets are dangerous. Nashville has bike lane & rarely is it used & we need the lanes for traffic. Louisiana Ave bike lane is going to be a death trap & they do not care, they want to force their agenda. thanks

          • a rider was killed on a bike lane this week – there is something about bikes and cars, maybe cars need a signal to warn of a bike or even a person in the way — if we can go to the moon we should be able to do that —

      • Fritz – I agree. I bike everywhere. These bike paths are a very bad idea. Center wide sidewalk is the only way to go. St. Charles bike path is dangerous. Parents are riding on St Charles w their babies thinking its safe! Stupid risk to their babies. I have tried St. Charles &, folks can’t see everything all the time, its too intense. thanks

      • Fritz,

        If the intersections were designed to accommodate protected bike lanes it would be much safer.

        http://www.protectedintersection.com/

        I am of the opinion that biking infrastructure should start in the places that need it most and where most accidents happen, at intersections. Bike lanes should radiate out from protected intersections as needed.

        This would have to be modified to accommodate the neutral ground, but the basic idea works.

    • Who do we contact to voice objections to this proposal? I chimed in when they were asking for suggestions months ago and I’m not happy with this proposal at all. I am not in favor of narrowing the neutral ground — that was not even one of the proposed plans!

  2. Love the bike lane idea. While it’s up for discussion, the intersection of Napoleon and Claiborne should have a large monument: an obelisk, arch, a flagpole, anything! (Just nothing confederate)

    • Pfofjim – do you bike too? I love the mid-lane above Claiborne on Napoleon – no worries – no dangers – it is the Best Bike Path Ever. Those of us who actually bike avoid St Charles Ave path when possible, its too risky, very tense. thanks

  3. I am very excited about the bike lanes. There are SO MANY bikes using Uptown streets, it’s great to see there will be some accomodations made on these newly-paved thoroughfares.

    A protected lane would be best, regardless of any of the opinions below. Protected lanes are the federally-recogized gold standard for new bike lane design:
    http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/the-feds-jump-on-board-protected-bike-lanes-are-now-official-federal-policy

    Anyone questioning the efficacy or need of bike lanes at all, doesn’t understand the Complete Streets policy or why it was implemented. Not everyone will agree on these issues, but the City is pursuing improved infrastructure because the demand is there, and growing. All safety arguments inevitably trend in favor of calmer traffic and separated infrastructure to avoid conflicts.

    I would only hope that a lane wider than 5′ can be accomodated. These bike lanes in the door zone are dangerous, and 2′-3′ of buffered striped space should be provided between the parked cars and the bike lane. If you do the math, a 5′ bike lane in the door zone next to a 12′ (or less) wide travel lane makes it difficult for cars to pass with the legal 3′ required separation while staying in their lane. To design infrastructure that encourages borderline-legal to dangerous passing behavior isn’t what I would call best practices. We only have one chance to do this right!

  4. Bottom line is that there will be nine feet more of pavement and nine feet less of green space the length of Napoleon. I doubt if even cyclists will like the change.

  5. The safest and most logical option for bike lanes is to have them run in the street but adjacent the neutral ground on the left-hand side of the vehicular traffic.

    That eliminated potential for being hit by parked cars, by cars parking and pulling out, turning right from the roadway, turning right onto the roadway, making deliveries, buses, etc.

    Drivers are already accustomed to looking left to check for streetcars and such before turning left, and if a cyclist is forced to wreck due to an aggressive or wreckless driver, they’d be much better off crashing into grass and shrubbery than into the 3 tons of steel parked on the right hand side of the road.

    • But how do you think bicyclists would be able to make a right turn in your scenario of the bike lane being adjacent to the neutral ground?

      • Sabina: cyclists would have to be careful and as traffic allows, signal their need for a right turn and change lanes when appropriate until they were able to make their right turn safely. This is the same thing cyclists have to do now when making a left turn, the only difference is that they’d be starting out and finishing up in a position in which drivers would be aware of them and be able to react accordingly.

    • Drew, yes bike lanes running adjacent seems like a better idea, but why not just have a regular neutral ground & wide walk/bike path in the middle instead of taking up 2xs the path width on the street? I ride all over town. Having a bike lane isn’t safe, tho they want us to think it is. Don’t get comfortable in a bike lane on a busy street cause you will have an accident. Side streets are safer. Napoleon above Claiborne mid neutral ground lane is divine! I don’t have to worry about cars, car doors, etc except to cross which I have to do on the street anyway. Love that mid-lane it is awesome to ride there. Much safer! thanks

      • Because bicycles are legally vehicles just as cars are and thus have to be accommodated on the roadway via legal travel lanes. If you were to put a single trail big enough for pedestrians and cyclists within the neutral ground itself, you’d have to eliminate the vast majority of neutral ground crossings and limit cars to only crossing over at major signalised intersections. Otherwise, you’d have a deadly combination of cyclists riding in what should be a separate protected area and vehicles cutting across it blindly in their path and likely hitting them in the process.

        For a healthy and safe transportation setup, you either need to put cars and bikes on equal footing on shared roadways with each having their own protected lanes, and in which cyclists have to be just as accountable to traffic laws as other vehicles; or, you have to give cyclists their own totally separated bikeway that doesn’t interact at all with other streets which is not only very expensive but is nearly impossible when you are already in a developed city like ours.

  6. I think it would
    be better the keep the current width of the neutral ground and, instead
    of the winding walking path, put the bike lane onto the neutral ground.
    It is not safer for bicyclists to ride between
    the traffic and parked cars, as that engineer suggests. They’d be way safer on the neutral ground
    and would only have to deal with traffic when crossing streets but not
    with people opening their car doors without looking or drivers turning
    without looking, both of which are a real hazard for anyone on a bike.

  7. I’m very upset by the idea that COE may not replace all our palm trees on Jefferson. Jefferson has always been known for its palms, and the idea that they may just place one here or there is simply not acceptable!

    • If those trees are an historical part of the landscape, then Section 106 which governs all federal projects requires they restore all of them to their original location and condition. I believe it should even require they plant adult trees of comparable size.

      You should ask for a Section 106 review.

    • I live in the area and often turn from Jefferson on to Camp. The neutral ground is narrow and plants/shrubs that are bushy and less than 20 feet high severely impact your vision and make turning left hazardous. I think there should be consideration made as to what is safe for pedestrians and cars rather than what the street is known for. Pineapple palms are not the right tree to plant, but tall and narrow palms would suffice.

  8. Let’s place the bike lane alongside the walking path, on the neutral ground, something like what we have in Audubon Park, but not as wide. This is the safest option for all, as bikes won’t have to share the roadway with cars (except at intersections) and won’t have to worry about car doors flinging open in their path. Bikers and walkers tend to be very respectful of each other. Drivers in this town, not so much. Most drivers think that if you’re walking or biking, get the heck outta the way! Really, let’s put safety first and use the neutral ground for our walkers and bikers. We need a straight path, not a curving “s” shape, please.

    • Actually walkers tend to be absolutely disrespectful of cyclists and tend to occupy the entire area for themselves even when a portion of a path is dedicated for cyclists and marked as such.

      Beyond that though, as mentioned above, the only way to put cyclists in the neutral ground would be to get rid of all the crossings of it.

      If we really want to get down to the best solution for everyone and the safest most proven option, we would be getting rid of the street-side parking and extending the raised sidewalks out to the road edge with cyclists given their own dedicated and protected bikeway alongside the road but protected from both drivers and pedestrians.

      • I don’t really see pedestrians being disrespectful of cyclists. Drivers of cars – yes. They’re just in their own little world, and seem to be disrespectful of cyclists AND pedestrians most of the time.
        And I don’t see how putting the bike lane next to the traffic would be safer than putting a bike path on the neutral ground where bicyclists would only have to deal with traffic at intersections. Which should ALL have a crosswalk in the first place. Somehow vehicular traffic seems to always be on the forefront of people’s planning thoughts, and everything else, i.e. pedestrians and bicyclists, gets “kind of planned in afterwards”.

  9. In my opinion I wish they would have considered or at least conducted a study to know the impact of making the entire street pedestrian and bike only with brick one lane roadways only allowed for home owners. Surely the huge increase in property value would have more than compensated home owner for the inconvenience and it would have been a really nice addition to the area. Continuing the policy of pouring cement/asphalt on New Orleans soil is not financially sound.We need major thoroughfares for cars, but this could have been an exception.

  10. But if you put trees and paths on the neutral ground, where will all the news vans and cops park during Carnival?

  11. I think over the past several years we have discovered that we really only need a single lane of traffic on Napoleon in each direction. As long as there are left turn lanes at all the major intersections, we could have full sized neutral ground, cycling lanes, parking and ample movement of motorized traffic.

  12. The purpose of the whole project is to reduce flooding. So how on earth does it make any sense to decrease the pervious area? The extra pavement will create extra runoff steepening the peak of the hydrograph, and negating some of the effects of the construction of the culvert in the first place. In a city where we talk about water management, and learning to live with it, more pavement is not the way to go,

  13. I guess since old age is setting in for a lot of us – the walk is put in on the neutral grounds – and bike lanes on the other side – I have never walked on the neutral grounds and who has or needs to since we have sidewalks and corner crossing that are somewhat safe? I think the neutral grounds are there to get the water out of uptown – and not walking parks and crossing is dangerous – cars linger in the crossings and wait to get across or turn – I am not going to use the neutral ground – I will wait for the light or the stop sign – wait — is it for a cement company? – do let me know and I will buy some stock…

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