Jefferson Parish Looking To Roll Out More Bike-Friendly Improvements

Nearly $56 million in investments for a more bikeable and walkable Parish
Jenny Peterson/Staff
The government panel to discuss a recent bike report in the area included Michael Ince, Director of Community Development for the City of Kenner.

NEW ORLEANS – A more bikeable and walkable Jefferson Parish is on the horizon.

Community leaders and city representatives spoke about these bike-friendly initiatives and more at a press conference on Wednesday regarding a new report entitled, “Complete Streets for Health Equality: An Evaluation of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish.” It was compiled by Bike Easy, a local bike education and advocacy non-profit.

“We’ve seen an increase in our population, and we’re hoping to attract more of a younger crowd to Kenner,” said Michael Ince, Director of Community Development for the City of Kenner.

A recently-completed bike path project used federal and parish money to improve a bike lane along Power Boulevard towards Lake Ponchartrain, complete with benches and lighting.

Bike Easy’s report includes comprehensive recommendations on how to create more user-friendly bike lanes. The goals are to increase job access and create a healthier community for everyone.

The demand for bike-friendly communities is growing, and data shows that implementing Complete Streets-type plans help meet that demand.

The city of New Orleans adopted a Complete Streets ordinance in 2011; from 2011 to 2015, the percentage of people who bike to work in New Orleans increased by more than 50 percent, the report states.

Jefferson Parish passed a Bicycle Master Plan in 2014, and the current investment expands both walking and biking amenities.

Tony Ligi, executive director for the Jefferson Parish Business Council, said future plans include turning unused right-of-way land into bike paths. Ligi sat on the community panel at the event. 

“Jefferson Parish was not originally planned out for bicycles, but it does lend itself to bikers with lots of north-south, east-west, straight and level streets,” he said. 

The Jefferson Parish Council adopted a resolution at its October meeting to increase pedestrian and bicycle accessibility to the improvements to the Severn Avenue Corridor from Veterans Boulevard to West Esplanade.

Dan Favre, Executive Director of Bike Easy, notes that unlike New Orleans, there is currently no comprehensive Complete Streets program in Jefferson Parish that outlines best practices for creating bike-friendly communities.

Favre said it’s not enough to build a dedicated lane; there are many other factors to consider for successful use of the lanes, where bikers feel safe while riding. That includes protected bike lanes, quality construction, curb ramps, shelters in case of rain or to get out of the sun and connectedness to businesses like grocery stores. 

“Not all bike lanes are created equal,” Favre said. “When you’re going over the St. Claude Avenue Bridge – which is a shared lane with a sign – it’s still a terrifying experience. But on Old Behrman Highway on the Westbank, there’s a two-lane protected bike lane with a physical delineator between vehicle traffic and bikes; it feels really good riding on it.”

The panel of community leaders and government representatives acknowledged that there also needs to be more bicycle education for both drivers and riders to learn the laws, so that everyone can share the road safely.

The report was released the day after the city of New Orleans announced the official launch of its Blue Bikes bike sharing program.

To read the full Bike Easy Report, click http://bikeeasy.org/

To read the full Jefferson parish Bicycle Master Plan, click here http://www.jeffparish.net/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=11505

To sign up to join the Bike Easy Coalition, click here www.bikeeasy.org/advocacy/completestreets

-By Jenny Peterson, Associate News Editor, BIZ New Orleans

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