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Pedaling on Safer Streets

During a recent trip to New Orleans, I noticed something new – bike lanes. Drive down Carrollton Avenue or in the Bywater District and you’ll notice cyclists using bike lanes to get to where they want to go. A nice departure from the days of old.

See also: Moving Toward Safe Streets

Thanks to a new Complete Streets policy unanimously adopted by the New Orleans City Council, residents can expect future street design to consider a full array of users which includes not only bicyclists but also pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or using mobility aids, and transit riders.

“Over three years ago AARP Louisiana set out on a mission. A mission to make streets safe for all users,” said Nancy McPherson, state director. “We are excited that the city council implemented forward looking policies to make streets safer for all users, not just vehicles.”

Louisiana is among the most dangerous states in the nation for pedestrians, ranking 3rd out of the 50 states researched in a new report released by Transportation for America. New Orleans ranks 18th in preventable pedestrian deaths in metro areas with a population over a million.

One of the biggest contributors to this crisis is the way streets are designed. An overwhelming proportion of pedestrian fatalities occur on roads designed for speeding traffic with little concern for pedestrians, lacking safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and signals. Sadly, it is the elderly, children and minorities who are killed and injured in disproportionate numbers, due to this failure to build roads with everyone’s safety in mind.

The new city ordinance in New Orleans means that future streets, or current streets that get an overlay or large repairs, will need to be designed and constructed to include features such as bike lanes and bike racks, sidewalks and crosswalks.

“As Louisiana’s population ages, complete streets planning presents an opportunity to increase the safety and availability of older adults’ travel options,” said McPherson.

Streets where walking and biking are prohibited and roads without demand to support such activities will be excluded from the new law. To keep expenses in check, a project will be exempt if its cost increases by 20 percent or more to add these features.

Louisiana’s complete streets policy was developed by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development DOTD in conjunction with AARP Louisiana and a study group of 21 organizations to ensure a fully-integrated transportation system that safely accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. The policy principally effects new and reconstruction roadway projects, and includes complete streets provisions, such as sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle/pedestrian or multi-use paths, to be integrated into the project development process.

AARP has been working closely with DOTD to develop policies that support complete street concepts. The National Complete Streets Coalition recently recognized the Department’s policy as second strongest in the listing of nationwide complete streets policies according to McPherson.

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