Tuesday, September 9, 2014

New Orleans ranked #22 on Bicycling magazine's list of America's Best Bike Cities

A sharrow in the right travel lane heading to the French Quarter
 of Orleans Ave. in New Orleans

        For the year 2013, New Orleans is ranked #22 on Bicycling magazine's 50 top cities for bicycling in the U.S.   The magazine ranked the city 43 in 2012.   Number one for 2013 was New York City.
       The rankings boost for New Orleans is attributed to the expansion of the city's bicycle network from about five miles to nearly 100 miles since Hurricane Katrina nine years ago, the magazine editors say in a blurb in the October 2014 edition of the magazine.
       (As reported in the Times-Picayune November 7, 2014, the city had 37 miles of dedicated, on-street bike lanes and 16.5 miles of off-street paths.  The city has 40 miles of designated "shared" lanes.
        Shared lanes are traffic lanes marked with "sharrows",  arrows and a bicycle glyph painted white on the roadway.  Some have signs too.  Shared lanes do not exclude motorized traffic.  Shared lanes offer little or no protection to cyclists because drivers follow the suggestion of sharing the lane with cyclists only if a driver wants to.  Many city streets with shared lanes carry heavy traffic.  Shared lanes are used on such busy city arteries as City Park Ave. leading from under an   Interstate interchange to Delgado Community College and east bound Orleans Ave. a four-lane street leading to the French Quarter.)
      However, infrastructure improvements over the past several years not mentioned in the magazine's appraisal do boost the city's reputation as a bike friendly town.  About two miles of Esplanade Ave. from City Park to Claiborne Ave. was resurfaced and restriped converting the narrow four-lane into one wider traffic lane and one bike lane in each direction.  This has become the main route used by cyclists traveling from the French Quarter to Lakeview and City Park.  (Cyclists must still negotiate a half-mile stretch of Esplanade riding in a narrow traffic lane between N. Claiborne and Rampart St. at the edge of the French Quarter.)
       Last year the bike path along Lake Pontchartrain in Jefferson Parish was finally finished after about 35 years of on and off construction and partial closings because of levee and pumping station construction.  Riders can now ride the entire 10-miles from Bucktown at the 17th Street Canal separating the parishes of Orleans and Jefferson west to Kenner without having to detour or leave the path for any reason.  The ride can be extended two miles (one-way) by turning south at the end of the path in Kenner onto the broad concrete service apron at the base of the storm wall along the Jefferson/St. Charles parish line.  This path dead-ends at a pumping station.  Until completion of an underpass at the Causeway Bridge last year, causeway traffic served as a de facto barrier separating the trail into east and west sections.   Cyclists and pedestrians would have sprint across six lanes of busy highway traffic to complete their trips on the path.   
       (While that path is not in New Orleans it is very popular with riders from New Orleans who ride it regularly and its existence contributes much to the cycling climate of the area.)
       To be completed in the spring of next year is the Lafitte Corridor multi-use path and playground, from N. Alexander St. near N. Carrollton Ave. to Basin St.  Construction of the path is well underway with the blacktop down in some sections.
A view of the path under construction in the Lafitte Corridor in New Orleans taken 09-11-2014.  The view is looking southwest towards N. Carrollton Ave. from N. Scott St.  Rouses is on the left.
       In a move sideways, two-way traffic was restored to Lakeshore Drive on weekends but to partially mollify cyclists who use the scenic roadway in great numbers, sharrows have been stenciled on the right lanes in each direction of the four-lane road.

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