Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A brief review of outdoor, plans, projects and policies begun or finished in 2017

         Before 2018 disappears completely below the horizon of time, let's take a look at the many plans, projects and policies attracting attention of the year just past.  When reviewed altogether 2017 was a bountiful year for lovers of the outdoors in the New Orleans area.

Wisner Avenue Bridge and bicycle side path over I-610  ( The Wisner Overpass)

          The long-awaited opening of the Wisner Avenue Bridge and its much ballyhooed 12-foot wide bicycle side path in the fall of 2017 came and went with only the traffic lanes opening.  The 12-foot wide bike/ped side path, separated from bridge's narrow car traffic lanes by a thick, concrete wall, did not connect to any path at either its northbound or southbound entrances rendering it a path to nowhere.  The day the traffic lanes of the overpass opened, police barricades closed the bike/ped path.
          Construction has begun on  an off-street, paved path along Bayou St. John, replacing a sidewalk there that will connect the bike/ped overpass with the Esplanade Ave./ Wisner Avenue traffic circle.  Access to the two paved loops in City Park; Big Lake and Festival grounds will be via a spur at De Saix Ave.
          When completed sometime in late winter or early spring (2018) the path will provide an off-street bicycle path from the junction of City Park Ave. and the beginning of Wisner Ave. to Robert E. Lee Blvd. just a few blocks south of Lake Pontchartrain.
            For decades cyclists have made the transit from uptown New Orleans to Lake Pontchartrain using the narrow roads with normally light traffic that wind through City Park.  However an increase in visitor traffic and construction of the new Children's Museum and expansion of the Sculpture Garden in the park have increased the traffic on park roads shared with cyclists.  The opening of the path at the edge of City Park will be a welcome coincidence.
           Cyclists who do not want to ride in City Park in the street have two loop trails to ride; the .7 mile long Big Lake Trail and the slightly longer trail around the festival grounds.  They do connect with each other and when construction is complete on the connecting trails to the bridge, the festival trail will connect to the Wisner Trail at the intersection of Wisner Blvd. and De Saix.

New Orleans Bike Share program "Blue Bike" launches

              A program to provide 70 bicycle racks stocked with 700 bicycles that can be rented, ridden one-way and left at a bike rack at the destination, is now underway in New Orleans.  December of 2017 and January of 2018 saw most of the bike stations built and stocked with bikes ready to use.  The stations are largely in the Central Business District, French Quarter, Treme, Marigny, Treme and downriver of Jackson Ave. uptown.  There are seven stations on Esplanade Ave. and two in City Park.
          Tagged "Blue Bike" by sponsors; New Orleans City Hall, Social Bicycles (the company making the bicycles used) and lead sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, is expected to fill in that gap transportation planners call "that last mile"  when major public transportation such as buses or streetcars drop transit riders off about a mile from their destination.
          All transactions to reserve and pay for the rental (fees vary depending on income) take place using an app on a smartphone or laptop.  Everything is "self-serve."
          Bad weather in the New Orleans area--record freezing temperatures--have probably dampened enthusiasm for bicycling riding just a "Blue Bike" was ramping up.  But as the weather warms and the program catches on it is expected to make money.  The program will not costs the City of New Orleans--financing comes from Social Bicycles and Blue Cross as well as from bike rentals.