NolaCycle is a project aimed to create a high quality cycling map of New Orleans. Cycling maps include information beyond just streets and their names that benefits cyclists. In our map, we highlight the pavement quality, car travel speed, lane width, and special caution areas (busy intersections, man-eating potholes, or high accident areas). Volunteers help to collect this data by attending mapping events.
The information is then digitized to make a map of the data we collected to help cyclists - young, old, local, and tourist alike - navigate New Orleans.

Check out the blog for updates on the project, ways to get involved, and volunteer mapping events!

If you have questions, feel free to make a public comment on the blog entry or e-mail us directly at

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Orleanians are bad at (road) diets

If you've been up on Gentilly Blvd lately, you might have noticed something different. The street is now on a diet - a road diet! This is a common traffic calming treatment "given to an urban roadway in which the number of lanes is reduced, and the freed space converted to parking, bike lanes, landscaping, walkways, or medians. Road Diets are implemented to provide additional pavement and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, reduce speeding, and to make room for parking" (via the Streetsblog wiki).

Gentilly Blvd. through Gentilly, is now 2 lanes in each direction (instead of 3) and includes a bike lane with a striped buffer between the furthest right car travel lane and the bike lane. The idea behind the buffer is reduce the number of lanes of car traffic (since 3 was too many for how many car trips the road sees on average daily) which encourages more careful (and hopefully slower) driving behavior and reduces the number of lanes pedestrians must travel through to cross the road.

Here are some pictures I stole from Tim Eskew of Bicycle Michael's. This shows the bike lane and buffer (which changes size based on available space) at a few points along the road. Some diagonal striping has also been added in some sections, though not seen in these pictures.

Portland has started using this type of bike lane (called enhanced bicycle lanes), finding it works better than bike lanes with raised buffers or landscaped barriers (called Cycle Tracks). Here's some Q & A from the Portland Bureau of Transportation via The Oregonian about this kind of design:

What is an enhanced bicycle lane?

An enhanced bicycle lane is designed so that it provides a more protected and comfortable space for cyclists than a conventional bike lane and does not have the same barriers to sight lines as a Cycle Track - where view of cyclists may be obstructed by parked cars.

Why are we constructing enhanced bicycle lanes (i.e., what's wrong with these streets the way they are now)?

These streets currently work fine for people who are comfortable riding bicycles in mixed traffic. However, our designs are intended to make bicycling more comfortable for the majority of Portlanders who are not comfortable riding under such conditions. Our analysis indicates that most Portlanders would use a bicycle much more often than they currently do if they didn't have to mix so much with automobiles. A buffered bicycle lane provides that opportunity.

Why not use a simple bicycle lane?

Because the enhanced bicycle lane, with the added shy zones, offers a more comfortable riding environment that we believe it is more consistent with our efforts to make bicycling a part of daily life in Portland.

How does an enhanced bike lane provide more protection for cyclists than a bike lane?

Enhanced bike lanes provide more protection for cyclists by providing 'shy' or buffered zones on either side of the cyclist.

What will drivers notice that is different about driving on a street with an enhanced bike lane?

There isn't much of a change for drivers. They will still need to watch carefully for cyclists when they are turning right at cross-streets or driveways. They will also need to take care when parking on-street which is accomplished by crossing the enhanced bicycle lane. Cyclists will always be clearly visible to drivers because, unlike a Cycle Track, the buffered bicycle lane does not have the barrier of parked cars between the bicycle lane and the travel lane.

New York City cyclists are also big fans of this design, according to Streetblog New York City. A study was done finding most cyclists felt more comfortable biking on buffered lanes than non-buffered lanes.

So all in all, looks like these new buffered bike lanes should be pretty awesome for New Orleanian cyclists. Hopefully they'll encourage more people to bike instead of drive. I haven't rode them myself yet, but Jennifer Ruley at Department of Public Works has given them the first hand thumbs-up and Tim is pretty happy as well.

I did, however, drive down Gentilly Blvd today on my way back from Lakeview. I wanted to figure out how many miles it was from my house to the Fairground if I traveled St. Claude Ave. to Franklin Ave. (newly resurfaced and looking lovely - but no bike improvements, yet at least), to Gentilly Blvd. It's really not too far, considering it will allow me to avoid the insanity of Mid-City during Jazz Fest. But I saw something pretty disgusting on my way home:

Between Elysian Fields, past Franklin Avenue, I saw at least 3 cars travel in the buffered bike lane! Obviously, New Orleanians aren't really sure how to do a road diet. In all fairness, there are no signs explaining cars must stay out of the buffer zone, though anyone with a drivers license should know diagonal white strips don't equal a car travel lane. Also, I haven't seen anyone bike Gentilly the two times I've driven down it since the lane went in.

If you're biking down Gentilly Blvd., keep an eye out for cars in your bike lane! If you can, write down the plate number and report it to the police. Hopefully as more people start biking on Gentilly, less cars will try to use the bike lane as a short cut around traffic. Also, if enough people report these acts to the police, maybe they'll start monitoring the area.

New Orleans drivers are going to need more help, beyond just striping, if they're going to be successful with this new diet.

But hey, Gentilly Blvd, 4 lanes looks good on you. You we're kinda chubby back when you were a 6. I don't mean to be a jerk, but I really didn't want to go on a bike ride date with you back then. I think you look pretty hot now. Want to be my bike route?


  1. I rode the gentilly bike lanes today because I noticed it on the way to uno last weekend and Edward Hynes was getting out for the day and cars were just smashed into the bike lane trying to pick up their kids, it was pretty ridiculous, but I can say that it was fantastic otherwise. Press st also has bicycle symbols on the ground but no striped lane so that was nice to see so much bikeness on the new paved roads.

  2. I did bike down the road the other night pretty successfully. The only problem is that one of the city's busiest and best-used bus routes (94-Broad) uses that street every 20 minutes or so. There are stops every 2 blocks, so it's really impossible for that bus to pull in and out at every stop. Solution: Bus just runs down the bike lane, or straddles it, 2 wheels in, 2 wheels out.

    Before we freak out, this is the result of not thinking about the bus enough when they put the bike lane in. A LOT of bus riders benefit from the bus using this lane, and I think we can be pretty sure that the bus is going to respect the cyclists. The lane could have been shared bus/bike, as they do almost all the time in Paris. But it's not.

    I actually thought the post would be about this, because Portland and New York would NEVER put a buffered bike-only lane on the same curb as a bus route.

  3. My lazy butt just jumped on the mountain bike and rode Esplanade for Jazz Fest (even the bike map girl takes bumpy routes when it means I don't have to think about weaving around), so I still have not biked on Gentilly.

    Both of your comments got me thinking about the possibility of a lanes that are dedicated to bikes and buses only. I haven't heard of this being done, but on a road like Gentilly/Broad, it might make a lot of sense since there is relatively low bike and bus traffic. In my experience, professional bus drivers and much better folks to share a road with than car drivers. Also, having the bus drive down the "bike/bus lane" would help clear debris that would otherwise build up. I'm going to do some research on this and see if I can come up with a recommendation.

  4. Lauren, that's what I was saying, :)

    Check it out in Paris. I used to use them every day there, and they worked so well. Bus drivers are great, on balance.,+fr&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Paris,+Ile-de-France,+France&gl=us&ei=LsbhS8ybCYzw9AS7kPWGAw&ved=0CAwQ8gEwAA&ll=48.847666,2.374556&spn=0.003269,0.010504&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=48.847666,2.374556&panoid=injJLXMoR8DwQ1QyDfGeIg&cbp=12,324.87,,0,17.13