There are a few types of geographical quirks to New Orleans. Some we have in common with our sister cities in southeast Louisiana--others are unique to our estuarine, industrialized metro area. There are many tricks to navigating by bicycle--especially for those of us who are small, inexperienced, or just don't want to deal with cars. I hope to introduce new cyclists, or new New Orleans cyclists to the city and its tricks so we can all ride a little lighter on our sinking roads.
Rim and Spoke
You can use these parts of your bike, the rim and the spoke, as a schematic to the older parts of the city. The city was originally designed along the French "arpent" system, which assigns lots perpendicular to the River, rather than the "township and range" system used in most cities in the U.S. as well as the newer, lower, more American New Orleans.
The Arpent system is why there are many streets that "disappear" as you ride from the River to the Lake while uptown, and many streets that come from nowhere as you ride River to Lake when downtown. Because the river meanders this way and that, the grid shifts direction. Carrollton meets Esplanade at the park, despite the fact that they both run River to Lake. Tchoupitoulas begins pointing south from Canal St, and ends up uptown pointing west into Audubon Park.
"Rim" streets are St. Charles, Claiborne, and Tchoupitoulas, (as well as Liberty, Prytania, St. Claude, and Laurel) and "Spoke" streets are Carrollton, Jefferson, and Jackson (don't forget Joseph, Leonidas, Franklin, and Washington).
As you decipher the city's curves, you can use this schema to juke around without getting disoriented if you have to avoid a familar street for the cars.
Unless you're in Broadmoor. Then you're lost.
Next Time: The River Built Everything
*You can learn more about this from city geographers like Craig Colton and Richard Campanella.