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

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rim and Spoke: Downtown is not Uptown.

Hey, it's been a while. I've been busy helping promote Critical Mass in the wake of the oil disaster. Hope you've made it out. But you should know that I'm going to step back my involvement with Mass a bit in the coming months.

Anyone want to ride out to Delacroix Island, soon?

This series is and was a longer-term project to re-think cycling in New Orleans, to introduce new cyclists to a cyclist's geography, and provide the basis for some introductory, sneaky routes for tired or intimidated cyclists. So let's begin again.

Downtown is not Uptown

Previously, we discussed how the River is a potential aid to cyclists and how minding it tells us how to shorten a ride. The example was going from Uptown to Downtown, through most of Uptown. For the Downtown example, let's note what the Uptown street network has that Downtown doesn't: Broadmoor and Mid-City, two places where Spoke streets meet. Downtown, N. Peters through the Quarter is the equivalent to Claiborne Ave, in that it provides the tightest contiguous turn, the route with the least vector change. Broad, Miro, and Galvez are the Tchoupitoulii, the longer Rim streets to take when navigating out of Gentilly, the Eighth, and the Ninth. But there is no analog to Broadmoor: the Quarter is on the River.

So when we navigate Downtown to Uptown, we are more limited in our options. If we travel from MLK Jr., on Caffin Ave, to drink at the Deutsches Haus (while it's still there), we want to more toward the River, just as we want to move away from the River if Uptown. But the street logic is much more coherent, and the options are limited by our need to cross the industrial canal (IHNC).

In this way, Downtown New Orleans is more like cities in the rest of Southeast Louisiana: the urban area is very linear, and the waterways dominate the navigable landscape. Downtown also has less canopy cover, given that Downtown is not only poorer, but also more industrial than Uptown, which was conceived from original suburbs and swallowed satellite villages.

St. Claude becomes the choice of cyclists, despite that the bridge can hardly be called a bicycle "facility." There is no shoulder, and a patchy latticework forms the lifting section of the bridge, increasing the damage to tyres and tubes. but we'll return to the subject of bridges one at a time... The other options are Claiborne Ave Bridge, which is scary, and the Florida Ave bridge, which is operated or not operated inscrutably.

The Test: MLK to Deutsches Haus

So I devised a test of my previous theory: will hugging the river downtown produce the shortest route? Remember, the previous shortest route from Oak st to the Marigny was the route furthest from the river.

It seems that Downtown is a different world, because the quickest route from MLK to Deutsches house is the "straight shot": Claiborne. Although I wouldn't bike over the Seeber bridge--I'd take St. Claude over the industrial canal--it is the shortest route by half a mile. Our choices downtown are constrained by how we cross the canal.

So this test of our River Rule is interesting in how it fails.

This case is more like the one I was trying to make for Uptown--the safest, best route is not the shortest. But hugging the river actually makes for the third longest route--partly due to the course correction of 1.12miles, to get back to Galvez, which overrides the gain from following the river. The River route is still shorter than riding to Florida ave and then to Miro and Galvez more directly, but it's not the best option, because of the bridges.

Next time: Wormholes! quick but deadly! I promise.

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