Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Details from Walter Brooks at RPC:
Public Meeting - Metropolitan Transportation Plan
The Regional Planning Commission is inviting the public to participate
in a transportation planning workshop. Interested citizens are being
invited to discuss their community's transportation needs and to help
shape a better integrated land use and transportation plan for the New
The RPC is currently updating the region's long-range Metropolitan
Transportation Plan (MTP) and short-range Transportation Improvement
Program (TIP). Citizens will be asked to identify their ideas for
improving the region's transportation systems as well as ways to foster
livable communities and environmental sustainability.
RPC wants to know about transportation problems, needs, or priorities in
your community. All ideas or suggested projects will be reviewed and
evaluated by RPC staff for possible inclusion in the Plan or TIP. RPC
will also provide you with the opportunity to stay informed about
transportation plans and projects that relate to your neighborhood or
The workshop will be held at the Regional Traffic Management Center/RPC
offices located at 10 Veterans Memorial Blvd. in New Orleans on
Thursday, April 22, 2010 from 6:30-8:00 P.M. The building is ADA
accessible and parking is available on site. For special accommodations
for this meeting, please contact our ADA Coordinator by telephone
(504-483-8528) at least one week in advance. Upon request, RPC will
provide appropriate aids for qualified persons with disabilities so they
can participate, including interpreters for persons with limited English
Executive Director, New Orleans Regional Planning Commission
Monday, April 19, 2010
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?
Registration is officially closed, but if you contact Dan Jatres via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (504-483-8505), you may still be able to reserve a spot for Wednesday's bicycle course. The cost is only $20 for public sector employees and members of community groups. If you work for a private sector firm (real estate, construction, planning, architecture, engineering, etc.), the fee is $100.
Topics to be covered at Wednesday's bicycle workshop
- Principles of bicycling and designing for bicycling
- On-road bikeway designs
- Intersection design for bicycles
- Signing and marking facilities
- Shared use path design
- AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities ($45 value)
- Professional development credit: LAPELS, ASLA, APA
Thursday, April 15, 2010
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Also, if you want to help update the road condition data NolaCycle collected for area (most of that was mapped between a 1 and 1 1/2 years ago), please bring your bike and a bag/backpack to carry the clipboard. For any shift with a large turn out, we'll send a few people out to do updates.
We will have some snacks, but remember to bring your own water bottle.
Monday, April 5, 2010
View Lafitte Greenway Mapping Meet-Up in a larger map
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Many planning projects involve community asset/resource assessments, but they are usually completed by urban planning, community development, or engineering professionals. Lauren has been working with folks from Rails-to-Trails on adapting their assessment system to an urban environment and creating a mapping methodology to incorporate volunteers. We're going past the basic data collected with NolaCycle and looking at objective measures of sidewalk quality, crosswalk treatments, signage, bike parking, and striping.
The data we collect will be used to design further bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the Mid-City, City Park, and Treme neighborhoods, and advocate for their implementation. We want to insure that when the Lafitte Greenway is built, it will be well-connected to the surrounding neighborhoods via safe, accessible sidewalks and bike-friendly roads.
We're in need of a large number of volunteers. Each group of volunteers will be lead by a bike/ped expert, so you don't need to be an urban planner or traffic engineer to contribute. You just need to be observant!
If you'd like to help, please sign up for the shifts you can commit to working at http://tinyurl.com/lafitte.
If you have any questions, please send me an e-mail.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Plan B is a community bicycle shop in the Marigny. It's a place anyone can go to build or repair a bike for little to no money. If you haven't been there and you would like to do your own bicycle repairs, or you're thinking of building a bike, check it out.
But...like all community bike shops, it's not perfect. And sometimes it can feel exclusive. So here's what some folks on Craigslist said followed by how I feel about Plan B (and community bike shops in general) and my recommendations to people who want to utilize the community bike shop.
Here's a sampling of the CL rant:
1st post (from Plan B): Plan B Community Bike Shop is graciously accepting donations (511 Marigny (Marigny and Decatur))
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Plan B is looking for bicycle donations of all kinds
We don't discriminate; drop off bikes of any age, size, color, or design.
We can use anything you have to offer
whole bikes or spare parts
advanced or obsolete
It's all good...
If you are interested in learning about bike maintenance and repair...
Volunteer orientations are every Wednesday @ 6pm
Show us what ya got
Help out a little around the shop
2nd post (from some dude): Plan B doesn't appreciate parts (Hipster ville)
I donated a big box of parts there once.All kinds of quality items.I came in and said I have a bunch of parts for you.The guy in charge literally shrugged his shoulders and went back to what he was doing.He didn't say a word! I wasn't looking for praise but I certainly didn't want to be treated like a jerk!So if you wear clean clothes and wash your hair you may not be welcome here.
3rd post: agreed on PlanB bikes (reality)
if i had bike parts to donate, i would give them to Bridgehouse before i gave them to PlanB.
i went in there once and was violently ignored. maybe they sensed i **gasp** drove my car there!! i finally had to inturrupt someone to ask for if they had a certain bike there, and after this girl gave me a once-over and walked away, i asked someone else who said no. they dont have that there. no helpful advice or anything! i felt like i had done something wrong! guess that's what happens when gutter punks start a 'business'.
dont get me wrong - i think bike rinding is great and necessary! but if PlanB hates outsiders so much, they should shut their doors.
Another post (from some dude): Plan B.......
This is straight from their web site. I just copied and pasted.
Although Plan B volunteers can be quite surly, we can be ever so gracious in the face of generosity.
Apparently "gracious" has very loose meaning
And it sorta goes on from there...
Here's how I feel about all of this (This only reflects my opinion and not particularly that of anyone else involved with NolaCycle):
Plan B is a great resource, with a lot of great volunteers, but it's not perfect. As someone who has been a regular visitor to 4 community bike shops in a couple different cities, let me help put things into perspective.
- Volunteers are regular people like you, who have good days and bad days. They have days when they really didn't want to work but someone who was scheduled didn't show up, so they might not be as happy to help as you might want them to be. And when it's 3pm on a Saturday and 25 people are all asking you questions because you're the only "regular" volunteer who knows where things are and how to fix various problems, working at Plan B can be stressful. Cut them some slack if they aren't as helpful and nice as you might want them to be.
- Some volunteers are "people persons" and others are not. Some of the folks who might not seem really friendly or helpful still play critical, not-so-visible roles in keeping Plan B going. They are not the person you ask to help you straighten your wheel, though. At Plan B, or any other busy community bike co-op, you will probably need to visit a few times before you figure out who your "volunteer match" is. You will love some volunteers (not all volunteers), and they'll love you (but not all volunteers will love you), and after you find your volunteer match, together you will build solid wheels, replace broken pedals, and maybe, someday, weld together a custom bicycle. Remember what days they normally volunteer and try to only go to Plan B those days. They'll remember what you're working on and what you need help with (maybe you know how to true a wheel, but you're still learning how to adjust brakes and shifters). And you'll remember their name, and where they grew up, and what they do for a living, and their favorite beer because you're probably going out to the bar with them after the shop closes. But remember, your volunteer bicycle repair BFF is probably 20 other people's BFF, so you have to share. If you work on bikes a lot, and need a lot of help, then try to build relationships with multiple volunteers. You will most likely need to initiate this process, though. If you don't ask for help or try to engage people in conversation, they're going to be too busy and seem to be ignoring you. Also, how are they supposed to know what you need help with if you don't ask? And, finally, no one is going to want to help you if you're rude, just like how no one wants to be friends with a jerk. Community bike shops are sustained on relationships. If you want to have a good experience at a community bike shop, you need to build relationships. If you don't like to share the attention of a volunteer, or you don't want to spend time getting to know people, then go visit John Gerken at his shop on St. Claude, call Zac of Nola-Bikes mobile repair, or any of the other bicycle mechanics working at shops around the city (Bicycle Michael's, Bayou Bikes, etc.). You can pay these folks to be your bicycle repair BFF and they will devote their full attention to you (at least for the time you are in their shop spending money). You have to pay for "customer service." Plan B does not exist as an alternative to bicycle shops. Think of it more as a supplement.
- Plan B gets a lot of donations. A lot. They might not seem too excited about your "good parts" because they have five more boxes of good parts in the back room. If you want to bring a smile to the face of the "guy in charge" then bring him parts that are already sorted. Like one box of side-pull brakes, one box of road bike seats, and another box of front derailleurs. Every box of unsorted parts means another hour of volunteer time that has to go into sorting donations instead of helping people fix bikes.
- Some parts are junk. Some bikes are junk. Some parts are awesome. Some bikes are awesome. If you bring in a really awesome bike or some really awesome parts, then the volunteers will be a lot happier. Plan B gets a lot of junk Walmart bikes and lots of parts from junk Walmart bikes. If a person is going to take the time to build/repair a bicycle, he or she is going to want a solid frame and dependable parts. If you bring in your grandpa's 1972 Nishiki road bike that's been sitting in his garage for 15 years, that's a lot more helpful to Plan B and the New Orleans cycling community than if you drop off the Walmart Huffy your kid destroyed when he actually tried to use his "mountain bike" for mountain biking.
- Bicycle repair classes. Volunteers don't always have time to teach people everything they need to know during regular shop hours. It would be awesome if they did some classes so folks could really learn how to do particular repairs. Mobo in Cincinnati does this from time to time and it's been really successful.
- Making a serious effort to be nice to everyone. Yeah, despite everything I just wrote, there are some people who volunteer at Plan B that could really try to be friendlier. But I still think those people add a lot to the organization. It just really sucks that their attitude pushes people away.
FINALLY - Plan B is not a store, and it not a repair service. It's a resource. While you can buy parts there and someone might be able to help you fix your bike, it really exists so the bicycle community has a place with all the resources (stands, tools, an extra set of hands) needed to do their own builds/repairs.
Plan B is what you make it. Last summer, largely due to the friendships I built with a few volunteers, it became one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon. Some of those friends are no longer volunteers, which at first made going their a little more intimidating than it used to be. But one trued wheel, a few borrowed wrenches, and a handful of conversations later, it started to feel like one of my favorite places again. I met some new volunteers I really liked and got to a chance to work with some old regulars that I never really talked to before.
Maybe you'll see me there tomorrow when I bring in my cruiser for a part replacement. Even though I'm not a volunteer, you can still ask me for help. And I might ask you to hold my bike steady while I do a repair. And I can help you flag down one of the volunteers to help you with a problem I don't know how to fix. That is what a community bike shop is like. If that's not what you're looking for, then Plan B is not the place you need to be.