A group pressing for more sidewalks and bike paths to make it easier for people to move around the city of Baton Rouge has won the Metro Council’s support.
The council on Tuesday adopted a Complete Streets policy recommended by the group. The policy is intended to improve the city’s quality of life by adding and widening sidewalks where possible, putting in more bike paths and more.
A large group of residents have called on city leaders in recent years to make Baton Rouge more walkable and bikeable. BREC also has responded to those calls by adding plans for more trails throughout the city, especially interconnecting ones, into its 10-year plan, “Imagine Your Parks 2,” that was approved last week.
“All too often, Baton Rouge builds very nice things that are not connected to other nice things,” said Bryan Piazza, one of the people supporting Complete Streets.
But talking about transportation is a lot easier than the daunting task of changing it, said John Price, the mayor-president’s assistant chief administrative officer. Price said he wishes more pedestrian-friendly ideas were part of the city’s original planning because not every road’s design now allows for wider right-of-ways or bike paths.
Louisiana and New Orleans already have Complete Streets policies, as do 26 other states and more than other 500 regional and local jurisdictions.
Not only is changing roadways a quality-of-life issue, bad transportation could affect how many people move to and stay in Baton Rouge. Studies cited in the policy show that the ability to walk and bike is a key factor when younger people, especially millennials, decide where to live.
The American Public Transportation Association also reported that people save more than $800 a month by riding public transportation to their destinations instead of driving. Transportation is the second largest expense in American households, according to the policy.
Not everyone is a pedestrian by choice either, retired priest Father Pat Mascarella reminded the council, one of eight residents who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting in favor of adopting a Complete Streets policy. Mascarella is legally blind, and said being disabled is like being invisible in Baton Rouge.
He told of his struggles to safely cross the street, and how better planning could help him and other disabled people, such as those in wheelchairs who cannot maneuver over high curbs.
More than 30,000 Baton Rouge residents — around 7 percent of households, do not have vehicles, according to an American Community Survey cited in the Complete Streets policy.
Representatives from Bike Baton Rouge, the American Heart Association, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the Federation of Greater Baton Rouge Civic Associations and the Center for Planning Excellence also endorsed the policy.