The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is trying to respond to Louisiana residents’ calls for more bike paths by creating a plan for how roads in the state highway network are used.
At a July 9 meeting in Baton Rouge, project consultants asked residents to look at maps of state highways and write or draw where they enjoy riding bikes and where they might want to see bike paths in the future. Ellen Wilmer Soll, a subconsultant on the project, said DOTD wants to know how people are using the roads. They’ll use that information as a guide in future decisions about projects to fix roads.
“We know that bike planning is in its infancy here in Louisiana,” Soll said.
The maps that DOTD displayed already showed estimates of how heavily bike paths were used around the Baton Rouge area. But DOTD officials asked the residents to correct any errors in their crowdsourced data and to add their own ideas for the future.
Among the suggestions from avid bike riders were making libraries, parks and hospitals bike destinations. Some asked for trails to have more connectivity, while others requested that bike paths continue onto bridges where they ride.
Many added that it was important that future paths be made of good material to bike, walk and push strollers on instead of gravel. A few of the most vocal people at the meeting represented the Gardere area, saying it was crucial that Gardere receive top consideration in future efforts for bike paths. Gardere is already in the process of receiving sidewalks and multiuse paths, with construction expected to begin within the next two years.
Juan Cruz, who is involved in the Gardere Initiative, told DOTD officials that they need to recognize that many people in the Gardere area of Baton Rouge do not bike for fun but rather for necessity. He said DOTD should plan to add lighting to the area.
“Anything would be better than what we have now,” said Crystal Pichon, Gardere resident and community activist.
The biking push has taken off in Baton Rouge, where BREC and the Capital Region Planning Commission have already started trying to respond to requests for more bike paths and options.