I attended a Department of Public Works community meeting on Sept. 17 to review the city’s plan to replace a vehicular lane on Baronne Street with a dedicated bike lane from Canal to Calliope streets. The safety of all people — motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists — needs to be considered in where to best place a dedicated bike lane.
The expressway above Calliope Street was designed to keep Baronne a major exit from the CBD/Warehouse District. It is the only street that has an on-ramp to the expressway in both directions. Why would city officials believe it is no longer necessary to view Baronne as a major exit of downtown? Studies have shown that by 2020, 10,000 more people will live in the CBD/Warehouse District. There are three condo developments under construction in the 200 and 300 blocks of Baronne, which will increase automobile traffic. Studies by traffic engineers and urban planning specialists have shown this to be true. Thus, I question the validity of the claim that placing a protected bike lane on Baronne is a feasible idea. Most residents, businesses and motorists who regularly use Baronne agree that eliminating a lane of traffic for a dedicated bike lane will not serve the greater good.
Supporters of a bike lane on Baronne want a more convenient way to travel through the Warehouse District/CBD to reach Central City. The more practical, safer street to place such a bike lane is South Rampart Street. If a bike lane is placed on South Rampart Street, a continuous bike lane will exist from the St. Bernard Parish line to Central City.
This dedicated bike lane will affect the Good Shepherd School on Baronne. The school serves low-income, at-risk youth from New Orleans. Ninety-five percent of students who graduated in our first two graduating classes are enrolled in college. Parents, grandparents and guardians pick up and drop off students and form a car line on Baronne. By removing a lane of automobile traffic, there will be more congestion and longer delays for our parents and for drivers seeking to leave the city after work. The more cumbersome it is for parents to pick up their children, the more likely parents will send their children to another school that does not provide the same continued support for students.
There is no good reason for having a bike lane on Baronne at the expense of the current two lanes for automobile traffic. A designated bike lane on South Rampart Street makes more sense.
Brother Larry Huck, S.J.
president, Good Shepherd School