New Orleans achieves LAB’s bronze status for bike friendliness in 2012 (Cheryl Gerber

The last six and a half years have not been exactly easy for
bikes in the Big Easy. Efforts to make the city more bicycle friendly have been
hard fought, however, New Orleans is seeing improvements. And just recently the
town known for food, music, and a party atmosphere was awarded the League of
American Bicyclists
’ bronze level status for bike friendliness.

“This is the first year of getting bicycle friendly status
from the League of American Bicyclists,” Jamie Wine executive director of Bike Easy told BikeRadar. “There is a lot happening
and the region has seen a lot of improvement in part because of Katrina.”

While no one would call the storm — or any part of it — a
blessing, it has allowed improvements in the city’s infrastructure for bicycle
lanes. “There was a bond measure that was passed before the storm,” said Wine,
who added that federal highway money that helped pay for roads that were
damaged during and because of Hurricane Katrina, as well as by the trucks used
in the cleanup, are now getting bike lanes. “When old pavement is lined for
bike lanes the lines last six to eight months, but on new pavement those lines
can last six to eight years.”

Construction is under way to restore old paths, and create
new ones. This includes a new lakefront walking and bicycle paths in New
Orleans’ Jefferson Parish, which prior to the storm offered about 10 miles of
recreational area. Ironically this area wasn’t badly damaged by Katrina, but
construction of a flood protection system essentially closed this off.

Now construction is about to begin to restore this to the
network. “Two or three projects are already being developed,” Juan Gutierrez
with the Jefferson Parish engineering department told BikeRadar. “This is part of the effort to reestablish the lake
front. Plans are being made for Linear Park and the 17th Street

These are just parts of the improvements seen in New
Orleans. “Prior to the storm there were about nine miles of trials for
bicycles, and these were actually on top of the levies,” explained Wine. “It
was sort of a way to get bikes off the streets, and the attitude was, ‘put the
bicycle riders over there.’”

Wine noted that old pavement will only hold markings months,
but new pavement holds it for years; and many new lanes are being placed on new
pavement (photo

credit: Cheryl Gerber,

Times have changed and Wine cited the 50 new miles of trails
and bike lanes, which have been built and added over the past seven years. However,
as with everything in post-Katrina New Orleans, gaining bike access isn’t easy.

“Crossing the river is still difficult at the bridges don’t
have infrastructure and the ferry connection is up for grabs,” said Wine, who offers,
a major step forward would be better connections with the Mississippi Trail
system that basically ends at the city before picking up again further on.

This makes for a
significant gap, but despite this he remained optimistic. “We really encouraged
by the progress that has been made, and this could make an impact that could
last for generations,” said Wine.

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