Thursday, July 24, 2008

Over 20 participants offer ideas on bike and ped planning at DOTD hearing

Here's a copy of Alex Kent's story for the Times. The similar Shreveport Blog story is here.

Residents tell road officials to include pedestrians, cyclists

By Alexandyr Kent

Cyclists and pedestrians shared their ideas about transportation safety Wednesday. During a public meeting at the Broadmoor branch of Shreve Memorial Library, they brainstormed and presented their ideas to state officials and consultants.

"We recognize that we have a need to move vehicles, but that cannot come at the cost of personal safety" of pedestrians and cyclists, said Nick Jackson, of the Toole Design Group.

The Maryland-based consulting firm has joined Burt-Kleinpeter, a New Orleans-based firm, to help the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development establish a statewide transportation master plan that's more inclusive of nonmotorists.

"From the very beginning of the project, it is the presumption that it will include bicycles and pedestrians," Jackson added.

Policy priorities will be outlined in the Louisiana Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, which will be released in 2009. The public meetings, which are being held in cities around the state, are part of the group's 18-month effort to gather information from residents, plus city planners and transportation officials.

"We think that some of these roads are too fast for pedestrians and cyclists," said Tamila Allen, of Shreveport, as she addressed the group. She termed biking to work "a short and dangerous journey."

She later added the 20-plus residents who attended the meeting should organize.

"This group needs to get back together and form a fairly cohesive group to present (ideas) to the city," she said.

Jeff Wellborn, who works with the local chapter of the Sierra Club, urged the state officials and consultants to listen closely to local concerns.

"We're the ones who need to steer the ship and not them," he said.

Emma McCarty, a physician living in the Highland neighborhood, attended the meeting because she wants to bike to work. She's tried it but found auto traffic prohibitive.

Her group suggested city officials take a firsthand look at the problem.

"Make them all bike to work once a month so they at least understood the issues," McCarty said.

Residents also expressed a general frustration that traffic plans, like those implemented at the Youree Drive shopping corridor, made areas inaccessible to cyclists and pedestrians.

Brian Parsons, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for La. DOTD, spoke briefly about the idea of taking a "Complete Streets" approach to road planning. If implemented, it would mean that new road or improvement projects would balance the needs of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

"We have lip service to it, but we're not doing it," Parsons said. He and the consultants hope the Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan — strengthened by citizen input — ultimately will help make roadways safer for everyone who uses them.

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