Monday, December 29, 2008

What Baton Rouge is Doing for Walking and Biking

Matthew Linn has become a member of Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets ("BRASS") in part to provide us with information on what they're doing. Below is what they sent in response to his membership contribution. It contains a lot of ideas for what we could do here.

Thank you for your recent, tax-deductible contribution to Baton Rouge Advocates for Safe Streets. We appreciate your support for making cycling and walking safer, more convenient, and more popular in Baton Rouge. We will use our resources of money, time, energy, and ideas as carefully and effectively as we can. In our first two years, we

  • provided bicycle and pedestrian information at public events,
  • staffed bike corrals at local festivals,
  • helped organize the first Mayor's Family Bike Day,
  • provided input through the Capital Region Planning Commission's Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee on local road projects,
  • delivered letters and petitions and met with the Director of the Department of Public Works regarding bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the Green Light Plan and elsewhere in the city,
  • participated in public meetings affecting bicycling and walking,
  • taken part in the dedication of the Mississippi River Levee Multi-use Path, and
  • established regular monthly meetings, regular bicycle maintenance classes, and a web presence (

In our third year we have built on these efforts by

  • working with BREC to provide regular, League of American Bicyclists-certified bicycle safety classes (we had our first classes in May of this year)
  • working with BREC on the new Capital Area Pathways Project
  • participating in regular meetings of the Capital Region Planning Commission's Bike-Ped Advisory Committee
  • planning upcoming bicycle safety classes for kids with 4-H and East Ascension Mental Health Association
  • conducting monthly bicycle maintenance and repair classes
  • petitioning and meeting with DPW on their (recently dropped) opposition to installing bike-route signs
  • planning the routes and signs for the first bike routes to be signed inside the city limits
  • working on position papers to present to City-Parish planners on improving bicycle facilities in Baton Rouge
  • celebrating Bike to Work Day
  • organizing six successful themed rides on the trees, history, cemeteries, and public art of Baton Rouge (three last spring and three this fall)
  • planning regular SERF (slow, easy, recreational, fun) rides (we just had our first in December 2008)
  • participating in another Mayor's Family Bike Day
  • working with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to acquire, repair, and make available a bicycle for one of their clients
  • petitioning the Mayor and the Metro Council for measures to improve bicycle safety in the wake of yet another recent cyclist death on River Road
  • organizing a memorial ride for cyclists killed on local roads
  • meeting with LSU planners about bicycle facilities and safety on and around the LSU campus
  • helping to organize a public forum of mayoral candidates to address planning and transportation issues
  • surveying city-parish council members on transportation issues
  • working with city-parish Department of Public Works and national Thunderhead Alliance to include two bicycle-pedestrian projects for 1.45 million dollars in possible federal economic stimulus legislation
  • sending representatives to the Louisiana Department of Transportation Bike-Ped Facilities Design Seminar
  • meeting with Plan Baton Rouge's visiting consultant on bicycle facilities for the Downtown Development District

If you haven't already done so, we encourage you to

Also, if you have a moment, we'd like to hear what you think about the following questions:

  • What pedestrian and bicycling issues concern you? Bicycling education and safety? Better road facilities to ride on? More off-road bike paths? Advocacy? Bicycling routes to schools for children?
  • Do you think Baton Rouge is a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly community? Do you see it changing for the better?
  • Would you be willing to contact your City Council member or state legislators about bicycling policies and legislation?
  • Are there other particular ways you'd like to participate, for example by writing grant proposals, mentoring people interested in bike commuting, donating bike-repair expertise, or doing something else?

We appreciate your support. We look forward to working with you in the coming months and years to make cycling and walking safer, more convenient, and more popular in Baton Rouge.


Rick Moreland, Secretary-Treasurer

P. O. Box 19403

Baton Rouge, LA 70893-0403

Sunday, December 7, 2008

ABetterShreveport and The Civic Engagement Center get married!

There was no thrown rice or blushing bride, but it sure seems like we married a well-matched couple at our meeting last Thursday morning.

Stuart Greathouse acted as the "strategy facilitator" as we discussed the mission of ABetterShreveport (ABS) and how it was distinct from ABS' Greenways Committee, the Friends of Greenways Fund (tentatively titled), and the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE). After much talk about the purpose of each, the group arrived at a consensus that ABS should become a part of CCE. The following summarizes what the group discerned each organization to be:

Center for Civic Engagement: a 501 C3 non-profit organization intended to serve as an administrative and organizational resource center for collective efforts aimed at furthering pubic interests. The center does this by documenting processes involved in such efforts, archiving resources and accounts, and performing research in the public interest.

The center was started by Steve Shelburne, and is funded by a variety of grants and private donations. The primary private donor is Centenary College, which contributes monies, student internships, and a facility to house the center, as well as the Shreveport-Bossier Community Foundation.

ABetterShreveport: to serve as a forum for working on ideas for improving Shreveport and the region at large.

ABetterShreveport was started primarily by Loren Demerath and Ian Webb, but with much assistance from many others who've attended meetings over the past year and a half. It is unfunded, but meets, has an online presence, and has applied for grants using resources provided by the Centenary College Sociology Department.

The Shreveport Greenways Committee has been proposed through discussions to this point as follows: to serve as the driving force for making progress on the creation of a system of greenways that can be used for both recreation and alternative transportation in Shreveport and the surrounding area.

The Shreveport Greenways Committee would be made up of a specific, manageably small group of people who would be motivated, informed, and in a position to move the project forward.

While the group agreed to table the question of whether or not to create a separate non-profit organization for the Greenways project, one option that was discussed in past is to establish a separate "Friends of Shreveport Greenways" account within the Civic Engagement Center.

Much of last Thursday's meeting centered on how the mission of ABetterShreveport is similar to that of the Civic Engagement Center. Distinctions, though, include the way in which CCE is concerned with marshaling existing organizational resources, and ABS with providing an interaction forum that can act as an organizational incubator for forming to advance some public interest issue. In the end, the consensus seemed to be that the two organizations complemented each other and that it would be in the interests of both to work in conjunction with one another and see themselves as linked.

(So be it!)

We reserved some time at the end of the meeting to discuss how Ian and Loren should approach the meeting with Stacye Payne and Bill Lane of the National Park Service' Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. There was discussion over whether a greenways network should serve transportation needs over recreation needs, or vice versa, and it was agreed that neither should be the case. Optimally, the network would serve both needs; it was said that if the network either provided for transportation but not recreation, or for recreation but not transportation, it wouldn't achieve the unique set of outcomes in health, quality of life, and sustainable development that another kind of network could achieve.

As part of the new conjoining of ABetterShreveport and the Center for Civic Engagement, CCE will typically send a person to those meetings, and ABS meetings generally, to document and report on them. Typically, the recorder will be in the form of one of CCE's student-staffers that have been trained in that capacity, though at tomorrow's meeting it will be Steve himself.

ABetterShreveport's next meeting will be some morning next week, likely Wednesday at 8:20 (to allow Tuesday and Thursday a.m. occupied people to join us, if they like). I'll announce it here and via the e-mail list soon.

(By the way, if you're not on that list, and would like to be added, just email me at

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Meeting Thursday morning at 8:20...

Our next meeting will be Thursday morning from 8:20 to 9:30. We'll talk about a mission statement for ABetterShreveport, what the vision is, and the corresponding missions for the Greenways committee and for maybe for the Greenways account that would be set-up within the Civic Engagement Center as well.

Stuart Greathouse will be giving us a list of questions to think about. I'll post them too, assuming that's o.k. with SG.

We'll also discuss more directly this time what we should ask of the National Park Service team coming in next week.

Feel free to drop by even just for part of the meeting.

We meet in Centenary Square, across the street from George's Grill. Enter from the parking lot in back and you can't miss us.