In attendance: Brian Salvatore, Barbara Jerrell, William Hartman, John Gilliland, Katherine Brandl, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Feico Kempff
CADDO COMMISSIONER MATTHEW LINN ARRANGES MEETING WITH MPC PLANNER DARA SANDERS
Last week, some members of ABS who are bicycling advocates attended a meeting set up by Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn. The purpose of the meeting was for ABS to get to know the Metropolitan Planning Commisssion’s new person in charge of implementing standards set out by the master plan, Dara Sanders. Maurice Loridans, John Gilliland, William Hartman, Ian Webb and Caroline Majors Eckl all met with Dara and Matthew.
The group was happy to note that the meeting seemed to reveal a genuine enthusiasm on the part of Commissioner Linn for making the Shreveport-Bossier metroplex more bikable, and Dara Sanders’ willingness to tackle that task. Dara is working on a number of things now, apparently, but after that will be in a position to address bike-ped issues fully.
It appears that our job is to convince the city council, mayor, and/or parish commision that MPC should be commissioned to direct the planning, painting, signage, and—potentially—construction of bike paths and the complete streets portion of the master plan. Monies are available now through the shale but won’t be in the future.
(The group briefly discussed the structure of MPC and other bodies. The MPC is a hybrid of the city and the parish; it’s the zoning body and is controlled 1/3 by the city council, 1/3 by the mayor, and 1/3 by the parish. NLCOG doesn’t have any teeth as in law-making capacity, but is a voluntary association of city and parish governments. DDA is within a small segment of the city.)
The group discussed some of the specific ideas offered at the meeting, including a wheel-like system of routes and paths, and an ordinance that makes the state mandates for “complete streets” apply within the city as well. Maurice’s map of routes he’s developed as a person who has cycled for transportation throughout the city for 10 years now, was found by NLCOG. He now has it again and has since added to it. It was noted that NLCOG could help us get Bossier involved too.
The group had a quite an energetic discussion over the question of the degree to which trying to procure money for planning is worth the effort when there appears to be funding at the ready for paint, signage, and construction. It was noted that many a plan just sits on a shelf, and that we don’t want to waste an opportunity to improve our city’s bikeability. On the other hand, the group agreed at last week’s meeting that those who meeting with Matthew and Dara should communicate the group’s belief in the value of well-planned facilities. Indeed, Maurice expressed to Dara in that he didn’t want any “half-assed facilities” that create problems where there aren’t any now. Segregated facilities (e.g., bike lanes) where we don’t need them, such as on quiet residential neighborhoods. William noted that’s why a plan is necessary: if you just go with complete streets you can end up with just segments of things that don’t make sense. We’ve seen plans of bike paths that go just to parks and not the college campus just a mile further.
URBAN PLANNING AS INTERIOR DECORATION VERSUS MARKET RESEARCH
Loren said he thinks government officials have a tendency not to hire urban planners for the same reason home owners tend not to hire interior decorators: a professional would be nice, but it’s not a hard job figure out, so you can save money by doing it yourself. The proper analogy, though, may be something where the stakes are higher, such as market research. You can guess where and how to advertize, but if you guess wrong, you’re throwing your money away, and it’s not something you’re likely to do well without training.
URBAN PLANNING IS BEST FROM THE BOTTOM UP OR TOP DOWN?
Maurice made two different points on the effectiveness of plans. One, that they aren’t always used—many a plan does nothing more than sit on a shelf and gather dust. Two, that planners don’t always succeed in creating useful plans because they don’t live the experience for which they’re planning. A planner making a bike plan, for example, should be a bicyclist. Loren commented that in proper planning bicyclists are who the planners study and interview to create the plan. Then again, the notion of proper planning changes. (They thought Brazilia was properly planned once; but it’s not a very love-able city.)
A bond was not brought up in the meeting as a possible funding mechanism.
Caroline pointed how she and Steph weren’t given nearly enough money to complete a plan. It was noted the proportion of money going to planning out of the total is likely a lot, so the cost may be difficult for people to accept.
What Dara will be able to act on will be things that coming up. From here forward when we do anything new, we’re going to make it complete etc.
Apparently it was noted in the meeting that an important government official’s window looks out on the levee and so we can’t go north with levee-top bike trail (!!). William said that’s why we need the private sector to be working on the plan.
There is a need for an educational component to bike-abilty. There was talk about funding for that component. People talked about the danger of having conversations with bicyclists on the road. Maurice said the nation-wide advice is to smile and wave with all fingers.
What Dara will do wasn’t clear in the meeting. It’s not clear if it will just be complete streets happening in the future.
The bond issue includes money for rehabbing and relocating streets. There are projects coming up soon that should be using complete streets.
“20 is Plenty” is the national campaign to knock off 5 miles an hour off the residential streets should help a lot with safety.
Ian Webb was at the meeting too. He suggested we need a greenways coordinator backed by a board. Maurice said ABS does that. But he meant a salaried bike-ped coordinator who’s paid by government with input from governments and citizens groups.