Sunday, April 29, 2012

Group discusses trail improvements, bike-ped concerns, and more at last meeting

In attendance: Susan Keith, Katherine Brandl, Loren Demerath, Maurice Loridans, Feico Kempff, Elizabeth Rosselli, Cynthia Keith, John Settle.

Coates Bluff
The meeting began with discussion of the Coates Bluff trail system. Last Saturday, several members, with the assistance of LA Tech Art Department faculty member Kevin Kennedy , cut the 200 yards of trail on the south Bossier end of the system. The group cleared the trails without the use of fossil fuels, but the last 100 yards might necessitate the use of chainsaws to cut through fallen trees. The passages should be wide enough for the passage of bikes, but not 4-wheelers. Loren wants to finish this project before he leaves for Ecuador. The group believes the project would only take a day with a two-man cross saw. This fall a large group could cut a parallel trail on the northside clearing.

The group mentioned the need for signage. Maurice made a sign labeling the path to Stoner Hill Elementary with a magic marker, a plank of wood (approximately 1x6feet), and a spare inter-tube tire. Users might find navigating the trail system difficult, so the trail might need maps or signs. Loren mentioned that groups put little signs to show that they care, such as the Apple Tree Hole on a golf course. The group might think about posting fun signs. A car hood has also been recycled as a bridge over the culvert's earth dam. The trash dumped in Greenwood Cemetery presents an additional challenge. Jon complained in the past about citizens dumping trash in the cemetery. Because of the high fine charged, threatening to report the city unless the trash is cleaned up might solve the problem.

Maurice's new sign for Stoner Hill Elementary
Bike-ped concerns
The rejection of a school zone for the local Montessori School was also discussed. Jon and some school administrators want to create a school zone at East Washington. A letter was sent to the city, but the city rejected the request. The city conducted its traffic study during the wettest and coldest weeks of the year, so few were cycling or walking. The city traffic engineer said the area has a low accident percentage and pointed out negative side effects of school zones. School zones makes turning motions difficult and increases traffic congestion, especially at schools where large numbers of students are driven by their parents. Loren mentioned this event to a friend working in transportation issues at the national level. The friend offered to speak with Shreveport's traffic engineer once a proposal for the school zone is drafted. Safe Routes to Schools could fund the construction of a school zone because the city enjoys receiving funds and looking good.

Pedestrian concerns downtown were also mentioned. The downtown pedestrian crosswalks have buttons that allow persons to cross on-demand. This is what Montessori wants because it would only slow/stop drivers if there were pedestrians. The technology has never been activated, so persons just push in vein. The placement of crosswalks is another challenge. Persons wanting to cross from Lee Dry Goods Apartments to Festival Plaza are supposed to walk to Crockett and Market to legally cross.

The crosswalks represent an important concern with urban planning decisions. From the city's point of view, people should not cross at certain points because they are dangerous. The group believes people are crossing at these points, so the city planners should do something to improve crossing conditions. The city only takes action to improve crossing safety after deadly accidents. Shreveport's civil engineers were educated to expedite the flow of automobile traffic, including interstates. Today's students learn the best practices for bike-pedestrians. The city needs improved civil engineering, but improvements are unlikely. 

Why so little progress?
As such, the group discussed reasons why traffic concerns remain. Some suggested Shreveport operates as a fiefdom rather than in a managerial fashion. In the current structure, cities rely upon a few key officials, and these officials make decisions based upon the size of their workloads. The group thus mentioned how to fix these policy issues. Citizens must advocate rather than use lawsuits to affect change because the city has a legal department precisely to mitigate the necessity to change its policies.

Officials from the city and Montessori reduce their liabilities by advocating against usage. The school director suggested Loren and his children wear high visibility vests when walking, but should pedestrians need special clothing to walk around. The school director warned about the risks and thus cannot be sued if anyone is injured. The public beach at Jimmy Davis is another example. Individuals who cannot swim and boaters have both drowned. ABS and the city cannot advocate usage because of liability concerns. Mayor Glover did not even want to put warning signs because it could open the door for later liability lawsuits. The city of Shreveport will not advocate the use of trails on the other side of Clyde Fant because doing so would allow potential liability.

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