Sunday, October 21, 2012

Downtown Property and Painting Streets for Cyclists Discussed at Last ABS Meeting

On the heels of last week’s informative meeting with SRAC Director Pam Atchison and Shreveport Common Project Manager Wendy Benscoter, the group discussed various issues related to the project, as well as plans for painting streets for bicycling.

In attendance: Victoria Provenza, Cynthia Keith, Carolyn Manning, Kathryn Brandl, Maurice Loridans, John Gilliland

The following points were noted:
  • Property owners can be skeptical, of downtown development projects, but if you’re the only one who is being skeptical of all the stakeholders, then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: the project will fail like you thought it would, but it’s because you’ve held out.
  • Property standards are being enforced more now and that should encourage owners nearby to maintain their properties, as well as for people to have more faith in proposals.
  • The way to get owners to participate and sell is offer more money than it’s worth.  It can be offered as a grant, e.g., a HUD federal grant.  Murphy Chetham was running it out of Mayor Glover’s office.  A good deal if you were in the market to renovate office space downtown.
  • It appears they’re trying to turn it into Magazine Street in New Orleans; there’s no Tulane University here, but there are artists and other members of a “creative class” who are less transigent, but maybe more committed to their city.
The "green box" design helps transportation cyclists
Maurice showed the bike plan for the Shreveport Common.  They haven’t firmed up what’s happening in the common itself, though Maurice has expressed the hope that a bicycle cooperative would be there.  Chris Petro got the idea from Tim Wachtel to make Firn-Gilbert into bike-oriented thoroughfare.  The bike path from 70th to Bert Kouns extending south from the terminus of the Firn extension is an asset. But the experienced transportation cyclist Maurice noted that Gilbert is problematic starting at about Olive with hills and lights, and Creswell is better with easier crossings and less hills.  Maurice noted that Marshall is a fine finishing leg going into downtown.

Towards the west side, Southern is used often by bicycles and busses, and Maurice said the bike racks on those busses are heavily used.  Maurice recommends sharrows until you get out past the grid neighborhoods.  

Loren asked about making paths perhaps along the railway behind Texas Ave.  Loren shared about the railway rennovation going on by the I-49 I-20 intersection; he talked to a construction worker while trying to jog through there.  Kansas City Southern is using Key Construction out of Jackson, Mississippi.  

Maurice noted that the city has traded passthroughs for railways in the inner city in favor of getting them in the new neighborhoods.  The city’s walkability is compromised by such agreements, but maybe railway companies would get tax breaks or benefit from some other incentive by building in multi-purpose paths along the new railway sections.

It was noted that when the city renovates the Kings and Youree, and Kings and Shreveport Barksdale intersections, they will be all but impossible to cross by pedestrians and bicyclists.  Apparently the plan they’re using is 20 years old, made before I-49 was finished and back when more traffic needed to go through Youree.  

Maurice said we can fix it by occupying the lane with bike rides.  One thing that has created bike ways in other cities is when motorists have complained to city officials that the bicyclists are slowing traffic down.  Legally, they have a right to the road, so that creates pressure on the city to provide for cyclists.  It was noted that intentionally slowing down traffic is unethical, though maybe no more so than endangering cyclists until complaints make it inconvenient for the traffic engineer.

Kathryn noted that Shreveport is a small town by many standards and New Orleans and Manhattan manage lots of bike lanes.  It was noted that “the green box” is something that establishes the highest legitimacy for bikes as road users, and cyclists like them around the country.  The lack of street sweepers in the city can make bike lanes the resting place for crushed glass and gravel, so it’s a complicated issue of how to provide for cyclists.  But it was noted that the city’s done anything EVER for bicycling.  The bike sharrows that exist on certain streets were painted by this very group, albeit with permission of Mike Strong, then Director of Operational Services and in charge of streets.

On the bright side, the group continues to plan for the social bike ride to the Makers Fair on November 10th.  The main group will leave at 10 a.m., perhaps arriving Rhino’s around 9:30 for pre-ride coffee; others may choose to use the same route at different times, and we’ll post the recommended route soon.  

Maurice said the optimal route going up Creswell and down Marshall into downtown will mean a one block sidewalk segment up to Thora.  Bicycling on sidewalks is technically illegal, but considering how much has been done to provide cyclists otherwise, so be it.  

It was noted that we could come back in various groups; also, that you can leave any stuff you buy to pick up later with marketers there (Victoria Provenza noted she was happy to let some cyclists do that with some maps they’d bought from her at the Fair last year.)

In light of the frustrations that had been noted, the group planned to paint more sharrows.  Loren recalled that the group was about to do that two years ago.  Mike Strong had given the group permission to do so.  At one point Mr. Strong said his department would do the painting, “just tell us where to paint,” but the administration more recently said our group would have to provide the labor and materials.  The Department of Operational Services did say it would provide security support of a truck with lights that would follow us as we paint.  Ian Webb, of Rivercity Cycling, volunteered to fund the cost of the paint.  However, it was decided to delay things in favor of pushing for a city-wide bicycle plan that would have professional planners tell us and/or the city where to paint.  Since that hasn’t gotten us anywhere, the group decided to go back to the old plan of painting, bit by bit.

Loren will contact Ian Webb and ask it he’s still willing to help fund the paint and other materials.  It was noted that we can use all the manpower we can get, and that putting out a call for volunteers to help on facebook and through email might get us a few more hands.  By next Monday we’ll firm up plans.

A meeting of ABS and a local organization will be taking place Monday.  Come to the meeting Monday night to hear of what we learn.  Good news is expected!

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