Monday, August 26, 2013

ABS Members Attend Meeting on City Development Code

Reminder that our regular Monday night meetings have started.  Come on down to join us in talking over issues.  6:00-7:00, Wright Math Building, Woodlawn Ave., across from Magale Library on the Centenary Campus, two blocks up from the Gold Dome on Kings.

Loren Demerath, Jon Soul, and Cynthia Keith were ABetterShreveport Board Members in attendance at the meeting held by the city this past Saturday morning to inform on Master Plan Implementation through the upcoming effort to create a Unified Development Code using community input.  Others in attendance were neighborhood association leaders and city officials.  About 70 people were there.

Before the meeting Loren chatted with Dara Sanders, the Master Plan Administrator, and friend of ABS.  She said it's been a busy but productive summer for her.  The firm chosen to write the unified development code signed the contract, and Dara has a listed ABS as one of the stakeholders, so it will be contacting us about meeting with them.  Dara would like to meet with us about the Unified Development Code as well.  Loren said we'd value those meetings.

Loren asked Dara about what the group had discussed at last week's meeting: if it's going to be 18 months or more before the code is passed, what can we do to keep bad development from happening?  We thought if she could alert us as to proposals and site plans that conflict with the principles in Master Plan, ABS could then attend the relevant MPC meetings to articulate our concerns.  Dara said communicating with the public about developments that are inconsistent with the Master Plan.

In Dara's presentation, she said the Unified Development Code will created as an outcome of community input, coming through a city wide town hall meeting, 5 public workshops, charrettes, 5 public open houses, one public hearing, MPC meetings, city council meetings, and parish commission meetings.  Loren wondered to himself if we have to go all of those meetings, though it's probably a form of power through community organization: the more people you can get out, the more your issues will be advanced.  Dara noted, though, seeing common interests should be an outcome; that the meetings will facilitate neighbors and neighborhoods talking to each other and raising awareness of common interests (for example, Loren thought, during meetings can come to understand how a dog park is actually IN THE INTERESTS OF PEOPLE WHO DON'T OWN DOGS!).  To participate people need to contact their neighborhood associations and select a representative.  The council of neighborhood associations is a gathering of such people.  Questions?  The phone number to Dara's desk is 673-6463. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Poor New Bike Racks Discussed at Monday's First Meeting of the Year

After a summer hiatus, ABetterShreveport is back in session.  We had an interesting first meeting of the year, but we've barely begun to plan, so come on down to the next one if you want to help set our agenda.
 In attendance: Maurice Loridans, Chris Chandler, Jon Soul, Katherine Brandle, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Lani Duke, Nic Runyon
Cynthia Keith updated us on the dog park:  The District Court told the Mayor he has to sign to accept the money by a certain date.  They got an appeal and got a writ of review where three judges review the ruling.  The first judge has now said he’d let the second circuit decide the stay and won’t do anything until then.
Cynthia recounted how the Mayor has recently increased the requirements to having the dog park to $1 million there at Hammel's because he is now requiring a playground, bathrooms, and a maintenance shed.   At one town hall meeting, reported by TV news, Cynthia was very animated against the Mayor as were other people Cynthia had never met before, though the Mayor said they were planted by our organization.

Loren talked about ABetterShreveport's recently joining the Healthy Green Into the Outside
one vision of a bike path converted from a drainage ditch (
initiative run by the Community Foundation.   HGIO is aimed at developing local solutions to obesity, and has raised 1.4 million dollars to that end.  Loren described his interview on KTBS about the partnership and how he described what LSU landscape architecture Dr. Bruce Sharky's said after visiting here.  Sharky, a world expert on greenways who has designed them for such cities as Anchorage Alaska, said Shreveport’s drainage ditches are the most accommodating he’s ever seen for converting them to greenways, i.e., adding bike paths, nature trails, etc., and that will make the project exponentially cheaper than it would be elsewhere.
  Newcomer to ABS, Nick Runyon, said he lives on a drainage ditch and would love to see a path put there.


Later in the week, Loren attended his first meeting of HGIO.  There was a lot of He was asked to chair the advocacy group, and looks forward to it.  It was a useful meeting, hearing about what the coalition of agencies has done already.   The value of increasing Shreveport's perceived walkability and bikeability was agreed on at the meeting.  Ideas were discussed for how to do that, and one was having organized walks to destinations, in part to raise awareness of the most walkable routes.  Painting markers, noting historic points, and other features were mentioned as ways of giving the walking routes even more value.


On the heels of hearing a proposal for part of the Barwell Center being used for community gardening, or the site of a "farmery" (see a post below), the group noted that the center is a historic building.  Chris Chandler said his parents used to take him there as a kid, to see the plants, the water features, etc.  At very least, we need to preserve it, he said, others noting that it's a great location.

The group agreed that we should take this opportunity in the Barnwell's renovations to help brainstorm about how it could be used.  We'll be inviting Grace Peterson and others to do that with us this next month.


Maurice Loridan updated us on bike facilities downtown.  There are three new sets of bike racks that someone at Sportran has installed, apparently without educating themselves in how bike racks work.  One set is at Elvis Presley and Milam that look like microphones; they’re not especially functional as you have to thread your lock through a space that’s easy to overlook; it’s also right next to an iron fence where people often lock their bikes more easily.  The other racks are on Travis Street where you can only lock your front wheel.  Bike thieves can easily disconnect a quick-release front wheel, take off with your bike and leaving you the wheel.  These racks are all positioned by public surface parking lots--not a popular destination for cyclists.  ABS and this blog has long advocated bike racks being placed at places where alternative transportation users tend to go, like Robinson, Artspace, Co-habitat, etc. 


Jon Soul said on Saturday at the Independence Stadium Skybox, Dara Sanders will be presenting the latest on the Unified Development Code.   

The group discussed how important it is that the Code is created and passed as soon as possible, since until that point there are harmful structures being built (streets and bridges with no shoulders and sidewalks for example) and natural amenities being harmed (trees removed along a waterway on Fern, south of 70th).  Jon noted that it’s anything but smart growth to remove the organic growth buffer along a waterway.  
Until the code is passed, what to do?  Chris said that if there was a community of people that went down and contested things like that at MPC, they’d have to respond to it.  It was agreed that ABetterShreveport will have to be on alert for that kind of thing from here on.
As the meeting broke up at 7:00, Loren noted next week we'll continue talking about themed meetings and aspirations for the year.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Is this the pedaling revolution?

Whoa!  And the website makes me want to quit my job, move to North Carolina, and join their ranks!

Seriously though, I especially like how it could increase your safety by giving you a larger presence on the road.  I'd think drivers would be more likely to assume you're occupying the full lane that a bike is entitled to anyway.  I wonder if it would give more confidence to those who don't feel comfortable biking in traffic.

First Meeting of the Year Monday!

An sketch of a "farmary"
Our first meeting of the year is Monday at 6:00 p.m.! 
We'll talk about ideas for the city, problems, prospects, etc. We'll hear updates on the dog park, the Barnwell Center, the Bayou to Bay project, biking kids to school, and about the Healthy Green Into the Outside initiative to combat obesity.
For instance, Lani Duke reports that the "Farmery" shown here has been floated as the kind of thing that could be done at Barnwell.
A real farmery in the background, but I'm looking at what they're all looking at!
And you can see my interview on KTBS here.  I talked about the notion of converting drainage ditches to bike paths.  That the idea that stimulated Peter Bonce to invite ABS to join the Healthy Green initiative.
We meet at the Wright Math Building, across from Magale Library on Woodlawn on Centenary's campus. 
Anyone's welcome to join us!

Friday, August 16, 2013

ABetterShreveport Invited to Join "Healthy Green and Into the Outdoors"

"Healthy Green and Into the Outdoors" is a coalition of 19 agencies that are all working combat obesity in our area.  There is a 1.4 million dollar pool of funds from a government grant and private monies raised by the Community Foundation to drive HGIO.  

ABetterShreveport will be able to contribute from a number of angles, but mostly, perhaps by pushing bike paths and nature trails, particularly our long-held vision for using our drainage ditches to create a network for healthy transportation.

One possibility is capping it, while keeping or improving it's capacity to deal with storm water.  Could be nice, don't you think?

or, just add a sidewalk
and for security (though crime would likely go down anyway) 

plenty of possibilities, some concrete (in blue), some natural (red)
Stay tuned, or better yet, come to one of our meetings to help us plan how to make something like this happen.  We meet every Monday at 6:00 p.m., starting in September, at the Wright Math Building on Centenary's campus, at 6:00 p.m.  Join us!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jimmie Davis Bridge re-do to include bicycle-pedestrian lanes; DOTD meet on Th, Aug 15, Barksdale Baptist Church

Velo Dendro Shreveport, 2010 by trudeau
Velo Dendro Shreveport, 2010, a photo by trudeau on Flickr.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development(DOTD) will host a public meeting to discuss the Environmental Assessment(EA) for the proposed upgrade to a portion of Jimmie Davis Highway (LA 511) to improve the crossing of the Red River, says
Leahanise Hogan.

The meeting will take place Thursday,
August 15, 2013, 6:00 8:00 p.m. at Barksdale Baptist Church located at 1714 Jimmie Davis
Highway in Bossier City. The purpose of the meeting is to present the status of the proposed project
and to solicit comments from the public. The meeting will be conducted in open house format and include stations where attendees can speak informally with members of the project team, view project area displays, and review known environmental issues.
Commensurate with the development of Line andGrade studies, an EA will be prepared for the project.
The project area extends from East Dixie Meadow Road in Caddo Parish to Barksdale Boulevard (US 71)
in Bossier Parish. The proposed action by DOTD involves developing a crossing of the Red River at LA
511 that provides two 12‐foot travel lanes in each direction with 4‐foot inside shoulders and 8‐foot outside shoulders and a shared use trail that connects the existing trails in Arthur Ray Teague Parkway
and Clyde Fant Parkway. Various alternatives are also being studied.

All interested citizens are invited and encouraged to attend the public meeting. Comments and suggestions are needed to help ensure that the project team addresses the full range of environmental issues during the EA study process. Both verbal and written comments will be received at the meeting.
All comments must include the commenter’s name and address. Comments will also be accepted until August 25, 2013 via the following methods:
Red River Bridge at Jimmie Davis Highway EA
P.O. Box 56845
New Orleans, LA 70156