Saturday, September 28, 2013

ABS Gets Focused, Bikeable Shreveport Meeting Set for 10/7

In attendance: Amanda Currier, Kathrine Brandl, Loren Demerath, Lani Duke, Maurice Loridans, Cathy Smith*, Susan Keith, Cynthia Keith, Feico Kempff

At meeting of Monday, September 23, 2013, the group welcomed Amanda Currier, a senior communication student from Centenary College, who is also currently employed by Townsquare Media as the staff photographer. She will be volunteering for this semester as part of her Trek learning and has pledged to serve by archiving podcasts, doing website cleanup, summarization of weekly meetings, and any research or task the board members may require.  (And Amanda is the author of this week's meeting summary that you're reading right now!)
Other group members made their introductions, and the meeting commenced.


In cycling news this week, Cathy Smith reported an incident that happened to her  while riding in the 700 Block of Linden Street. A woman driving a black Volvo harassed her, and she believes it may have been the same woman that Carolyn described that was harassing her the week before.

There was mention of proposed educational materials that could aid in bringing bicycle safety awareness to our community including a blog entitled, “Share the Lane,” and the possibility of grants to help aid in educating the community on Bike Safety.
Many don't know that sharing a lane applies to all SMV’s, (slow moving vehicles).  It is the responsibility of the motorist who is passing to make sure it’s a safe thing to do at that moment, with a minimum of three feet of space between vehicle and those on the bike paths.  Many also don't know that it is the law for everyone under 15 to have a helmet on in the state of Louisiana.
In Bentonville, Arkansas, every 250 feet there’s some kind of bicycle indication. In Shreveport, there is not.
In the Bert Kouns (outer loop) area, there is a wide enough space to add bike paths. However, the medians are not a safe, acceptable place for cyclists to travel due to traffic crossing over the center lane. Cyclists will be less likely to yield to motorists in this situation, and therefore this proposes a dangerous scenario, but the route is in definite need for paths because it is one of the major routes of the city.
Most people are not comfortable riding anywhere but inside the bicycle lanes because the motorists are usually not considerate and do not share the road. Loren had an experience with his family over the past weekend, and his wife said she’ll bike anytime it’s on a bike path, but that it’s too stressful for her often being on the main roads where safety is more of an issue.

Loren Demerath and Michael Laffey have met with Nick Carroll, KSCL’s station manager, and Patty Roberts, grant writer for Centenary recently. Patty will be heading the work on getting the campus radio station the funding for upgrades this fall.
Hamilton Terrace is being proposed to be sold to Shreveport Rescue Mission.
Chris Chandler spoke about a change he's suggested to the approach of A Better Shreveport’s meeting structure. The idea is to invite people directly involved by mandating them into the meeting to discuss the topic of the night. E.g. Bicycle Paths/Bike Enthusiasts
The idea is to construct five goals that come from the meeting, prioritize them by importance, and then the group would be committed to implementing the goals and seeing them through in order to make this a bike friendly community.
This type of organizational structure to the weekly meetings will allow for insight, outside of the box, from other community members and leaders that will help advocate and structure the movement. It also gives ABS a deadline with a set schedule to aid in the success of meeting the goals.
There is hope for the use of current social media to organize, invite, and publicize the cause. Lani Duke announced that she is currently working on publication access to a community rag that will start monthly, and the hope is that it will help spread the word.
In order to bring about this change, ABS will still need time to plan and organize the topics and meetings in advance. The first meeting of the month can be set aside to organize these themed meetings. With this idea of Themed meetings people can be invited that are interested in the topic of discussion for that night’s meeting, along with city officials who are in charge of the proposed area that ABS tends to discuss. There can even be other community organization leaders and related business owners who can help make things happen.
For instance, the first themed meeting will be on Bicycle Paths & Safety. At the next actual meeting, ABS plans to put a panel together summarizing what they would like to see happen. An ABS member, business owner and government official will correlate 5 things for Bike Advocacy with regard to educational materials and funding, signs, code changes, bike racks at local businesses, establishing bike presence, and so forth.
The audience could vote on the priorities to work on, post-meeting.  E.g., if you’d pick two places for bike paths, where would you want them? You’ve got to pick the right three people to represent the whole, and not anyone who may have a private agenda, or preconceived negative feelings in the matter. Trust that the best ideas will rise to the top.

Key things to consider in all of this: The issue of timing is important; The city won’t start from scratch; The Unified Development Code is an immediate opportunity; and there is no money sitting around waiting to be spent.

Activities such as painting the sharrows, would require say some 20-25 people, a pickup and a trailer, and plenty of paint with a clear Saturday. Within 6-7 hours of time, it could be finished, and as long as we’re paying for it, we can paint!
Cathy Smith mentioned the the signs for cyclists are relatively inexpensive. ($8-11 for each metal traffic sign). The need to place them along with painting the sharrows is because the paint will wear away over time. Some signs say ‘Share the Road’  and some just have the image of a bicycle on them. The point of the lane is to indicate to the cyclist which direction they are supposed to ride with the traffic. (Ian Webb)
Also GPS and Google Maps do a good job routing your bike journey to offer the best route, but there could also be a city map devised to include the areas with bike paths.
Finally, in addition to discussing the implementation of themed meetings, the proposal was made to devise a Top 5 List of the most critical needs for Shreveport specific for this group for the next year. By doing this, it would really allow for concentration on the topics of need, and would narrow the focus of the group’s time and efforts making each moment count.
Someone suggested taking “One Neighborhood At a Time­” as one of the goals starting somewhere like Highland. (Reinventing Highland)
In the meantime, next week is a focus week to organize future themed meetings, and  the first themed meeting will be Monday, October 7, 2013, when we’ll focus on how to make Shreveport more bikeable! 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bike-Centric and Self-Examining at Last Meeting

In attendance: Cathy Smith, Bill McKechnie, Loren Demerath, Katherine Brandl, Maurice Loridans, Cynthia Keith, Chris Chandler, Susan Keith, Lani Duke

The group welcomed first-timers Bill McKechnie, friend of Carolyn, and Cathy Smith, long-time blog reader.  Bill was field engineer for Bridgestone, lived in Austin where he biked a lot, and also in Naperville, Illinois, and Winter Park, Florida.  Cathy is a pastor in town and recently visited Bentonville, Arkansas, where they've done lots with bike-ped infrastructure.      Cathy said Bentonville looks like a small town with big ideas.  Maurice said Walmart's headquarters are there, and Loren noted that Walmart probably realizes that encouraging progressive bike-ped infrastructure is a cost-effective way of luring executives to work for Walmart in a place with a high quality of life.  Cathy noted Bentonville has lots of police on bikes, various kinds of bike-ped paths going all over town, and pedestrians have the right of way.  It seems like the whole town is outside.  Their slogan is “come out and play Bentonville,” and people really do.  In some places they just widened the sidewalk and made separate lanes for bikers and pedestrians, effectively taking cyclists off the streets--preferable for some, especially given the street.  We could do that on Line Ave., running it all the way from Downtown to the Inner Loop!  There were also little touches of how the sidewalk corners were slowly rounded to accommodate cyclists.  
    Maurice reported on local good news on that front: Bossier’s city council has just approved funds to connect their riverside bike path to the Board Walk.  It was noted that the more people get out and bike, and the more Shreveport will be seen as bikeable, and increasingly made to accommodate biking.  Bill said we need what Amsterdam has: a sea of bikes

A range of other cycling issues where discussed, such as the pro's and con's of helmets, bike-share programs, the Yellow Bike Project in Austin, and one-upping each other on how cheap we've been able to get functional bikes (Bill staked the first claim at $10, Loren upped it with a $1 garage sale buy, but Maurice's flavor won in getting a bike for a pot of gumbo!)

Also noted was how motorists can harass cyclists for biking on the road even when riding on the sidewalk is technically illegal.  Maurice said we can get a ticket for biking there, and motorists can get a ticket for harassing us.  That said, several of us freely admit to doing biking on the sidewalk when bike safety on a given road is precarious. 

Loren reviewed the efforts of a recent charette conducted by Kim Mitchell and others on the route of I-49 going through the city, and enough varied opinions were apparent that a focused meeting might be useful.  It was suggested we invite those with expertise such Dara Sanders, Murray Lloyd, Kim Mitchell, and others.  Perhaps a moderated panel might be needed to structure the debate where there's a lot of money at stake.  
    Maurice noted that the people that DON’T want it to go through Allendale haven’t approved of any of the three routes that have been suggested.

Chris Chandler's thinking about how to get more productive followup from Aspen Idea Festival hosted locally by the Community Foundation led us to work on a model for the discussions might work better by incorporating the technology of "clickers" or even cell phones where folks respond to questions by texting. 
    Chris said that CF Director Paula Hickman is on board with tweaking the format in effort to improve productive followup.  
    Bill noted that in his experience as an engineer, it helps to a measure, deadlines on a calender, and repeatability.  One could have five bullet points, and noted how many did we hit, etc.
    Chris suggested that we use ABS meetings as a way of developing a format that would focus discussions and create more productive outcomes, and we can then propose using that format for the Community Foundation's hosting of the Aspen Idea Festival.  Chris and Loren agreed to meet and work on that, and try it out at next Monday's meeting.  {Gulp!}


Lani Duke talked about the Food Hub meetings she's been attending.  ABetterShreveport had talked about how the Barnwell might complement what the Foodhub does.  Reportedly, Robert Specian has gone to Liz Swain about possibilities.  Susan Keith was a member of "Friends of the Barnwell," but the group's connection was dissolved unilaterally by the city eight months ago.  The city of Shreveport told them they were no longer affiliated with it.  They may become involved with the museum of at the State Fair Grounds, but as of now, the group is in a state of unaffiliated limbo.

Some time ago ABS received permission to paint bike sharrows on streets.  We've held back from doing more than we did on a small scale for the tree tour because of our hopes that a bike-ped plan would be soon created, which it wasn't; more recently, we thought it might be worth waiting for the Unified Development Code's completion, but we now the code wouldn't help much for that kind of thing.
    So, we may be putting off a great opportunity to add significant value to our city right now.  Later in the week, at the monthly meeting of the coalition of community agency partners for the Healthy Green and Into the Outdoors program headed by the Community Foundation, Loren met Dr. Mary Hawkins, on the faculty of the Department of Kinesiology and Health Science at LSUS.  She mentioned that she has a bunch of students that need service-learning credit.  Hmm...

Monday, 6:00-7:00 p.m., Wright Math Building, as usual. 
    Picking up on topics from previous weeks, but while taking the first steps towards Chandler's productive meeting template!  Join us!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Independence Bowl for Football Safety, Bicycle Coop, Pollution in Cross Bayou Discussed at 9/6 Meeting

At the meeting of Monday, September 9th, were Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Cynthia Keith, Feico Kempff, Nick Runyon.  Here are Loren’s rough notes:

Nick noted that the NFL settlement just followed our discussion from the previous week.  Feico said if you leave the equipment choice to the players, things might look different; people would want their own safety.  
    Loren is scheduled to meet with Kelly Wells of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau to discuss two topics: 1) leveraging the Independence Bowl, or even just use of the stadium, to improve football safety, and 2) leveraging the I-Bowl to publicize an issue that would help the city.

Cynthia noted that the mountain bike trails by the boat launch by Veteran's Park are being featured as a recreational amenity.  Maurice said a number of the obstacles have been home-made--as have all the trails--and are dangerous.  It doesn't mean they shouldn't be there, just that the city should be careful in what it recognizes and for which it then implicitly takes responsibility.  The National Park Service doesn’t publicize hair-brained activities, as the City shouldn’t in publicizing and supervising the Stoner Park trails.  But one person asked about the skate park, noting that skateboarders break their arms and such all the time. There’s also some R-rated graffiti there, but Nick thinks there’s a norm set by the older skaters against messing up the deal they've got and not doing things that would get it taken away from them.
It was noted that there used to be trails at the northern end of the Hamel property but you can’t get through any more.  You can come back from the beach to lower Hamel park.  If you come down the northern end of the mound it used to have a nice trail there, but not anymore.
There was sentiment that we’ll have a meeting out there when it gets cooler.
Speaking of that area, Loren noted that Jon Soul has mustered a number of volunteers under his "Bayou to Bay" watershed education project, and they've recently cleaned up the beach by the Jimmie Davis Bridge this past weekend.  
Cynthia wondered if there were alligators.  Maurice said there are alligators in every body of water in this state, even in bodies so small you wouldn’t consider them bodies of water!
Feico noted that there was an application for commercial fishing of turtles in Cross Bayou and under consideration at the city council this week.  
Maurice said he wouldn’t eat turtles out of Cross Bayou, but almost every year Shreveport pumps out of Cross Bayou for our water, and you can taste it in the musty flavor of the water at those times of water.  Maurice has said he’s seen ruptured sewer lines in Cross Bayou.  Moreover, there was decades of dumping of organic matter from the roof shingle manufacturing there years ago, but nobody’s ever asked them to clear it up.
    The foam blobs floating down the river can be naturally occurring.  But the water in the Red River is cleaner than that in Cross or Twelve Mile Bayou.  That would be a beautiful area to paddle if it weren’t for the people living along it not treating it like a dump.  There are garbage bags, refrigerators, and such thrown down there.
    Loren asked advice on what to do about the streets going through isolated areas.  He regularly bikes home from Magnet High School through one area.  Feico said it's 13 acres that was in the Rossbottom bankruptsy and is now owned by a local doctor.  Loren noted the dumping of trash there is a shame, that it's a peaceful country road going through a beautiful forest, otherwise.
    Maurice said construction companies tell their low level employees to dump stuff and be back on the job in five or ten minutes, sometimes even knowing there's no place they can do it legally that fast.
Loren asked if we should post signs of penalties, even warnings of video surveillance, etc.  Police receive complaints about that sort of thing but the responses can be ham-fisted.  The response can be to cut down the woods, like cutting off your nose to save your face.
    The possibility of automatic sensors was raised.  Nick’s brother is a radio personality in Cedar Rapids and he's told Nick about the huge controversy in there surrounding automatic traffic tickets. Maurice said there can be defenses; it’s not completely automatic with no chance for contesting the ticket.  But, it does generate revenue.  A friend in New Orleans has gotten a ticket for running a red light at 4:00 a.m. when there wasn't a soul around.


Loren is thinking that the Theater Department might be able to share some space with us in certain locale where they store old scenery.  It would need to be secured, but that could be done by putting a gate there.
    We could use the old props creatively.  Some of the old giant trees with hooks on it, etc.  Folks can get national attention for creatively designing a bicycle coop, let alone doing that for bicycles. 
    As for folks who might be interested in collaborating on that sort of thing, Steve Culp is contact who’s mechanically inclined, husband of Liz Swaine.  

On Thursday, 9/12, is the fundraiser for the dog park at Canes (5-8 pm) and the Red Mango (noon to 10 pm) on Youree.


Cohabitat is celebrating its reopening in its new location under the Texas Street Bridge with live music on the 20th, 5-10 pm., where Brother’s Seafood was next to Nicky’s.  They've raised $20,000 to refinish the kitchen and make it into a test kitchen.

Next week: the Local Idea Festival concept, community gardening at the Barnwell, Healthy Green and Into the Outdoors possible advocacy on anti-obesity Policies, and whatever other topics come up!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Digifest looks like it'll be a cool show, once again!

Here's the flier on it.  Loren will be moderating a panel on local development Friday at 2:00.  There'll also be a game jam that Centenary's Node will be participating in the game jam at 3:00 that afternoon.  (Node the living-learning community focused on using technology and design for treating social problems.)  Should be a fun time!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Barnwell, Independence Bowl, and a Productive Local Idea Festival

After the summer off, we're meeting again, every Monday night, 6:00-7:00, in the Wright Math Building on Centenary's Campus, just up from the Gold Dome.  Anyone's welcome to join us and discuss ideas for a better city!

In attendance last Monday, August 26th: Cynthia Keith, Katherine Brandl, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath, Lani Duke, Chris Chandler, Nick Runyon, Feico Kempff


The group continued a discussion from last week about downtown community gardening and farmery possibilities (see posts below for farmery description).  One thought is that having a center for shared social activity like community gardening would be a further lure for people to live downtown.  And even if they didn’t, the Barnwell is on the bike path, so it’s a convenient weekend ride destination.  Maybe downtown could become the center for our community gardening and fresh greens and herbs shopping?  Lani will be at the next meeting of Grace Peterson’s group and ask about it.  Lani noted that the farmery idea is too cool not to explore it.  Also noted that on 4th street off of Marshall is “Community Harvast,” a hydroponic gardening organization; they want to sell to restaurants.  


Loren described an idea he has for the Independence Bowl, and the group encouraged him to explore it.  He sent an email to Kelly Wells, and cc’d Mayor Glover, at his request.  The Mayor was encouraging about the idea when Loren approached him about it after Saturday’s meeting (see the post below).

The email describes the idea Shreveport would be the site of the first significantly safer football game.  It could be the Independence Bowl, but the Mayor suggested an all-star game, such as, perhaps, this year's high school all-star game that will played at Independence Stadium.

The Mayor pointed out that players are expected to bring their own helmets, partly as means of cutting costs, though also as a means of identifying players.  Apparently new helmets have been developed recently, but leagues like the NFL, CFL, or NCAA will have to adopt them en masse, everyone getting them all at once.  But a bowl game, or an all-star game, might be a way of demonstrating the equipment on a smaller scale first.  So, showcasing a new helmet might help further its implementation.

Loren noted that as a football fan he beginning to feel guilty.  He wouldn't let his own kid play it now, knowing what we do, and he feels bad that people who might not know any better are letting their kids play while he just sits there and watches.

Loren also asked future sponsorships of the Independence Bowl that could work more in our city's favor.  He asked if it’s possible to cobble together funding from, say, a non-profit industry which might pay for the benefit of publicizing their cause?

Loren’s received no response yet from Wells, but has just sent a follow-up.

In group’s discussion of the ideas, folks noted that Dr. Anil Nanda is a local neurosurgeon who’s been interviewed about this topic.  Maurice said Bicycling Magazine two months ago had an impressive article on helmets where they note that the standards haven’t changed since the 1960’s.  The tests all involve testing direct impact fractures, and not the movement of soft tissues within the skull, which causes concussions.  The bicycling industry is resisting changes.  Because of the fear of lawsuits, it appears football in the NFL and the NCAA are embracing greater awareness and change.  That said, Feico pointed out that any organization may be loath to be connected with a demonstration of safer helmet technology, since that’s an implicit acknowledgement that their sport is currently unsafe. Leadership is needed, and that’s often where government comes in.

On the idea of alternative funding, Maurice wondered how money would flow into the bowl.  Breast cancer awareness has been promoted through sports, mostly, perhaps through for-profit companies associating themselves with a good non-profit cause.  Later in the week, at a meeting of partners in the Healthy Green and Into the Outside coalition, it was mentioned that an insurance company might like that kind of association.  Blue Cross Blue Shield is the sponsor of HGIO, so perhaps we should talk to people there, and places like that, where they make a profit on health, and would benefit from the association with progressive health policy changes.

Loren has wondered privately: would politicians gain from taking a stand on this?  a school board?  can a community set equipment standards that apply to all folks playing that sport under their supervision, or using their fields, etc.?  Now that the NFL has settled with it’s players, movement on the issue may slow.  Hmmm...


Chris Chandler described for the group an idea he’s had about creating a local form of the Aspen Idea Festival, but one with more effective follow up and eye to making productive change.  The Aspen Idea Festival brings in top people to discuss a recent big idea for the world.  They broadcast the panel’s discussion around the world.  For the past few years, during February, the Community Foundation has sponsored it and run the video at the Robinson Film Center, and then had local experts discuss it, and invite the audience to participate.

Chris’ ideas include making a Shreveport Idea Festival.  It would involve programming a local forum, inviting interested people to come together and discuss the idea, to find a champion for the idea, and to divide those who want to help into follow-up teams to help push the idea forward.   

New technology can be used to sort out members of the audience who want to contribute to furthering an idea, and in what ways.  “Clickers” and now, just cell phones, using websites like Socrative, where audience members can respond to surveys and be tabulated immediately on the screen in front of them.  Chris was thinking that the technique could be used to find out who wants to work on what, how many support a given tactic, etc.  The audience gives feedback as the discussion proceeds and this can lead to more focused follow-ups in forming working groups.  Lani mentioned she’d seen that kind of thing done elsewhere to sort people out by the skills and resources they’re willing to volunteer, so there’s a precedent.

Chris also noted that the technique could cut down on the phenomenon of five people or so dominating the discussion to advance their own agendas.  Plus, the data collection can continue indefinitely online afterward.  A bit like having a facebook page built around a discussion group.  
Local foundations, organizations, and companies might be willing to help with funding for it.


The idea of having some sort of bike coop, or old bike depository lives on.  The group discussed some possibilities, including some spaces at Centenary.  Just padlocking a space that’s covered from rain would be sufficient.


Feico noted that the city’s 2014 budget is due to the council October 1.  Paint and labor for bike lanes and sharrows, and weed-eaters for dog parks and trails, are among the things we should make sure are in the budget.  No money in the budget to paint bike sharrows?  That’s why the only ones we have in Shreveport were painted by this very organization?  That can rectified.  And remember, just like a dog park, bike sharrows are now standard features in any city’s infrastructure for providing a healthy lifestyle.  Unless you want folks to leave Shreveport, you want bike sharrows, even if you don’t ride a bike!

Next meeting, September 9th, 6:00-7:00 p.m., Wright Math Building.