The League of American Bicyclists today announced the recipients of its 2011 Bicycle Friendly Community designations. New Orleans was among 11 cities added to the list for the first time, including Omaha, Neb., Saint Paul, Minn., and Santa Fe, N.M. Bill Nesper, director of the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program, says the organization is "especially pleased to see so many communities improving their award level.”
The release announcing the awards specifically commends New Orleans: "(The city) has seen its number of bike commuters increase by more than 150 (percent) in the last five years. The city, which had received Honorable Mentions in three previous rounds, implemented the feedback we provided and received the bronze designation this time. New Orleans was recognized for their large biking population, bicycling education programs, a bicycling network that has tripled in length in the last three years and the strong bike culture seen in events like the NOLA Bike Bash."
In July, Dan Jatres, pedestrian and bicycle program manager for the Regional Planning Commission (RPC), called on the New Orleans City Council to support the city's application to the program, a list of only 190 cities (of the 490 that applied) with five rankings: gold, silver, bronze, and the rare platinum (reserved for Davis, Calif.). New Orleans has only received honorable mention designations in the last three years. The bronze designation is its first ever recognition by the program.
District C Councilwoman and council transportation chair Kristin Gisleson Palmer introduced a resolution in support of Jatres' request, adding that the city is in the "top six in the country for bike riding." The resolution includes a measure to establish goals to get New Orleans a gold designation by 2018 — an ambitious goal, Jatres said, and one the city will have to "ramp up its efforts."
Louisiana ranked 24th among the states in the Bicycle Friendly America 2010 rankings, with "F" grades in bicycle infrastructure, policies and programs, evaluation and planning. For a Bicycle Friendly Community designation, the league judges cities on "engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning." A national advisory group selects the winners. Selected cities receive no direct financial benefit, but the designation serves as leverage for potential funding. The 2008 honorable mention made the city eligible for a Bikes Belong grant.