Dan Jatres, pedestrian and bicycle program manager for the Regional Planning Commission (RPC), last week called on the New Orleans City Council to support the city's application to the League of American Bicyclists' Bicycle Friendly Community program.
The program's list of 180 bike-friendly cities has four rankings: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. New Orleans earned only "honorable mention" rankings the last three years it applied for the designation. Jatres says he hopes to see New Orleans receive at least a bronze designation this year, based on how the city has "shifted its philosophy to a multimodal transportation approach," which accounts for bikes and pedestrians as well as motor vehicles.
In his presentation to the council, Jatres highlighted the city's bike improvements, including the 30 miles of lanes were added over three years (bringing the citywide total to 42 miles, with another 30 in development). He noted the RPC's workshops with engineers, city planners and law enforcement and its public outreach campaigns for bicycle awareness and safety.
District C Councilwoman 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 told Gambit, but he said the city has to "ramp up its efforts" and commitment to bike projects to meet the pace of "gold" cities like San Francisco and Minneapolis, and the "platinum" rank of Portland, Ore.
Louisiana currently ranks 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. — Alex Woodward