Evaluating the impacts of 'Connect the Crescent' installations is a major goal of this project. The City of New Orleans and Bike Easy worked with the University of New Orleans Transportation Institute (UNOTI) to lead the evaluation team. Top priorities were to measure the number of people biking and walking, how fast cars and trucks were traveling, and related impacts. Alongside those quantitative observations, just as critical was how the New Orleans community experienced Connect the Crescent. To that end, collecting surveys and requesting direct feedback was a top priority. In June 2018, an evaluation subcommittee assembled these questions to shape a framework for the project:
Is the segment, intersection, or corridor safe and functional for all modes?
Are users satisfied and comfortable using the improved facilities?
How does the intervention impact user volumes, demographics, and behaviors?
How does the intervention/entire project impact economic activity in the area?
Does the community understand (and support) the vision, the overall project, the specific interventions, and the purpose of the pilot process?
Quantitative measures include changes in safety, performance, demand, and behavior. Qualitative measures included surveys of people biking and walking, as well as residents and businesses along the affected corridors.
Impacts on Traffic & Safety
Crash rates were significantly decreased on Baronne St during the demonstration, by 5% overall and by 27% for those with injury or fatality compared with citywide increases of 7% overall and 13% just injury or fatality.
Overall, traffic speeds decreased during the demonstration. Notably, the greatest decreases were in the maximum observed speeds, indicating that the interventions contributed to reductions in unsafe illegal speeding.
On Baronne St speed, average speeds remained exactly the same, while the maximum observed speed decreased by 26%, with no vehicles observed exceeding the speed limit during the observation period after the protected bikeway was installed.
As excessive speed is a key contributor to roadway injuries and fatalities, especially those involving people walking and bicycling, this data suggests that the interventions implemented on Baronne St were effective in increasing safety for all road users. However, while intervention for Simon Bolivar Av did lower top end speeding, designs should be reconsidered to ensure transitions are well marked to reduce crashes
-5% (Baronne) +10% (SB) +7% (city)
On Baronne Street, the number of bicyclists increased by 20-41% (depending on location) while the 'Connect the Crescent' protected bikeway was installed, and 84% more than when there was no bike lane available at all
The number of bicyclists on Baronne street during the peak PM commute hour increased by 76% with the protected bikeway present
The share of bicyclists observed using helmets on baronet increased by approximately 7 percentage points, and the share of bicyclists traveling in the contraflow direction increased from under 3% (riding illegally against traffic) prior to the intervention, to nearly 25% (riding legally in the 2-way bikeway) during the demonstration project. AM ridership headed into the CBD in particular increased during the demonstration
Bicyclists in New Orleans are diverse! In central city, the majority of bicyclists observed in this area underserved by bicycle infrastructure were African American.
Baronne - change in speed 0% average / 0% 85th% / -26%
SB - -18% in, -10% out / -23%, -6% / -37%, -20%
Where high quality facilities exist, people are more likely to follow the rules of the road: on Basin street near the entrance to the Lafitte Greenway, 99% of riders were observed traveling legally. On Simon Bolivar, 86% of riders were observed traveling legally after the bike lane was installed, compared to only 67% without it.
Traffic congestion during the PM peak hour appears to have increased significantly on Baronne Street during the demonstration period. This may be partially attributable to seasonal variation in traffic volume, but may also be largely attributable to reductions in illegal, dangerous use of the bicycle lane by motorists.
Transportation Choices Survey
Our other primary objective in evaluating Connect the Crescent’s impact was capturing and gauging community sentiment. After all, our intention was to “demonstrate” better, safer transportation options to community residents. What did people biking, walking, driving, riding the bus or ferry make of the Connect the Crescent network? Just as important, what was the experience of businesses owners and workers downtown?
To capture a range of voices, different ways to collect input were used. Connecthecrescent.com featured a long-form survey, ‘Transportation Choices’. Flyers, social media, email blasts, and media hits encouraged residents to visit the website and take the survey. A short-form version of the survey was also collected by volunteers, project partners, and Bike Easy at events across the city and at ‘interventions’ along the network’s corridors, and by going door-to-door to residences and businesses. In addition to the survey, general feedback was collected using a submission form on the website and directly to the City via an email address, email@example.com.
Topline finding 1
Community perceptions, of course, rise from people’s experience of their own daily travels. The needs of a given resident, in a given neighborhood, was shaped by the overall and pre-existing needs. On both the long and short form the question was asked -
“In your view, what is New Orleans' most pressing transportation need?”
Several key themes emerged. The most often repeated theme was the need for more reliable and accessible public transportation, and for it to be better integrated with other forms of travel. Other key themes
Connectivity, between all modes, focusing on underserved neighborhoods and service industry/hospitality workers
Ability to bike safely/Protected lanes/Repairing potholes, smoother road surfaces
Awareness - Drivers respecting rules of road
Enforcement from NOPD
Focus on working class, service industry/hospitality workers, low-income folks
“Transportation for working class without a car.”
“Safe and reliable mass transportation especially for working people who need to travel late at night or very early in the morning.”
“Improved bus transit that connects underserved neighborhoods to job centers”
“Stop pandering to tourists and take care of the people who live and work here. Without them you have no where for tourists to go!”
“More frequent and reliable public transportation between places where the poor live and where they work”
“Better access to non-car based transport, especially in poorer neighborhoods. That means improved bike lanes and routes, and/or better public transport.”
Resident themes and results
“We need more bike lanes that connect to each other, connect neighborhoods, and don't end suddenly.”
Residences and businesses along proposed Connect the Crescent corridors were canvassed before, during, and after the demonstration. In-person and business surveys were collected between April 7th, 2018 and January 16th, 2019. Once the full network was installed, the online survey was opened to all local residents October 24th, 2018 and closed January 16th, 2019.
Numbers + Demographics
Business themes and results
Baronne Street Two-Way Protected Bikeway
Two-way parking-protected bike lanes from Union Street to Howard Avenue
One-way parking-protected lane from Canal Street to Union Street
RTA Bus #15 stops affected
Protection kept drivers out of the bike lane!
Getting downtown from Uptown/Central City much easier
Design could be improved -- pedestrians walk in bike lanes; turns feel dangerous
Extend the two-way all the to Canal
“I work on Baronne Street and I LOVE THE BIKE LANE. MAKE IT PERMANENT.”
“This was always the most infuriating stretch of my commute because so many drivers (including cops, taxis, deliveries, and city buses) disregarded the bike lane. The properly protected bike lanes are AWESOME.”
“I love the green boxes at intersections. I feel safer making turns on my bike”
Notes on Baronne Two-Way Protected Bikeway
The Baronne St installations generated the most feedback from local citizens, in both positive and negative terms. On the positive side, bike riders of all varieties were overwhelming in their praise of the changes, with 66% wishing to see it made permanent. Women, as well, showed a strong desire to see the Baronne installation or a similar design adopted. Nearly 1 in 5 from both of these groups liked the design but thought it could be improved.
Negative feedback seems to have resulted from three factors: inadequate outreach to residents; complaints about the design; and lingering resentment over the changes that remain from the City’s 2014 bike lane pilot. In regards to outreach, Bike Easy conducted four separate canvasses of the Baronne corridor ahead of installation. Most businesses were reached, but a significant number of apartment residences did not receive information.
Design complaints centered on pedestrians feeling insecure attempting to cross the street and having to look in both directions as they crossed the bike lanes. This could be mitigated with additional signage, familiarity over time, and more accommodating sightlines if additional spaces were removed at the beginning and end of each block.
Lingering complaints from the 2014 pilot have to do with displeasure that the lanes were made permanent without a perceived lack of consultation. Hopefully this demonstration being removed on time has afforded the City some needed confidence-building with residents.
Howard Avenue Connector
Two-Way Parking-Protected Bikeway
Two-way parking-protected bikeway on downtown side of Howard Aven
One-way protected lanes on Dryades from Calliope to Howard (extension of O.C. Haley Blvd); including a lane drop inward-bound
An improvement because all lane lines were faded on Howard
Turning onto Dryades or onto Howard still tricky
Cars park in the bike lane
“I changed my usual commute (from Mid-City to Central City) just to use the Basin Street, Baronne Street, and Howard Ave connections.”
Notes on Howard Avenue Connector
This connection was the second shortest of the demonstration, but perhaps the most complex. Creating a simple, straight-forward connection between Uptown and downtown New Orleans is not easy. Interstate off-ramps, the odd angle of St Andrew Street, streetcar tracks below Baronne Street, and the circuitous path of Loyola Avenue as it turns into Simon Bolivar underneath the expressway all contribute to the difficult choice of where to make this connection.
One-way protected lanes were installed on Dryades extending the dedicated lanes of O.C. Haley Blvd underneath the expressway to Howard Avenue (taking away one inbound traffic lane). A two-way parking-protected bikeway was installed on the downtown side of Howard Avenue from Dryades to Baronne Street. The connection between these two protected bikeways, from one side of Howard Avenue to the other, remained difficult for bikers to safely navigate.
The protected lanes underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway received nearly universally positive feedback.
Algiers Ferry Connector
Two-Way Protected Bikeway
Two-way protected on Canal Street from Convention Center Blvd to Tchoupitoulas Street
Two-way protected on Tchoupitoulas from Canal Street to Common St; one-way on Tchoupitoulas between Gravier and Common Street
Bike Fixation ‘Wave’ Delineators installed along Canal Street adjacent to Harrah’s
Dero Ped-rail installed on Canal Street at Tchoupitoulas and Convention Center intersections
Sybertech planters on Canal Street (2)
Stronger connections for the ferry - more service, extend hours. New ferry terminal should improve bike access and connections to bus and streetcar.
Design should be seamless to terminal
More protection needed - cars, trucks, and buses block the bike lane despite posts
Connect Canal - many bikers prefer Canal to adjacent streets; wish to see it as major bikeway
“Absolutely love it! I use it every day to get to work”
“Such a necessary safety measure on this hectic car-dominated street. I sometimes feel as if I am in danger even being extremely cautious on my bicycle or when walking because the cars make such dangerous maneuvers here.”
Notes on Algiers Ferry Connector
An especially important route for service industry and hospital workers. There was concern about the interchange at Tchoupitoulas at Canal Street, and the turns onto and from Common and Gravier. However, bikers, walkers, and drivers seemed to navigate these intersections without much issue.
This route’s utility was somewhat diminished when the Decatur/North Peters center-running protected bikeway installation was cancelled.
Lafitte Greenway Connector
Basin, St. Louis, and Toulouse Streets
Dual Running Protected Bikeways
Conventional bike lane on St Louis St to Basin St
Contraflow bike lane on St Louis St to Rampart St
Left-turn at island converted to protected contraflow lane
Green bike crossings in both directions - Basin @ St. Louis
Protected lane on Basin to Toulouse St
1-block of parking removed
Themes from Respondents
Huge improvement in connection from Lafitte Greenway -- Many commenters demand traffic calming, improved biking and walking infrastructure, and crossing signals
Design could be more intuitive
“In the past, I merged into traffic to make a left turn and felt unsafe. Having the green bike box turn is a great idea, and makes this dangerous crossing safer and less complicated.”
“It’s made biking from Mid City to the Quarter a better option than driving. Thank you.”
“This is my absolute favorite change. This was previously the scariest part of my commute and now has been made drastically safer. The painted lines tell the motorists what I am going to do before I do it and I have found far less frequently I have been put into a dangerous situation and that motorists are less frustrated as well.”
Notes on Lafitte Greenway Connector
The disconnect when traveling New Orleans’ safest and most enjoyable bikeway, the Lafitte Greenway, and then attempting to cross Basin Street into the French Quarter is harrowing. Many bikers, walkers, and drivers fear for their lives at this dangerous exchange. Many have been hit and injured. The need to make a change is urgent, which is why the improvements made in this installation have proven so popular.
Green turn boxes which designate a portion of the roadway for people biking to attempt a turn were well received by committed and occasional bike riders.
The design here is complicated with many trade-offs. One short block of a contraflow lane was installed, only to be removed due to NOPD parking needs. The same is true for the protected lane which lead people biking from the greenway across Basin to Toulouse Street.
Additional protection and traffic-calming are needed to make this exchange safe for all travelers.
Central City Protected Bikeway
(Simon Bolivar Ave + MLK, Jr Blvd)
One-way semi-protected bike lanes on both sides of Simon Bolivar Avenue between Jackson Avenue and Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard
One-way semi-protected bike lanes on both sides of Martin Luther King, Junior Boulevard between Simon Bolivar Avenue and Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
Street parking unaffected
Needs a better road surface
Safer than before; prefer lanes adjacent to sidewalk
Thoughts are flex posts will incur less damage
“Cars no longer speed side by side, making the street safer for kids crossing and for cyclists. Keep it.”
“This is the model all protected bike lanes should follow. It allows cars to see cyclists and the lane moves in the same direction as the traffic.”
“This has been particularly helpful for those of us that live Uptown in the Freret, Milan and Central City neighborhoods to safely and quickly travel by bike towards downtown.”
Notes on Central City Protected Bikeway
The poor condition of the two roadways used in this installation was the common thread in the feedback. However, the design was the most notable feature, essentially a traditional bike lane with sparsely placed flex-posts. This approach refrained from altering residents familiar parking spots in front of their homes, while directing automobiles out of the bike lanes. More data is needed to ascertain whether the design was truly successful.