what was learned - study results


 

What impact would a connected and protected biking, walking, and transit network have on people’s travels to and through downtown New Orleans? The City of New Orleans and Bike Easy worked with University of New Orleans to ensure data was collected to be used to move the city forward in the years ahead. An evaluation team, lead by Tara Tolford of U. N. O. Transportation Institute, assembled a framework of objectives to gauge how the project affected all modes of travel and people’s perception of the project. We aimed to address the following questions:

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Thousands of people riding bikes, walking, riding the bus, taking the ferry, and driving in cars and trucks traveled its renovated roadways. Over 20 events were held to engage local residents. Ridership went up. Crashes went down. What did people think of the experience? Was it worth the effort?

“I’ve used my bike more for my commute in the past few months than I ever have. I’ve only filled up my gas tank once in the past 8 weeks. My commute is safer, faster, and more enjoyable with the added lanes.

Top Takeaways

  • Bike ridership increased 20 - 84% over baseline numbers during demonstration

  • Helmet usage increased and illegal sidewalk/wrong-way riding decreased

  • New Orleans’ bicyclists are demographically diverse, especially in areas underserved by infrastructure

  • Vehicular speeding was reduced, thus improving safety. Median speeds held steady, while max speeds dropped up to 26%.

  • Baronne Two-Way Protected Bikeway

    • 5% fewer crashes reported on Baronne relative to pre-demonstration, while 7% more crashes were reported city-wide and on control streets

    • Vehicle travel time - no change during off-peak; increase at peak hour

    • Near elimination of illegal lane usage

    • Transit ridership and on-time performance - OTP improved, ridership up

  • Business and Resident surveys - Online, intercept, and canvassing

    • 85% of bicyclists overall rated their experience as improved

    • 50% of pedestrians rated experience as improved, 50% “about the same”

    • 76% of everyday drivers approved of the project’s roadway renovations

    • 73% of businesses indicated a positive impact from the project

    • 87% (719 of 826) of residents were supportive of the project overall

  • Online respondents show clear majority want to see permanent changes; an overwhelming majority do if minor design adjustments are made


Impacts on Traffic & Safety

 

Protected bikeways lead to fewer crashes --

  • Baronne Street saw a 5% decline in crash-related 911 and 311 calls, compared to a 7% increase across New Orleans during the same period, a difference of 12%.

Safety:

  • Crash rates were 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 median 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 Ave did lower top end speeding, designs should be reconsidered to ensure transitions are well marked to reduce crashes.

  • 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.

A sharp reduction in speeding  --

  • On Baronne Street - 0% change in average speed, with a 26% drop in top speed.

  • On Simon Bolivar Avenue - Median speed of inbound traffic dropped 18%, with a 37% drop in top speed. As vehicles left downtown, median speed dropped 10%, with a 20% drop in top speed.

Demand:

  • 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

  • Bicyclists observed using helmets on Baronne Street increased by approximately 7 percentage points (from 27 to 34%), and 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.

Performance:

  • 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.

  • Overall transit on-time performance for the 15-Freret bus, which traverses the Baronne corridor, improved slightly during the demonstration period


Transportation Choices Survey

Ultimately, how Connect The Crescent impacted the flow of traffic for various modes is only part of the story. Another key objective was to capture and gauge community sentiment. After all, the project intended to demonstrate a better, safer transportation system for local residents. Did people biking, walking, driving, riding the bus or the ferry feel the benefits of a connected, protected network? Just as important, how were business owners and workers affected?


Different methods were used to capture a wide and representative range of voices. A dedicated website was built, Connecthecrescent.com, where people could learn about the project and share their perspective by taking a long-form survey titled, ‘Transportation Choices’. Flyers, social media, email blasts, and media hits encouraged residents to visit the site and take the survey. A short-form version of the survey was collected at events across the city and at ‘intervention sites’ throughout the installation footprint. Bike Easy staff and volunteers went door-to-door canvassing residences and businesses. General feedback was also collected using a submission form on the website and directly to the City via an email address, connectthecrescent@nola.gov.

Who was surveyed?

Residences and businesses along proposed Connect the Crescent corridors were canvassed before, during, and after the demonstration. In-person resident and business surveys were collected between April 2018 and January 2019. Once the full network was installed, the online survey was opened to all residents between October 2018 and January 2019.


“In your view, what is New Orleans' most pressing transportation need?”

One particular question and answers provided context for the challenges affecting New Orleans, it’s economic vitality, the state of its infrastructure, affordability, and other issues. When asking individuals about transportation challenges as they see them, these emerged as key themes:

  • Reliable and accessible public transportation, integrated with other forms of travel -- “Safe and reliable mass transportation especially for working people who need to travel late at night or very early in the morning.”

  • Connectivity of biking, walking, buses and ferries focused on underserved neighborhoods and service industry workers -- “Transportation for working class without a car.”

  • Protected bikeways paired with repaired potholes for improved road surfaces -- “Access to non-car based transport, especially in poorer neighborhoods. That means improved bike lanes and routes, and/or better public transport.”

  • Drivers and bikers respecting rules of road, with enforcement from NOPD

“We need more bike lanes that connect to each other, connect neighborhoods, and don't end suddenly.”

Pre-existing views of biking and walking conditions around downtown New Orleans

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A series of questions asked whether respondents would bike more if bike lanes were... better located, safer, protected, or better connected. All respondents agreed they would bike more in all cases, ranging between 70-85% saying they would. The one demonstrable difference being ‘Strong Agreement’ to biking more when lanes are “better located” yielding responses in the mid 40th percentiles compared to all other improvements receiving responses in the 60’s range. This could suggest satisfaction with the current placement of lanes, or skepticism about what “better located” would mean.

“I feel safer now than ever before cycling on these new, protected bike lanes. When driving my car, I also feel safer because it shows cyclists the appropriate place to ride on the street as well as the proper direction.”

After experiencing the Connect The Crescent installations, did residents approve?

Business Perspectives

*57% of businesses gave a neutral response. Of those who indicated an opinion, 73% were positive. Remaining respondents gave no answer to this question.

*57% of businesses gave a neutral response. Of those who indicated an opinion, 73% were positive. Remaining respondents gave no answer to this question.