'Connect the Crescent' - Final Report

Top Takeaways

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

    • 85% of bicyclists rated their experience as improved

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

    • Majority of motorists rated experience as the same or improved

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

    • 87% (719 of 826 respondents) of residents were supportive of the project overall; majority would like to see changes made permanent (or tweaked to make them even better!)

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

  • Helmet usage increased

  • Illegal sidewalk/wrong-way riding decreased

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

  • Vehicle speeds - Median speeds held steady - Max speeds dropped up to 26%

  • Crashes and safety - 5% fewer crashes on Baronne St relative to pre-intervention/control streets

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

  • Reduction in illegal lane usage on Baronne

  • Transit ridership and on-time performance - OTP improved, ridership went up on segment of corridor impacted

Project Overview

'Connect the Crescent', a 3-month trial of a connected and protected transportation network, demonstrated how New Orleans city streets can be transformed quickly and affordably for biking, walking, and transit to be safe and accessible for everyone. 'Connect the Crescent' came together as a private-public collaboration between Bike Easy and a range of community partners working with the City of New Orleans.Over 200 community residents gave their time as volunteers to make it a success. Because community residents and organizations were in the lead, 'Connect the Crescent' was able to be executed quickly and flexibly, while the City’s involvement guaranteed all renovations were fully accountable to the citizens of New Orleans.

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For economic opportunity and security, for improved community health, for safety, for our public finances, for livable neighborhoods and a higher quality of life, and for sustainability encouraging biking, walking, and transit usage is imperative to a viable future in New Orleans.

Protected bike lanes, used all around the world, are efficient and reliable in designating and separating sections of the roadway. What makes a bike lane protected is the presence of a physical barrier, such as plant boxes, flex-posts, or concrete curbs, that creates separation between automobile and bike traffic.

We often hear New Orleanians say they would love to bike to work or bike with their family, but the idea of sharing the road with cars and trucks feels too dangerous. 'Connect the Crescent' was designed to expand ridership by creating a safe and accessible experience traveling to and through downtown New Orleans. Increasing the numbers of bikers among women and African-Americans was a particular goal of the project.

Protected bikeways were the centerpiece. Installing physical barriers between people biking and driving, studies have shown protected bikeways greatly reduce the likelihood of a crash. In the place of bikers and drivers competing for space, everyone knows where they are supposed to be traveling, making them less-stressed and more secure.

Initial plans came together in the winter of 2017/2018. In spring ‘18, designs and outreach began in earnest, with Bike Easy and the City of New Orleans holding a pair of community design charrettes in the French Quarter and Central City. Installation of roughly 2.5 miles of protected bikeways and new pedestrian walkways took place in September and October of 2018. All installations were removed by December 20th. We estimate during the network’s three months of operation, over _________  bike riders, _______ drivers, … To help local residents learn why the changes were being made, project partners organized over  20 community activities that included over ______ participants.

It worked! Take a look During operation from September 15th - December 20th, overall ridership in the network increased by ___ percent. mobility in New Orleans safer, more comprehensive and more equitable for everyone. Rather than maps and public meetings, we can all evaluate used real experience recorded through surveys and data collection.

Rethinking New Orleans Streets

In its 300th year, New Orleans doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to its streets. Though they play host to the city’s legendary parade culture, they are just as well known for their dangerous shortcomings. Potholes, sinkholes, sketchy bridge crossings, spotty bus service, and inattentive drivers are an everyday fact of life. There’s often all sorts of obstacles people have to dodge traveling along our narrow streets and busy avenues - whether we’re walking, biking, or driving. In so many ways, New Orleans is tailor-made to become the United States’ most walkable and bikeable city, but a host of factors contribute to why that hasn’t come to pass - crumbling infrastructure pervaded by water that comes from every direction, decades of economic stagnation, a city grid of narrow one-way streets, entrenched poverty, and a deep-rooted distrust of government.

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Like most American cities, New Orleans spent a century planning its transportation needs around cars and trucks. In a city where nearly 1 in 5 households lack access to a motor vehicle, needing to own a car will inherently leave some people behind.  They don’t avoid an appointments because the sidewalks don’t provide ADA access or the bus stop has no place nearby to lock their bike or because they can’t afford to fix their car. They miss school while waiting for a friend to give them a ride. Such chronic conditions limit the city’s growth and people’s opportunities. They’ve been a fact of life in New Orleans for generations.

'Connect the Crescent' was designed to foster community engagement and discussion. Residents, workers and all community members will have an opportunity to engage about street design and participate in the process of reimagining the whole idea of mobility in New Orleans. There will be surveys and feedback activities, an interactive website, family-friendly events to experience the bikeway network, traffic studies, and more!

This ultimate goals of 'Connect the Crescent' are to further health equity, increase job access, improve roadway safety, stimulate economic benefits, support environmental sustainability and resilience, and contribute to a high quality-of-life in New Orleans. Stay tuned for a report that outlines how we we were able to track successes in some of these goals and what lessons we learned along the way.

Experimenting with Pop-Ups

Eager for approaches to build grassroots support for bike infrastructure to get people moving, Bike Easy and the City of New Orleans began collaborating on small-scale “pop-up” renovations in the summer of 2017. For three weeks in August, New Orleans only parking-protected bikeway was in operation along a half-mile stretch of Saint Bernard Avenue in the 7th Ward. As would later be replicated with 'Connect the Crescent', Bike Easy staff and volunteers were in the lead. Using criteria provided by the City, Bike Easy conducted outreach to people who regularly commuted downtown to decide which corridor could benefit the most from protected lanes, while minimizing any negative impact to automobile traffic and parking.

People walking, biking, or driving along St. Bernard during this three week period got to experience and talk about whether the change made their local thoroughfare safer and more accessible. And it was a success— _____ residents responded to a survey saying they felt safer on the protected bikeway. Residents and commuters engaged one another about ways to better share our streets.

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That was the primary conclusion drawn from the 2017 collaboration between the City and Bike Easy, a 3-week ‘pop-up’ protected bikeway on St. Bernard Avenue. During that small-scale demonstration, data collection captured traffic speeds, usage rates, and community feedback. Together the data showed increased ridership, with people biking more often how they should: with the flow of traffic and in their designated lane, instead of on the sidewalk. Across the board, everyone felt as safe or safer with the protected bikeways, whether walking, driving or biking. Of course, people biking felt much safer! With such positive results achieved with inexpensive, volunteer-constructed and installed materials, the broader and deeper benefits likely to result from better-constructed and farther-reaching protected bikeway installations is hard to escape.

This initial collaboration between the City of New Orleans and community partners was expressly lead by volunteers

Bike Easy believes that to reduce those crashes, New Orleans should begin the work of creating a network of protected bikeways that decreases the vulnerability of people biking, whether it be to work or visiting a friend across town. The specific designs for such protected bikeways might differ greatly from the design deployed this summer on St. Bernard Avenue. That’s fine. The larger point remains: reductions in serious crashes come from either reduced speed limits or separated spaces for people biking and people driving to travel. That’s why a network of protected bikeways is a key component in Bike Easy’s push for more streets built to share for every part of greater New Orleans. Safe, accessible, protected routes should run through and connect all of our major neighborhoods — Uptown, Mid-City, Algiers, Lakeview, Gentilly, the 9th Ward, New Orleans East, as well as communities in Jefferson and St. Bernard Parishes.

In order to reduce crashes and grow ridership, New Orleans should begin creating a network of protected bikeways. Our goal is to create a healthier, safer, and more secure New Orleans. For that to happen, people should be able to reach their destinations in a safe, timely manner no matter how they choose to travel. They shouldn’t have to own an automobile. It should be a priority to provide an integrated transportation network.