Our open letter to Mayor Cantrell showing support for protected bikeways in downtown New Orleans

Dear Mayor Cantrell,

We see you and thank you for continuing to work for safe & accessible streets for everyone in New Orleans, despite the many challenges brought to bear during the pandemic. The New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition is reaching out to share our gratitude and show support for the Complete Streets and protected bikeway improvements proposed for the Central Business District.

We’re also sending along testimonials from downtown business leaders and petition signatures in support. Important change can sometimes be difficult, but, especially thanks to strong community engagement, we know that Complete Streets in the CBD will bring benefits to everyone.

New Orleanians understand why safe, affordable, healthy transportation to downtown matters for their personal (and the city’s) quality of life. From a telephone poll conducted last year,

  • 58% of Orleans residents agree with, “If there were safe bike lanes between my home and my favorite restaurant or store, I would sometimes ride my bike instead of driving.”
  • 87% support, “building dedicated bike lanes to help downtown hospitality workers get to work more reliably”, and
  • 70% would be willing to “Shop and dine more often downtown if there were more safe and accessible transportation options, including bicycling and transit, for getting around downtown”

As mayor you’ve acted on the need for Complete Streets. Thank you for creating the Office of Transportation and empowering DPW to build the many, soon to be 75, miles of new low-stress bikeways. We see your commitment in the City’s new data-driven and equity-focused Complete Streets policy. We look forward to continuing to see that policy’s effect in action.

By this summer and fall, thanks to your Moving New Orleans Bikes initiative, residents of every age and skill level will be able to enjoy safe, low-stress rides from St. Roch to Broadmoor, from Cutoff to Mid-City. Most impactfully for jobs and the economy, residents living Uptown, in Mid-City, the 7th Ward, and Algiers will all have the new option of a low-stress commute to jobs in the CBD and French Quarter. To achieve its potential in providing a safe, affordable mobility option, it is essential for the MNOB network to connect to and through the Central Business District. The proposed changes to Baronne, O’Keefe, Julia, and Howard Streets are necessary and important!

Thirty-five members and sixty-seven supporting organizations in the New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition thank you for this progress. Over 400 residents say they can’t wait for protected bikeways to and from their job or favorite shop downtown. Twenty-seven local businesses joined us for a virtual breakfast meeting to learn how to benefit from better biking and mobility in New Orleans. Eleven local organizations are creating projects to tell their stories and celebrate the new bike lanes with their friends and families. We even have a public art grant awarded to a homegrown artist inspired by a living, green, thriving New Orleans.

Below (and attached) we’ve included a few testimonials in support of improved biking infrastructure in downtown New Orleans:

Support from Businesses

From small businesses and organizations to large enterprises and corporations, business leaders are looking forward to the benefits of the proposed low-stress bikeway network connecting to and through the Central Business & Warehouse Districts and what it will mean for their business, employees, customers, and neighborhood. Here are a few of their testimonials:

“With our Schools of Medicine, Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Social Work and Tulane Medical Center all located in downtown New Orleans, many Tulane University faculty, students and staff need safe and accessible transportation options for getting to and around the CBD. As the largest private employer in the city, and with a large and growing presence downtown, Tulane University supports the proposed bikeway network improvements in the CBD and recognizes all the benefits they’ll bring to everyone who bikes, walks, and drives downtown.”

Liz Davey is Director of the Office of Sustainability, Tulane University

“As a Louisiana-based firm located in the Greater New Orleans Area for over 35 years, Fenstermaker welcomes the proposed improvements by the Moving New Orleans initiative near our office in the CBD. The proposed revisions to O’Keefe Ave, Baronne St, Julia St and Howard Ave will improve safety for our employees and neighbors who bike to work and regularly walk to restaurants and businesses located along these thoroughfares.
By reducing potential conflicts between cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians, these improvements will create a more pleasant experience traveling through New Orleans’ dense urban core.  Our design engineers applaud the City’s modern solutions modeled after best practices developed and implemented successfully in other major urban centers across the country.  Fenstermaker looks forward to seeing New Orleans continue to cement itself into the top tier of bicycle-friendly cities in America, and we are excited to walk, bike and drive these improved corridors ourselves.”

Stefan Bourgeois is the New Orleans Engineer Manager for Fenstermaker

“We’re excited for the new low-stress bikeway network coming to the CBD for the peace of mind it will bring to everyone traveling downtown. For us at Beaubourg, it makes our jobs as storytellers easier when it’s easy for the community to come here, make new connections, to be creative together. When their journey is stressful or dangerous or expensive, it makes it harder for us to do what we aim to do.”

David Williams runs the Beaubourg Theatre and School on Gravier Street in the Central Business District.

“Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had approximately 11 miles of bicycle paths, but through an innovative public-private partnership, Entergy has served as a catalyst to help make New Orleans one of the nation’s top cities for bicycling. The city now boasts nearly 130 miles of installed bikeways and connecting pathways.

Continuing in this initiative, we’re geared up and excited to support the Complete Streets improvements in the CBD. It’s our responsibility as a company headquartered in the CBD to not only help ensure the safety of our customers and employees cycling in the area for work and pleasure, but also to help address the significant challenges of climate change through carbon emission reduction and increased green infrastructure across the city.”

Patty Riddlebarger is Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Entergy, the only Fortune 500 company located in New Orleans with headquarters in the CBD.

Support from Residents

I live downtown, and a bike is my only transportation. The Baronne bike lane is violated constantly by cars, and needs to be a protected lane. O’Keefe is worse, in that the lane disappears right before it’s needed most – a block before Poydras!

– Jeffrey B

I don’t want to commute to work in fear for my life anymore. These improvements are important to cyclists and motorists as well.

– Rob H.

I am 100% in support of protected bike lanes and street safety improvements in the CBD! As a worker in the area it would be beneficial to me to have easy biking access to and from work…or play.

– Stacey B.

We are a 1 car family and therefore one of us has to ride to work on a bike with a child. In order to ensure the safety of New Orleanians and their children it is necessary to create safe and protected bike lanes.

– Mary P.

Thank you Mayor Cantrell for pushing to make this progress real and impactful for the people of New Orleans. We’re working every day to build this movement alongside you and your team.

To a healthier, safer, more mobile New Orleans, we look forward to joining you on the streets for another bike ride or walk in the near future!

The New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition