This past week the City of New Orleans shared plans to significantly expand areas for walking and outdoor dining in the French Quarter. The proposals reimagines how we use our streets and puts people first. In this moment, it’s the kind of bold action our struggling businesses, artists and musicians desperately need.
As a coalition of 27 local organizations committed to making New Orleans streets safe, accessible, and sustainable for all people regardless of how they travel — by car, by bike, by bus, by wheelchair, or by foot — we’re excited about the opportunities this effort provides to the residents, businesses, and artists who call the Quarter and New Orleans home. We also want to thank Mayor Cantrell and Councilmember Kristin Palmer for thinking big and acting boldly for our future.
Of course, big plans for historic locations are bound to be met with many questions about exactly what change would mean. Now’s the time for those questions, and as a New Orleans resident, you know best what the right questions are.
Besides the fact that New Orleans year after year ranks among the deadlier American cities to walk or bike, we are now amidst historic public health and economic crises. Our local restaurants, music venues, and the city’s hospitality industry are hanging on by a thread. It’s going to take dramatic intervention just to keep the lights on.
Reimagining and quickly acting to create safe environments are imperative to saving jobs, careers, entire industries, and, most critically, the culture that sustains them.
Last week, members of the Coalition joined leaders of various French Quarter groups on a walking tour of the City’s proposed changes. To be sure, there was concern expressed regarding the feasibility of some interventions, but there was also much agreement and enthusiasm for the project’s goals, and for many of the proposed solutions, including:
- Expanding walkways and repaired sidewalks outfitted to be ADA compliant
- Parklets outside restaurants and venues for dining and entertainment
- Slowing down local car traffic
- Safe connections for people biking to and through the Quarter
- Shutting off entertainment corridors to automobiles during certain hours
- Possible shuttle service to bring workers and visitors to destinations from adjacent parking lots
All of these changes would reduce traffic, add space for people to move safely and businesses to operate and entertainers to perform.
If we join together with goodwill and determined leadership, we can preserve the character and culture of New Orleans’ historic center, while reclaiming much of it’s public space to the free, safe, accessible movement of it’s people, and save our cultural economy in the process.