Tracy Deroche, owner of the Phoenix Bar on Elysian Fields, sat down with the New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition to share why he supports safe streets for all road users, how his business has benefited from the new protected bike lanes on Elysian Fields, and his hopes to see safety improve in the future.
The Phoenix Bar sits on the corner of Elysian Fields and N Rampart, where the city has recently installed protected bikeways and improved crosswalks. We joined Tracy in his parklet, a temporary patio installed on the curbside through an effort from the city to allow businesses more outdoor seating, to discuss Complete Streets and their impact to him personally and to his business.
The Phoenix Bar has been operating in New Orleans for 35 years at 941 Elysian Fields. Tracy became the owner ten years ago after managing for 5 years. Though they were previously a 24 hour bar, due to COVID restrictions, they have reduced hours to comply with the city’s ordinance. For the most up to date hours visit their website.
Tracy’s Personal Stake in Complete Streets
In 2019 Tracy’s two young children were involved in a hit and run while riding their bikes. Both of his children had been riding in the bike lane when his oldest daughter noticed a car driving in the bike lane, the children made their way to the curb but the car came up on the curb and struck both children. To this day, the children have long term effects that they are receiving treatment for.
From that horrible incident Tracy knew that the painted lines offered to people on bikes were not sufficient to protect vulnerable road users from motorists. He’s been in constant contact with elected officials and advocates to bring improvements to roadway uses and has been working to implement efforts around educating road users on how to share the road and deterring improper use of road space.
Complete Streets Benefits to Business
From the corner of Esplanade and Rampart, you can see many examples of Complete Streets and the necessity for safe roads for all users. The green of the freshly painted bike lanes, the high visibility barriers that section off a parking spot to serve as the Phoenix’s parklet, and a guerilla painting of a rainbow cross walk on the neutral ground all show a bright and colorful present and future for Complete Streets in New Orleans.
However, one just needs to look down Elysian Fields to see “ghost bikes” lining the neutral ground of Elysian Fields. These ghost bikes are bikes painted completely white and chained up where a person on bike was killed in a crash. Only a block away from Rampart, the intersection of Elysian Fields and St. Claude was such a notoriously dangerous intersection for bicyclists, that a large memorial of mangled white bikes sits prominently in the neutral ground. Tracy will tell you the new protected bikeways and high-visibility crosswalks will go a long way in keeping people biking to and from his bar safely, but there’s still a long way to go to make sure New Orleans’ entire network is protected and connected.
Tracy has welcomed the new protected bike lanes as he knows it will allow his business to thrive. He estimates 90% of employees regularly bike to work and, on the weekdays, 75% of his customer base arrive by bicycle or on-foot.
Tracy knows that people are still adjusting to the new Complete Streets infrastructure, figuring out the correct places to park and best ways to navigate the road. He’s confident that people already feel more safety and less stress getting to and from the Phoenix Bar, and that feeling will only increase with time and continued outreach to the local community.