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Cycling New Orleans: Decatur Street rally draws significant support

Though it did not change the “incomplete” striping plan for Decatur or North Peters Streets, the stir caused by the cycling community during the days leading up to and including a Bike Easy-organized rally in front of Jackson Square to contest the Department of Public Works’ exclusion of bike lanes within the corridor garnered widespread support from a diverse group of community members.

Over the course of three hours on the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 20, roughly 150 citizens showed up on the steps to the “Moonwalk” and publicly expressed their desire that North Peters and Decatur be “complete streets” and include bike lanes.

The reasons given for their support ranged from the humorous:

“First and foremost [we need more bike lanes] to keep my mother from worryin’ about her poor child down here in this city who keeps getting hit!”

To the scientific:

“I worked on the Count and Crash Reports that indicated that this is one of the top cycling corridors in the city and also has a very high rate of crashes.”

To the first-hand experience:

"I ride Decatur Street every day to and from work and it’s very dangerous.”

The demonstration also generated a significant amount of encouragement from passers-by. Many motorists honked in approval as they drove by. Cyclists rang their bells in support as demonstrators cheered and guided them toward the faux bike lane that a few of the cheekier protesters had temporarily installed at the location. And, numerous others signed a petition that would later be submitted to Mayor Landrieu.

After all was said and done, Bike Easy had collected 910 signatures as well as letters of support from the French Quarter Business Association, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tulane Prevention Research Center, UNO Transportation Institute, Sustainable Transportation Advisory Committee, and Ride New Orleans in a matter of five days.

The overwhelming amount of support for a more complete street design on Decatur brought forth by the community at the eleventh hour clearly demonstrates the need for engagement at an earlier stage in the process. So, while the DPW did not change its mind on the immediate issue, light was shed on the broader problem – lack of public input.

Bike Easy is hopeful that in the future, as New Orleans moves forward with a number of other big projects such as the resurfacing of St. Charles Avenue from Nashville to Lee Circle, it will be able to coordinate with the Department of Public Works and Regional Planning Commission at an earlier stage to provide ample opportunity for input from the community.

This photo gallery of the action on Decatur was contributed by the lovely and talented Ms. Marin Tockman -- bagel aficionada and shutterbug extraordinaire.

M.T. Hinson writes about the bicycling community of New Orleans for NolaVie.