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Voices on Violence response: Police the streets with pedestrian traffic

This week, NolaVie is publishing responses to Voices on Violence. The series arose as a response to the Mother’s Day shootings in New Orleans that injured 20 people. Comprised of one-on-one interviews with a diverse group of residents, it explores why and how people live here, how they assess risk, and what specific things they believe can help change the cycle of violence in New Orleans. Please join the conversation; send commentary, responses and interview suggestions to  [email protected]. This email is from reader April Leigh.

My name is April Leigh and I am a pedestrian. I was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fl., lived for four years in Atlanta, Ga., and now live in the wonderful New Orleans.

Jacksonville and Atlanta are among the least pedestrian-friendly cities in America -- Jacksonville, I believe, being somewhere around the worst as was rated recently. New Orleans is a special city for many reasons, but one that stands out to me is the walkability of it. In the South, its unusual to have a densely built, walkable/ bikeable city. Much of the landscape is sprawling and highway heavy.

Although New Orleans is walkable, there are not so many resident pedestrians. Sure, the tourists love a good stroll, and if you are lucky enough to live near your favorite watering hole, taking a night walk to it is common.

However, the real "get out and go walking to where you are going" seems left to the "absolutely have to" category. There are various reasons why people don't walk, but what I want to write about is a very important factor that keeps people from going out, as well as the effect I believe more people on the sidewalk would have on our city.

  1. Problem of the modern sidewalk: Covered, shady sidewalks. As a pedestrian, I can admit to the many times i have crossed the street multiple times in order to be on the shady side. Humidity is a way of life in the summer, but the glaring oppressive sun doesn't have to be. Newer buildings going up in the city are being slapped with a "nature band aid," which is more like a group of bushes or flimsy tress that will never function as a proper canopy. In places where there are no trees big enough to prove shade, there should be awnings on buildings. It makes all the difference and helps to keep walking around in the summer a little more bearable.
  2. Community result of more pedestrians: Safer neighborhoods with more eyes on the streets. We as a community are concerned with the basics of crime in our areas. I am lucky to have nosy neighbors on my block. The basic principal of more people out walking is a safer street environment. Not only do the people walking around keep their eyes on everything, but the natural desire to people-watch keeps neighbors' eyes fixated on the streets and watching the goings on.

These are but a couple of theories I have on how society can be saved through walking and biking. Viva la Feet!

April Leigh submitted this commentary to NolaVie. Voices on Violence: Conversations about life in New Orleans is a NolaVie/WWNO series that features individual interviews with the city’s residents. If you would like to be interviewed, or to comment on the series, email [email protected]