Walking, bicycling and taking public transportation soon will get easier in New Orleans, thanks to work from a Tulane University public health group. The city is beginning to make plans to follow its new “complete streets” policy, a set of procedures that promotes improvements to streets and sidewalks to support people who don’t use or have motor vehicles.
New Orleanian Michael Smith prefers his bike, but
streetcar and bus transportation are also options. The
city is making plans for its "complete streets" policy for
street and sidewalk improvements.
(Photo by Cheryl Gerber)
“Now the streets that are going to get repaired will be designed and built with the needs of all transportation modes in mind,” says Matt Rufo, program manager for the KidsWalk Coalition. The coalition is a Tulane-affiliated group of public health, transportation and advocacy organizations and agencies dedicated to reducing childhood obesity in New Orleans through policies and infrastructure improvements.
Unsafe streets and damaged sidewalks make it difficult for kids to be active, said Rufo, who also is working with the city’s Public Works Department to assist in the complete streets implementation.
The Tulane Prevention Research Center and the KidsWalk Coalition were among the groups that helped draft the policy, which was unanimously passed by the New Orleans City Council in December 2011. The state Department of Transportation and Development already has an internal complete streets policy for its state-owned highways.
The complete streets policy requires streets to be designed and constructed for all users. This means considering installation of bike lanes, sidewalks, bus-stop shelters, crosswalks and signs warning motorists of bus-loading areas and pedestrians. But not all complete streets look the same — what is created depends on available space, traffic volume and other factors.
In the past, the city has made “complete streets” improvements, such as adding bike lanes and sidewalks to streets incrementally, though not as a matter of policy.
“It was the result of individual advocacy efforts,” Rufo says. “That’s not a sustainable system.”