Is Baton Rouge too car-oriented? 

    Over 75% of mayors in major U.S. cities say their cities are “too oriented toward cars,” according to a recent survey of 119 mayors conducted by researchers at Boston University. 

    In Baton Rouge, city officials are reluctant to give a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to that question.  

    “That depends on the neighborhood. We strive to meet the infrastructure needs of our citizens in those specific neighborhoods whether it be car, bicycle, public transit, pedestrian, or a combination of all,” says Mark Armstrong, the city’s communications director, in an email to Daily Report

    He adds that in some neighborhoods, infrastructure for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists all “needs to be enhanced.”  

    Other questions in the survey found:
    • 40% of mayors believe pedestrian travel is unsafe. About half expressed concern for cyclists’ safety
    • 77% say speed limits were generally set at the right level
    • 60% say their cities have enough street parking; most say it was priced well
    • Over 80% say painted bike lanes are as safe as physically separated bike lanes.
    • 71% support making roads accessible to cyclists, even if it would sacrifice parking or driving lanes.

    In response to the questions from the Boston University survey, which were emailed to city officials, Armstrong cites Baton Rouge’s Complete Streets initiative, which requires new infrastructure projects to account for pedestrians and cyclists, and the MovEBR plans as signs the city is in line with these survey results. 

    Yet, as bike lanes continue to be added in many U.S. cities, many road safety and cycling advocates are highlighting a rise in pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Some studies say painted bike lanes pose more of a danger to cyclists than protected bike lane alternatives. 

    The ongoing Government Street road diet project, led by LADOTD, will add bike lanes along most of the roadway. But online designs for the project show the bike lanes will be separated only with a painted line. 

    While construction of that project is under the direction of LADOTD, Armstrong says opting for “physically separated bike lanes depends on right of way, how much right of way exists,” not addressing questions of cost or safety. Ownership of the road is scheduled to turn over to city control upon completion of the project. 

    The city has also struggled for years to address problems with downtown parking. Last year, however, the Metro Council approved a contract with LAZ Parking to manage the city-owned garages and lots. LAZ Parking is expected to better market the paid parking lots to get more cars off the streets. 

    That contract is starting to spur action now, with new parking meters to be installed before the end of the year. The meters will allow for payment via credit cards and apps. They’re also designed to increase turnover, “so yes, they should greatly enhance parking options in downtown,” Armstrong says.   

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