BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Meagan Delatte hits the streets around LSU Lakes almost every day. She started jogging with her dad three years ago. It's not just the scenery that attracts her and the hundreds of other runners here.
“It's a friendly sidewalk around the lakes,” says Delatte. The Lakes are one of the few places in the city with wide, dedicated lanes for running and biking.
No runner would ever dream of dodging traffic on Government Street . . . Or would they?
Beaux Jones is the executive director of Bike BR, and he envisions running and biking trails throughout the city. He says it's just a matter of changing the way we think about our roads and who uses them. For Jones, the road is not just for cars. And they should be designed with all users in mind, from the handicapped and elderly to pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit users, businesses, and neighbors.
Jones contends that for too long, we've viewed roads as merely a way of getting from one point to another and not thinking about who really uses them. “Are we thinking about the hundreds of people that run along the sidewalk next to 40 mile-per-hour traffic?”
He and a group of community leaders are circulating a petition asking the Metro Council to adopt what he calls a Complete Street mentality. The idea is to get city planners and engineers to re-imagine roads as they need to be re-surfaced or repaired.
“What we need to do is have a paradigm shift that says, before we consider how to change the roads, we're going to ask different questions. Is there a way to make this better for pedestrians? For bicyclists? For the handicapped?”
Jones points to the planned re-design of Government Street as the best current example of Complete Street planning. There the city plans to reduce traffic lanes to make room for a bike path and improved sidewalk. It is an effort to reduce vehicle traffic and encourage park-and-walk shopping.
Jones says he and his group are not asking to balloon budgets for road projects. He insists Complete Street can fit within existing financing. He says it's a matter of considering things like alternate use lanes and expanded sidewalks at the front end of a project instead of trying to cram it in near the end, and not asking how can the city afford it, but rather what the city stands to lose without it.
He says, “It's not about increasing costs. It's not about burdening the taxpayer. It's about saying with the money we have, with the projects in the pipeline, can we make them better?”
And he admits that bike paths and sidewalks are not a good fit on every road. “There may not be a need for a crosswalk on every corner. There may not be a need, or it may be too costly to put a bike lane in, but we want that question to be asked.”
Jones' petition can be found here. (