EPA releases report on possible bikeshare program in Baton Rouge

EPA releases report on possible bikeshare program in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There is enough support for a bikeshare program in Baton Rouge, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the report also shows a lot of work is needed for it to come to fruition.

In early 2015, Baton Rouge received a U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) grant through its Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program to investigate the possible creation of a local Bike Share program.  EPA staff and experts submitted a report in the fall of 2015 to the city outlining the next steps involved in the implementation of a bike share program similar to other cities across the nation.

The report says, "Baton Rouge has a number of strengths that will contribute to its pursuit of a bikeshare system. The foundation for bikeshare has already been laid with a strong bike community in the downtown areas, and the many bikable destinations for locals and tourists make the city attractive to explore by bicycle."

The report shows strong support overall, with the public, political leaders and stakeholders. However, there is still resistance in the community.

In 2014, East Baton Rouge Parish adopted a Complete Streets Policy to ensure streets are designed for all users of all ages and abilities. The Complete Streets Policy can help pave the way for the continuation of a bike-friendly streets around the city.

Another plus for the bikeshare program in Baton Rouge is the weather. Although the summer months can be brutal, the rest of the year is ideal for bicycling.

There are, however, some challenges for a bikeshare program in the Capitol City. Lack of funding and infrastructure are two of the biggest obstacles.

"The challenges to bikeshare planning in Baton Rouge are linked to its infrastructure and funding for bicycle-related infrastructure and programs. Converting drivers to alternate modes will require the city to overcome some of these obstacles."

Although no funding is currently identified for bikeshare implementation, the EPA Building Blocks effort helped Baton Rouge determine what type and size of a bikeshare system is feasible, along with some concepts on how a system might be designed, funded, and implemented.

"The desire for a safe and connected system of bicycling infrastructure and routes was a constant theme in every discussion. While efforts are underway for many system upgrades and enhancements, the area is still many years away from having a fully interconnected and safe network."

The report also states Southern University has shown to be a big advocate for a bikeshare program, however, connecting the Southern University campus into the mainline bikeshare system will remain a challenge until bicycling routes link downtown Baton Route to the campus via Scenic Highway or the neighborhoods immediately east of the highway.

It could take up to a year for the bikeshare program to be ready for the public, but it will take city leaders and organizations to focus on refining the concept and generating a detailed rollout with operating costs.

The report clearly states that the city-parish cannot establish a bikeshare program on its own.

"Implementing and sustaining a bikeshare program in Baton Rouge cannot be realized by the city alone. It will require partnerships between the public sector, private sector, universities, non-profit organizations, and other institutions," the report said.

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