Apr 032017

Residents discuss the best bicycle share station locations during a public workshop Monday evening.

By Claire Byun

A slew of bicycle share stations are proposed along Esplanade Avenue and the Lafitte Greenway, and Mid-City residents got their chance at criticizing or recommending them Monday night.

The 700 custom-designed bicycles will be placed at an estimated 70 stations designated at locations in neighborhoods around the city as part of a citywide bicycle share program, Dwight Norton of the mayor’s office of resilience, said. The program launches in October after three more public workshops, an online survey, several draft plans and a public hearing.

Norton and his team hosted the Mid-City/Bayou St. John bicycle share public workshop Monday evening to a crowd of about 40 people.

There will be about 15 stations around Mid-City, Norton said. All stations will be sized “according to context,” Norton said, meaning a less-populated area will only have spots for a few bikes. Pedestrian-heavy areas, such as the Central Business District and Canal Street, could have room for up to 20 bikes.

There will also be 10 walk-up kiosks throughout the city, though those will only be placed as densely-populated areas, Norton said.

Stations also must be in a public space that remains open 24/7 and has some sunlight during the day, since the bikes’ systems are solar powered, Norton said.

“If we’re trying to look at different transportation alternatives, they have to be functional in a way that actually gets people around,” Norton said.

A bulk of Mid-City’s locations were proposed along Esplanade Avenue and the Lafitte Greenway, especially near Conti Street. There were seven proposed stations along the Greenway, some at the intersection of side roads and Banks Avenue, and multiple along Canal Street. Tulane Avenue and South Jefferson Davis Parkway was another option addressed during the workshop.

Stations were proposed for multiple spots along Esplanade, including Wisner Boulevard, N. Rendon Street, Crete Street and Ponce De Leon. Norton said that area will most like have four to five stations, compared to just three or four in other parts of the neighborhood.

Nellie Catzen, program coordinator for Friends of Lafitte Greenway, said she was impressed with the number of people who showed up to the workshop. She said any number of stations along the Greenway would be beneficial, since about 750 people ride the greenspace every day.

“I think that the Greenway is a major faraway, so we know the need is there, but it’s a matter of figuring out which [stations] make sense,” Catzen said.

Participants were spread among nine tables adorned with large maps of Mid-City, dotted with proposed station locations. Major landmarks, such as schools, grocery stores and libraries were also marked to identify station locations better and also gauge the amount of use those proposed stations would incur.

A facilitator walked each table through each Mid-City station, which took a little more than an hour for most tables. Residents could support the station, remain neutral or “express concerns.”

An overview of the station location map used during the public workshop.

Steve Kaplan, who owns property in Mid-City, said he disliked the fact that people who live outside of the neighborhood could nominate station spots. He would have preferred each neighborhood, no matter how small, conduct their own workshop.

“Our goal is to meet the needs of the residents, to focus on quality of life, and who knows better than the people who live here?” Kaplan said.

Robert Thompson, who kickstarted a bike share study group among the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, said the workshop still left some things “in the dark.” He’s hoping to get more transparency on how the city will decide final locations for the stations.

Kaplan argued the program isn’t meant for residential use, as advertised. He’s worried the bike share is meant to help short-term renters move through the city with more ease, thus increasing tourism. Alan Ma, planning and launch director for Social Bicycles, said the program’s main beneficiaries are residents.

“We’re really trying to make sure this does work with the people who live here,” Ma said.

Thompson also questioned how equitable the program is, since the elderly, obese or disabled would not be able to participate. Regardless, he said the workshop had some highlights.

“People were able to give location suggestions, and maybe the city will listen,” Kaplan said. “Maybe they won’t.”

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