Travel around New Orleans these days and you can’t help but notice more bicycle lanes, bicycle racks and other bicycle-friendly amenities cropping up. Recently the League of American Bicyclists noticed, too.
To signal its approval, this national advocacy group has chosen New Orleans to receive its Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community award for the first time ever.
League judges picked New Orleans based on a relatively large population of regular bikers, education efforts and investments in the city’s bicycle network.
“This brings national recognition to the hard work we’re doing locally,” says Jamie Wine, executive director of Bike Easy, a local bicycling advocacy nonprofit.
“It’s been a great boost already, and we’ve seen more people volunteer and ask to get involved with the work we do because of it.”
Bike Easy is the new name for a group previously known as the Metro Bicycle Coalition, which has successfully campaigned for more attention to bicycles in city planning and for funding for bicycle infrastructure in street work budgets. It hosts events, like its periodic Bicycle Second Line parades, to raise awareness of the pleasure and ease of biking around the city, and works to make the streets safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
Wine says the award shows that the work of a broad network of bicycling boosters is gaining momentum.
“It’s about more than what people see on the streets, it’s a whole analysis of what’s going on behind the scenes to build this up,” he says. “You still hear from people who say ‘New Orleans isn’t a good bicycling town.’ But when you ask if they think it’s better than four years ago or even two years ago they agree, and it’s getting better each year.”
The league has different levels of achievement for Bicycle Friendly Communities, and New Orleans joined in the entry-level bronze category. Since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has already quadrupled its miles of bikeways and more improvements are on tap.
City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, chair of the city’s Transportation Committee, has set a goal of achieving Gold status as a Bicycle Friendly Community by 2018, saying it “will create a healthier, more sustainable and more prosperous future for all New Orleanians.”