Monday, April 15, 2013
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Better Block Baton Rouge event on Government Street here in Baton Rouge. As you can see from the attached images, it was a lively "demonstration project . . . exploring possibilities for transforming the corridor into a vibrant and safe destination for pedestrians and cyclists, while maintaining quality road design that optimizes traffic flow and access to businesses." I bike to work, about 7 miles each way. It takes roughly the same amount of time as driving, I do not have to pay for campus parking, and when I get home I am done with my exercise for the day. I do not ride on the main corridors here in Baton Rouge, however, because it is so very dangerous. As the Louisiana Center for Planning Excellence reports, while Baton Rouge is the worst city of its size in America for traffic congestion, Louisiana has the worst drivers in the nation and ranks 49th (second worst) for bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. Louisiana is also the fifth most obese state in the nation. Thus, a city with a great need for more cycling also happens to be one of the more dangerous cities in which to cycle.
Programs like Better Block BR are crucial to raise awareness of what our streets could look like if they were re-designed to take into account a broader suite of societal values than the status quo: more walkable, cycle-able cities, aesthetic benefits, improved traffic flows, greater access to community amenities, environmental benefits, health benefits, among a variety of other positives. I applaud the mayor's office and other organizers for putting on this program and certainly will be looking for opportunities to help Baton Rogue become a more bike and pedestrian friendly city. My life and the lives of many other cyclists may depend upon it.
- Blake Hudson