Contributed by guest blogger Dan Favre, Executive Director of Bike Easy.
At Bike Easy, we celebrate the simple joy of bicycling, and we also know the power of mobility as a means to an end. Not only do better biking, walking, and transit get individuals to their destinations on a daily basis, improved mobility options will also enable our region to get where it needs to be for a healthy future.
We are proud to stand with members of the New Orleans and Jefferson Parish Complete Streets Coalitions, the National Complete Streets Coalition, and the American Heart Association Voices for Healthy Kids program to release a report that details how New Orleans and Jefferson Parish can maximize the benefit of Complete Streets for health equity.
Read the full report, Complete Streets for Health Equity: An Evaluation of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, and/or the Report Brief.
As individuals, organizations, and governments work to tackle the critical issues in the region – poor health outcomes and inequity, economic development and job access, crime and public safety, affordable housing, flooding and impacts of climate change – it is becoming clear that how people get around, or struggle to get around, affects so many aspects of life and levels of decision-making.
Safe, convenient transportation options for everyone in greater New Orleans are essential to our vision of an equitable, vibrant future. Streets built to share are safe for people biking, people walking, people taking transit, and people driving. The Complete Streets approach is based on the premise that everybody, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how they get around, should have the option to travel in a safe and convenient manner.
In Complete Streets for Health Equity: An Evaluation of New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, we lay out a detailed approach to evaluating the impact of complete streets on improving health equity. Complete streets include sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, sheltered transit stops, ADA accessible curbs, traffic calming designs, and stormwater management features.
It turns out that the road to healthier neighborhoods is literally a better road.
In the report, we also evaluate where we stand today in the region. Since New Orleans passed its Complete Streets ordinance in 2011, tremendous progress has been made, especially in the growth of bike lanes and the number of people riding, but many of the promises of the ordinance remain unfulfilled. In Jefferson Parish, there is great momentum with the passage of the Bicycle Master Plan in 2014 and a recent bond measure that is funding many projects to improve walking and biking, yet there is no comprehensive Complete Streets Program or approach.
Our analysis also found stark disparities that must be addressed:
- In New Orleans and Jefferson Parish, 36% of people live in high-poverty census tracts, yet 67% of crashes involving people walking and biking happen in these places.
- Black residents in New Orleans are underrepresented in bike ridership but overrepresented in crashes involving bicyclists. Similarly, in Jefferson Parish, black individuals make up only about 26 percent of Jefferson Parish’s population but over 40 percent of bicycle injuries and fatalities.
- Louisiana still lags the nation in number of adults receiving recommended amount of physical activity, and income and level of education have a huge bearing on the likelihood of experiencing diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other chronic diseases.
When designed through meaningful community engagement, Complete Streets can particularly benefit low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that have been historically disinvested and where people experience disproportionate rates of chronic diseases, are at higher risk of being struck and killed by cars while walking, and are less likely to own a car.
The Complete Streets for Health Equity report lays out specific recommendations for New Orleans and Jefferson Parish to maximize the benefits of investments in streets built to share. We look forward to working with decision-makers, community leaders, and concerned citizens throughout the region to create Complete Streets programs that continue to move us down the road towards a healthy, prosperous, and equitable future for all people in Greater New Orleans.