Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When is a transit strategy not a transit strategy?

When it's actually a development strategy.
This doesn’t look good.  It would certainly appear that the city decided to add the Baronne bike lane and then marshaled the data to support a plan that they had already decided to move forward with.  The question then becomes exactly why the Landrieu Administration is so adamant that Baronne receive a bike lane.

The answer is redevelopment.  There are a number of new residential projects in the CBD.  Chief among them is the $200 million South Market District project, squeezed between Loyola Avenue and Baronne, which is presently nearing completion.  The city already built the farcically ineffectual Loyola Streetcar line on one side of the project, and now they seek to top it off with a dubious bike lane one block over on the other side.

The proximity to the South Market District and similar redevelopment is not coincidental.  Indeed, Public Works and the GCR specifically highlighted them as justifications for the Baronne bike lane.   It wasn’t sufficient that developers have received local tax breaks and massive federal loans.  No, that’s just not enough – the city also has to invest in useless infrastructure and give through traffic the short shrift with an ill-conceived bike lane.  The powers-that-be are so obsessed with bolstering downtown redevelopment schemes that all other considerations have become secondary.
I get weary of going through this with people.  A certain segment seems stuck on the idea that anyone who criticizes the city's luxury development at all costs approach is somehow against bicycling. But I bike to work whenever I can (meaning when it isn't raining or I'm not carrying something heavy.)   So most days I'm on the bike. I'd dare say it's been my preferred way of getting around New Orleans since long before most of our present day bike lane advocates even dreamed they'd ever move here. Just last weekend I had a tire stolen because I was too stupid and lazy to lock it up properly.

Sad bike

But this doesn't have anything to do with the merits of bicycling.  Instead it has to do with the city treating its infrastructure planning as a means, not to serve its residents so much as to create accessories for developers investing in adjacent real estate.   Sometimes they even admit this is what they're doing
Pres Kabacoff, a real estate developer from the Bywater neighborhood, said he thinks the streetcar will help spur business. Kabacoff even argued that slowing down vehicle traffic might be a good thing, since having cars whip by "is not conducive for good retail development."

He added, "To the extent that people have a difficult time in traffic getting down the street it may cause them to want to live in the area and use an effective streetcar." 
If we admit that we're putting in streetcars primarily because they help us sell expensive downtown apartments to rich people, it's certainly no stretch to say we're putting in a bike lane for precisely this same purpose.

But, no, of course the only reason anyone would point this out is because they must hate bicycles. 

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