Rebuilding New Orleans with bike paths

Construction to rebuild New Orleans' transportation infrastructure begins in 2008

At a time when families are still separated, loved ones are still being mourned, and homes are still in ruins, a humble bike path hardly seems worthy of attention in New Orleans.

Yet, in working to undo the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the leaders of New Orleans are thinking of cyclists.

According to reports in a city business journal, bike lanes are to be installed on key routes as part of repaving work about to begin.

Before Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast plans were already afoot to add cycle routes. With repair work now absolutely necessary city officials says it's the perfect time to get bike access improved.

Some US$200 million has been set aside for a Submerged Roads Program to repair the New Orleans' roads.

City Public Works director Robert Mendoza told New Orleans CityBusiness: "It's really jumpstarting a lot of things that were maybe in sort of the policy-setting phase prior to Katrina. Over the next couple years, you're probably going to see us go ahead of what the original plans were."

No one would suggest that the loss of 1,800 lives and the destruction of a major city were worth it to speed up the creation of cycle facilities. But there's no doubt that the rebuilding of New Orleans has given city planners a chance to push two-wheeled access up the agenda.

Plans have been in place since 2004 for a network of bicycle paths to help commuters in the city.

Before Hurricane Katrina Mayor Ray Nagin had approved US$4 million for improvements, thanks to lobbying by the Metro Bicycle Coalition. According to MBC that cash is now expected to be freed up within months.

Work on the ground is likely to begin next year, and Mr. Mendoza says even restrictions against widening roads won't stop the scheme from moving forward.

"Even if the program doesn't allow us to put the bike lane in, we can stripe a street to accommodate the bike lane after the project is complete," he said.

New Orleans roads earmarked for cycle routes include Magazine and Camp Streets and Wisner Boulevard.

For more on developments on cycle paths around the world have a look here.

© BikeRadar 2007

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