Story and Picture By: Naomi King Englar, Communications and Dissemination Coordinator, at the Tulane Prevention Research Center.
Under a shared goal to see safer streets for all types of transportation in Louisiana – not just cars and trucks – a new coalition of partners from across the state is forming this year.
“The dedication of this collaboration of people from diverse communities and backgrounds across the state guarantees a positive impact on the culture of Louisiana. We agree that being physically active is beneficial to all people,” said Monique Koll, a veterinarian who is leading the statewide group’s formation and is also executive director of BikeLafayette, Acadiana’s bicycle advocacy organization. “We want to ensure that Louisiana continues to grow in such a way that all forms of transportation are safe and enjoyable. This organization gives us a unified voice in statewide policy making, as well as a way to support our individual communities in safety, education, and awareness.”
Members of the newly formed statewide group represent diverse geographic backgrounds from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport.
The group came together following the first Louisiana Walk and Bike Summit this past fall. Individuals and organizations in public health (including the Tulane Prevention Research Center), transportation planning, biking and walking advocacy, including people with disabilities, attended the one-day summit in November in Baton Rouge. As more local groups and governments have begun work to create communities that accommodate safe, healthy transportation for all people, individuals in Louisiana recognized the need to come together to share their experiences, resources, challenges and successes.
“It was a chance to get everyone who is involved in biking and walking in Louisiana in a room together,” said Peter Bennett, board member of Bike Easy, the New Orleans-based advocacy organization that helped host the Walk and Bike Summit. “We discovered that we’ve all had similar experiences, or maybe are at different stages of development, but could be very helpful to each other. In the end, we left with a shared vision for how we can coordinate our voices statewide, working together to achieve some big policy goals.”
The summit also delved into topics such as how to use data or get better data on walking, biking and transportation trends in Louisiana. Attendees also discussed the desire to incorporate biking, walking and safe streets into Louisiana’s cultural identity.
Additionally, the summit covered the growing trend of complete streets policies across the U.S. and how local and state governments can work together to implement these transportation planning and construction policies. Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and Development has an internal complete streets policy, which aids in the department’s efforts to build roads that accommodate all modes of transportation. New Orleans and Baton Rouge have also adopted complete streets policies.
“This statewide entity is about making choice a reality for all of us. Choosing to drive or not to drive, to ride a bike, push a stroller, catch a bus or streetcar, roll in a wheelchair or just stroll are not safe or fun choices in much of Louisiana yet,” said Juan Cruz, a public health professional and transportation advocate in Baton Rouge. “Let’s get on our own two feet – or wheels. It will save us from traffic jams and help save our health, time and money.”