New-directions-for-Louisianas-roads

New directions for Louisiana's roads

New directions for Louisiana's roads **Fitting New Orleans – Issue 9 **
Dan Jatres, Regional Planning Commission
August 26, 2010

In the past month, Louisiana has witnessed several milestones in transportation polices and laws aimed at making Louisiana's roadways safer and more accessible for all users. These changes are the culmination of years of effort on the part of citizen advocates and public agencies working together to better meet the transportation needs of Louisianans.

The impact of some of these polices will gradually be seen over time as new projects hit the ground, while a number of new laws became effective on August 15, 2010 and will have an immediate impact. Taken together, these changes will provide Louisianans with greater transportation options and help create livable communities.

Since the mid 1990s, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), as well as numerous regional and local government entities, have been increasingly working to address the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists on Louisiana roadways. In the New Orleans area, these efforts have resulted in improved infrastructure, such as the Mississippi River Trail and the St. Claude Ave bike lanes and new programs and outreach focused on education and enforcement. However, it became increasing clear that a more comprehensive approach was necessary to improve conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists statewide; a need which was highlighted in the 2009 update of the Louisiana Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan. With the support of DOTD, a coalition of advocates worked with the State Legislature to pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 110 in 2009, creating the Louisiana Complete Streets Work Group.

This Work Group was tasked with developing Complete Streets guidelines which would provide that DOTD projects meet the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and motorists. The Work Group, which consisted of a diverse coalition of planning, engineering, public health and education interests, in conjunction with DOTD prepared a report and draft policy for implementation at DOTD. In addition to outlining a policy and implementation strategies, the report summarized recommended changes to state laws in support of Complete Streets concepts. With the report in hand, DOTD began working towards adopting the recommended policy and two bills (HB 1125 and HB 1137) were introduced in the Legislature by Rep. Patrick Williams. With the support of DOTD, the members of the Work Group and over 40 co-sponsors in the House and Senate, both bills passed with near unanimous support and were signed by Governor Jindal, with their provisions set to go into effect on August 15.

In July 2010, Louisiana joined 21 other states as DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas signed the Complete Streets Policy, stating DOTD's commitment to "create a comprehensive, integrated, connected transportation network for Louisiana that balances access, mobility, health and safety needs of motorists, transit users, bicycles and pedestrian of all ages and abilities." The policy further clarifies how DOTD will meet the objectives of the policy and defines a limited number of exceptions to the policy. The full text can be found online at: http://www.completestreets.org/webdocs/policy/cs-la-dotpolicy.pdf

The new Complete Streets policy will begin to introduce Complete Streets concepts into DOTD projects across the state in the coming months and years and will take coordination with Parishes, municipalities and private firms to achieve its full potential. More immediate will be the effects of HB 1125 and HB 1137, which arose from the Work Group's efforts and HB 298, another bicycle related bill from the 2010 Legislative Session. The full language of these bills can be found online at the Louisiana Legislature's website (http://www.legis.state.la.us). A summary of the changes to the Louisiana Revised Statutes is below:

HB 298/Act 813

* R.S. 32:197 now allows bicycles to operate on the shoulder of a roadway. * R.S. 32:329 now requires that bicycles have a rear light (solid or flashing) at night visible up to 600 feet.

HB 1125/Act 840

* R.S. 47:463.141 is a new statute that creates a "Share the Road" license plate for motor vehicles. The extra free for this plate will be placed in a fund at the Dept of Transportation and Development dedicated to pedestrian and bicycle safety.

HB 1137/Act 618

* R.S. 17:270 requires driver’s education to include information on sharing the road with pedestrians and bicyclists. * R.S. 32:1, the definitions of “pedestrian” and “shoulder” are modified and definitions for “bicycle facility,” “bicycle lane,” “bicycle parking,” “bicycle path or trail,” “mobility aid,” and “shared use trail” are established. * R.S. 32:76.1 now requires motorists to exercise due care when passing bicycles and allows motorists to pass bicycles in a no-passing zone if it is safe to do so. * R.S. 32:106 now allows bicyclists to signal a right turn with their right hand. * R.S. 32:197 now specifies conditions in which a bicycle does not have to operate on the right side of the roadway: when passing another bicycle or vehicle in the same direction; when preparing for a left turn; when avoiding a hazard; or when avoiding a right turn only lane. The statute now also allows bicycles to use ride on the shoulder of a roadway. * R.S. 32:203 defines when motor vehicles can operate in a bicycle lane: when preparing to make a turn at an intersection; when entering or leaving the roadway onto an alley, private drive, or driveway; or when entering or leaving a parking space adjacent to a bike lane. The statute also requires motor vehicles to yield the right-of-way to all bicycles in the bicycle lane. * R.S. 32:283 prohibits any door of a vehicle to be opened without taking precaution to ensure the opening of the door will not interfere with traffic or endanger any other person or vehicle. The statute also prohibits leaving a door open longer than necessary to load and unload passengers. * R.S. 32:296 also now allows bicycles to operate on the shoulder of the roadway. * R.S. 48:21 now requires the state to document why appropriate pedestrian and bicycle facilities are not included in projects. * R.S. 48:163.1 no longer limits the funds that the state, parishes or municipalities can spend on bicycle facilities. It also defines situations where bicycle facilities do not have to be included in state projects.

Topics:   bike lanes , built environment

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