Tulane-PRC-surveys-people-using-and-crossing-Lafitte-Greenway-linear-park

Tulane PRC surveys people using and crossing Lafitte Greenway linear park

As New Orleans moves toward ‘complete streets’, organizations are taking a closer look at non-motorized transportation. More bicycle lanes and walking paths are being installed throughout the city so it is important that pedestrians, cyclists and motorists interact with each other safely. Over the past year, a Tulane team of faculty, staff, and students, have been studying safety and use along the Lafitte Greenway, one of these multi-use paths.

The Lafitte Greenway is a 2.6-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail that connects neighborhoods from Armstrong Park to City Park. With over 800 users a day and intersecting many busy streets, the potential for accidents is a concern. With her interest in the relationship between the built environment and physical activity, Jeanette Gustat, clinical associate professor of epidemiology and Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) faculty investigator, started the Greenway Crossing Project to evaluate the use and safety of the Lafitte Greenway for bicyclists and pedestrians. Friends of Lafitte Greenway, a partner with Tulane PRC, has been spearheading the Greenway’s development since 2006 rethinking the city’s landscape to enhance livability, environmental sustainability, open space equity, and health. “We really support what they’re doing,” said Gustat. “They share our mission of improving health and the Greenway is a great opportunity to reach a lot of folks.”

With a core team of students, Christopher Anderson, Amanda Zimmerman, Shana Zucker, and Skylar Lewis, interviews were conducted with 122 pedestrians and cyclists over a two-week span in July and August of 2017. Through these intercept interviews, they collected information regarding people’s safety concerns and usage of the Lafitte Greenway.

Drivers are legally required to stop at crosswalks that are marked by large white stripes and flashing safety beacons on either side that flash when pressed by pedestrians and cyclists. In order to examine whether motor vehicles obey the crossing signals when pedestrians and cyclists are present, observations of crossings were conducted on December 1, 2017 with help from students in the Survey Methodology course within the Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine. Motor vehicle behavior in each lane of traffic was noted during each crossing episode. The observations indicated that the flashing crosswalk signals did not affect vehicle stops. Further details of the intercept surveys and observations can be found here.

Three major opportunities for improvements were identified as a result of this project: greater awareness is needed for motor vehicle users to stop fully at the junctions when crosswalk signals are flashing; both cyclists and pedestrians should be encouraged to observe, use, and respect the crosswalk signals; and signals should be easier to activate by cyclists. Read more here.

The Tulane team has analyzed these findings and the results are under review with an academic journal to disseminate these findings and strategies to help other cities understand better how transportation plays into the relationship between the built environment and physical activity. A summary of the Greenway Crossing Project has been accepted for an oral presentation at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Expo 2018 in November.

By Emily Szklarski, Graduate Communications Research Assistant
June 2018

Topics:   physical activity , community health , bike lanes , walking , built environment , sidewalks

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