March 29, 2002
What's the most significant thing you can do to help the environment? Drive less. "Driving is each individual's biggest environmental impact," said Liz Davey, Tulane's environmental coordinator. On Tulane's uptown campus, one quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to faculty, staff and students who commute by car.
In fall 2000, assistant professor of sociology James Elliott's Urban Sociology class conducted a transportation survey on the uptown campus. They found that 63 percent of faculty, 83 percent of staff members and 47 percent of students drive to campus everyday. Use of carpooling and public transportation is very low.
But the good news is that a significant minority walks or bikes to campus--half of the students, 23 percent of faculty and seven percent of the staff. Davey would like to see those numbers go up further.
"We realized before we could get started promoting bicycling, public transportation and other options to driving, we needed to be able to provide people with more information about how to do it," she said. So last fall, Tulane's Office of Environmental Affairs introduced a new bicycle map of New Orleans, which can help cyclists better navigate the city.
The map depicts the heart of the city, from Lake Pontchartrain to the West Bank, and Old Metairie to the Lower Ninth Ward. It was designed by cartographer Rich Campenella, assistant director of environmental analysis at the Center for Bioenvironmental Research. Lower-risk routes, on wider streets with better pavement and lighter traffic, are depicted in green. Higher-risk routes are shown in purple. Dangerous intersections are marked in red.
"When students were trying to find their way around town on their bikes, they were really getting in trouble," Davey said. "If you look at a street map, Carrollton looks like the best route to City Park from the uptown campus."
But much of Carrollton Avenue is hazardous for bikers, and the intersection of Carrollton and I-10 is among the most dangerous in the city. Taking Nashville Avenue to Jeff Davis Parkway to Moss Street would be a much better route, and it's one that's clearly outlined on the new bicycle map. Also, the map helps guide riders to the area's two major official bike paths, one along the river starting at Audubon Park, and one along the lake in Jefferson Parish. Davey personally rode each route that is depicted on the map.
"I really learned a lot about the city," she said. She tried to balance routes that will get riders across town quickly with scenic routes that require lots of stopping and starting. One of her favorites is a route on the West Bank that connects the Algiers Ferry with the Jackson/ Gretna Ferry. It was shown to her by a night watchman she met on the ferry who commutes by bike and ferry from his home in the Treme neighborhood on the East Bank of New Orleans to his job on the West Bank.
"The route has wonderful, incredible views of the bridge and the river," she said. The map sells for $3 at the Tulane bookstore, Loyola bookstore, and bike shops around the city. Funds raised will allow the map to be updated every two years. Suggestions for new routes are welcome.
Since completing the map, the Office of Environmental Affairs and five undergraduate students were commissioned to help the New Orleans metropolitan area Regional Planning Commission develop a Bicycle Master Plan.
"The Bicycle Master Plan is a way of identifying what the city needs to implement to promote cycling," said Lexie Cervenka, a Newcomb sophomore who is working on the project. The idea is to plan for both physical infrastructure like route designations and bicycle parking, and things like safety education and law enforcement for both motorists and cyclists.
Working on the project has inspired the students to draft a bicycle master plan for the uptown campus. "Thirty percent of adults in New Orleans don't have a car," said Davey. "That means we have to have good public transportation and we need to have good infrastructure for cycling."
Heather Heilman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 email@example.com