There’s no doubt that many Algiers voters cast ballots with bike lanes on their minds. And there’s no doubt that Kristin Giselson Palmer lost votes in her home base of Algiers because of her longtime political support for the bicyclist-centric “Complete Streets” policy, Moving New Orleans-Bikes.
For instance, she joined members of Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s administration who traveled to Spain in 2019 to inspect bike lanes, a junket paid for by a bicycle industry group. The year before, she helped spearhead a resolution in support the city’s bike lanes policies.
On Saturday, Palmer, the District C council representative seeking a promotion, lost the Division 2 at-large race to JP Morrell. He won 51 percent of ballots cast Saturday and in early voting, uncertified returns show. Palmer placed second in the four-candidate race with 32 percent.
It’s hard to tell what, if any impact the bike lanes had on Palmer’s political aspirations, although the program clearly cost her votes, based on social media complaints and on whoever posted the “Anyone but Kristin Palmer” signs on neutral grounds and the bollards.
Although she’s an Algiers Point resident, Palmer polled poorly in Algiers precincts where bike lanes were installed in early 2021 – where residents daily navigate roadways fouled by bollards that provide an illusory protection to bicyclists.
She won no precincts along the MacArthur Boulevard corridor, Newton Street and Wall Boulevard, all where protected bike lanes have been installed. She also lost the precinct along Holiday Drive, which is slated to be re-engineered to benefit bicyclists.
For instance, in the four precincts that intersect at MacArthur and Eton Street, Palmer finished as many as 10 percentage points below her citywide average to one percentage point below the citywide average.
Palmer generally fared better in District C precincts in Bywater and Faubourg Marigny – where bike lanes are in place and appear to be more favored among residents. She also won in Algiers Point, where she lives and which has no bike lanes, and she was the top vote-getter in the Naval Station neighborhood precinct.
While bicycle proponents have cheered, the bike lane program has drawn the ire of many Algiers residents, largely due to the city’s eliminating two motor vehicle lanes on MacArthur Boulevard in favor of two protected bike lanes.
Morrell won the 10 precincts along the MacArthur corridor, taking more than half of the ballots cast in eight of those precincts.
Interestingly, Moving New Orleans – Bikes didn’t hurt Cantrell, even though her administration is behind the bike lanes program. She handily won a second term citywide with 65 percent of ballots citywide. Cantrell campaigned in part on her administration’s investment in infrastructure. In one televised commercial, her campaign even highlighted bike lanes.
Like Morrell, Cantrell got a higher percentage of votes in many MacArthur corridor precincts than her citywide average.
To replace Palmer as the District C representative, voters in Algiers and neighborhoods hugging the east bank of the Mississippi River, Treme and St. Roch will return to the polls on Dec. 11 to select between Freddie King III and Stephanie Bridges. In a race featuring seven candidates, King emerged as the top vote-getter with 44 percent of the vote.
King, a lawyer who had the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, already is on record as having an unfavorable view of bike lanes, at least as they involve his personal business.
In June 2020, he signed a letter by businesses and business owners along the New Street corridor. The city installed protected bike lanes there, robbing the businesses of coveted parking spaces for customers. He also joined about 50 Algiers residents on Aug. 7 for a march against the bike lanes, although he could have been simply politicking.
King did well in appealing to voters in the MacArthur corridor precincts, as well as those along Newton Street.
Like King, Bridges is an Algiers resident. We haven’t heard about her stance on Complete Streets.