To our Central City neighbors

Dear Central City neighbors:

You’re about to go through some things. Your neighbors in Algiers know.

On Monday (Aug. 15), our Travelin’ Mayor, LaToya Cantrell, heralded the start of the $5.5 million “patch mill overlay project that will re-imagine 14 blocks of a vital corridor in Central City.”

A 1.8-mile stretch of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, from South Claiborne Avenue to St. Charles Avenue, will receive a fresh layer of asphalt. Sidewalks will be repaired. Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps and “high-visibility crosswalks” will be added. Protected bike lanes will be installed.

What’s not to love! Our mayor says she knows that you are excited!

“Without a doubt,” she’s quoted as saying in her office’s press release, “I know that this transformation will positively impact our community here in Central City and our businesses that we all depend upon.

“We also need to ensure that we invest and help them to be the best that they can be for the City of New Orleans,” the mayor says.

Wait. Protected bike lanes? You’ll have to ask Google about those, because the mayor’s press office doesn’t tell you.

Basically, motorists along this stretch of MLK are about to lose general travel lanes and curbside parking. They’ll be given to bicyclists. 

No where in the Cantrell administration’s Aug. 15 press release is any of this mentioned.

Algiers’ MacArthur Boulevard used to be a four-lane thoroughfare with curbside parking with the neutral ground shaded by red oaks. Until the protected bike lanes were installed. Residents not only lost curbside parking in front of their homes, they walk out their front doors every day to see these unsightly, reflective bollards, or “delineators” glued to the roadway that merely give motorist visual cues that say, “Don’t drive here.”

Of the 14 blocks involved the MLK project, 11 are a 4-lane boulevard that’s divided by a neutral ground and includes curbside parking. 

The NOFD’s Engine 16 firehouse, the NOPD’s 6th District headquarters, a church and some neighborhood stores are in the affected area, along with numerous residences.

Never mind that the existing paved portion of the tree-lined neutral ground easily accommodates bicyclists.

The city hosted a pre-construction meeting about the MLK project in April. According to a presentation that was distributed publicly in connection with this meeting, a city-employed PR guy discussed the bike lanes.

This screen grab was taken from a presentation city officials gave in April during a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard pre-construction meeting. It While it shows a protected bike lane, it also shows two vehicle travel lanes and a parking lane. MLK Jr. Boulevard will not resemble this image after the protected bike lanes are installed.

This presentation includes cross-sectional views of MLK. You still must read the fine print to see what was coming. A photograph that accompanies public release materials for the MLK project shows two general travel lanes, a parking lane and a bike lane. Two bicyclists appear in the bike lane. This staged demonstrative aid misleads you.

Maybe you’ve already heard about the exciting “infrastructure improvements” that will make MLK Jr. safer for everyone.

It’ll be worth it, they say. The “infrastructure improvements” will slow down speedy drivers, they’ll assure you.

And although the car-carrying capacity of MLK Jr. Boulevard will be cut in half, you’ll be told that there’ll be no appreciable traffic congestion. Huh?

What about during Carnival, when parade-goers along the Uptown route dip to and from St. Charles Avenue on MLK? That is, assuming our Travelin’ Mayor doesn’t cancel Carnival because we have too few police officers on the force.

If you’re feeling fooled by our city leaders and complain after this project is complete in 2023, you’ll probably hear from some of New Orleans’ hardcore bicycling enthusiasts. They’ll troll you in social media. They’ll call you out by name. You should have attended city meetings in April 2019, they’ll say. Municipal employees might seek to undermine you with public statements that contradict you.

How many bicyclists use MLK Jr. Boulevard? Maybe lots. Maybe a few. We don’t know. In Algiers, we rarely see bicyclists using these new bike lanes that were installed in front of our homes more than 1 1/2 years after they were installed.

We don’t think the city cares about the number of bicyclists. Cantrell’s Department of Public Works defends its bike lane decisions by citing speeding data and the number of “crashes,” which in the bicycling world is dramatic-speak for car wrecks, collisions.

You had your chance to speak up. Now live with it, bike lane proponents will tell you.

Our mayor knows you will.