Louisiana Secretary of Transportation Sherri LeBas spoke Tuesday about the need for designing and building roads that are safe for all users.
Secretary LeBas was the keynote speaker at a workshop for local transportation leaders hosted at the Louisiana State Museum. Presented by the Center for Planning Excellence, the Capital Region Planning Commission, and Bike Baton Rouge, the day included trainings from national experts on how to fund local biking and walking projects.
With baby boomers aging in place and young people driving less, demand for infrastructure that supports biking and walking is on the rise according to Peter Lagerwey of Toole Design group. Louisiana communities are welcoming more sidewalks, bike facilities, and connectivity – hallmarks of Complete Streets.
In 2010 the State Department of Transportation and Development developed and adopted a Complete Streets policy. This policy makes sure that all state transportation projects will consider biking and walking.
Early efforts included accommodating bikes on the Audubon Bridge linking St. Francisville and New Roads. Secretary LeBas described how the department ensured reflective road buttons on the bridge’s shoulders were installed in a way to provide a path for bicycles.
LeBas also described how the widening of Highway 42 in Ascension is the first major project to include both biking and walking amenities making it a Complete Street. Sidewalks, a shared path, and a raised median will provide safe facilities for walking and biking. The design will also increase safety for motorists.
According to the DOTD’s Destination Zero Deaths program, Louisiana has one of the highest fatality rates in the country. The program aims to reduce fatalities on Louisiana roads at least 50 percent by 2030. LeBas said so far deaths are down 32 percent since the program was introduced.
While car fatalities are declining nationwide bicycle, pedestrian, and motorcycle fatalities are up. Darren Flusche, Policy Director for the League of American Bicyclists cautions that these numbers may be increasing as the numbers of bikers and walkers increase, but that roads designed with bike riders and pedestrians in mind will help these numbers.
Secretary LeBas said she is aware of the need to improve Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure for biking and walking to make roads safer for all users adding, “One death on our roads is too many.”