Biking, pedestrian plan discussed at Chamber luncheon

Panelists stand with Chamber President Laura Lyles. From left are Jessica DeVille, LA DOTD; Lyles; Lindsey Gray, Bantam Strategy Group; and Rebecca Blankenbaker, Natchitoches Bikeshare. Not pictured is Sooraz Patro, RAPC.

The Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce hosted their Monthly Membership Luncheon at Lasyone’s Wednesday, June 19.  Chamber and community members heard from a panel about the biking and pedestrian master plan for the City of Natchitoches.  Jessica DeVille, with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, Lindsey Gray, with the Bantam Strategy Group, Sooraz Patro, with the Rapides Area Planning Commission (RAPC) and Rebecca Blankenbaker, with Cane River NHA and a member of the Natchitoches Bikeshare steering committee, comprised the luncheon panel.

Blankenbaker began the presentation by providing a brief description of the project, explaining that bicycle and pedestrian efforts are advancing in mid-size and small cities across the country, offering another transportation option as some people opt to pedal or walk as a healthier alternative. RAPC and Bantam Strategy Group are finalizing their reports after a 10-month process which included several layers of quantitative and qualitative factors to complete this plan. Some of the goals of the project were to capture non-motorized vehicle needs and setting goals for the city limits; reduce bike/ped related crashes and encourage safety education, promote the use of alternative transportation modes and equity and develop a strategy for branding the bike/ped network.

DeVille discussed the necessity for the City to have an approved plan and DOTD’s priorities to fund infrastructure projects in communities that have a Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan. Patro explained the quantitative data collected during the research and design phase of the process and mentioned that the plan would guide the City and DOTD for a phased approach to implement bike lanes, trails, routes, and more pedestrian safety measures. Additionally, the plan will include recommendations for public education and a signage and branding system that will alert motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians the proper use of the road.

Gray gave a brief overview of how bikeshare will be implemented in Natchitoches. Dockless, geo-fenced bikeshare is the option the City is seeking. Results of this study were determined through research, public meetings, individual interviews with stakeholders and guidance from the steering committee.

The full plan will be released mid-July. RAPC and Bantam Strategy secured a safety funding grant from DOTD for the development of this plan with the City and NSU providing some local funding for the completion of the study to include bikeshare. To view the presentations, visit bikepedplan.