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Safe Crossing?

Posted by on December 20, 2013

I’ve lived in the mid-city area (corner of S. Foster and Claycut) for about 6 months now. We moved to this part of town, away from Oak Hills on the other side of town, to transition to a more pedestrian and biking lifestyle. In our old neighborhood, we rode bikes and walked only as a form of recreation and exercise. I wanted walking and biking to be a mode of transportation instead of cars.

One of the first things we did was get rid of one of our cars. Now we are a family of 5 living with only one car. My husband works off of Pecue Lane, so we kept the one car for his commute to work. We rarely use the car otherwise. I’ve gone from driving approximately 3 hours a day (back and forth school carpool and activities) to driving less than 1 hour a week.

My favorite crossing in my new neighborhood is the beautiful, well lit, well striped and signed corner of S. Foster and Government. We use that crossing about 5 times a week to go do our grocery shopping at the Albertson’s on the corner. I feel safe and confident following the crosswalk signs and enjoying a walking lifestyle.

Unfortunately, my favorite walking and biking path, the path on Capitol Heights, has 3 very scary crossings. The main one is the crossing that I got hit by a car on my bike, the crossing of S. Foster and Capitol Heights. It sill boggles my mind that there is a this great biking/walking lane with such an unsafe crossing right in the middle of it! There is no signage or striping to indicate the intersection of a heavily used walking/biking path. Someone is going to get seriously injured there one day if something isn’t done.

Another scary crossing is Capitol Heights and Jefferson Hwy. We love our locally owned neighborhood coffee shop, Brew Ha-Ha. I HATE biking or walking across Jefferson Hwy. at that intersection to get there. We usually walk down Claycut Rd and cross Jefferson at the light. There is a crosswalk sign at that intersection on one side, but the whole intersection is poorly lit, poorly striped, and incomplete. I’ve seen some signs up of upgrades at that corner, so I’m optomistic for walking/biking improvements!

The 3rd hard/dangerous crossing is at Acadian Thruway at Capitol Heights. We generally just walk to the end of Capitol Heights and then turn around. It feels like this huge wall, discouraging exploration of our city.

Two other destinations that are great in proximity but very hard to walk or bike to are the two close BREC parks. The Goodwood Park is very hard to get to by walking or biking. You are faced with sub-standard crossing at all routes on Jefferson. Then we have to ride on the poorly maintained sidewalk along Jefferson and cross a gravel parking lot to finally get to the park. The other option is ride on Claycut Rd and cross Jefferson onto Goodwood Blvd. I’m okay doing that when it’s just me and my husband. However, when we are going to the park, I have my 3 kids with me (13, 11 & 8). It is not fun to have your heart stop everytime someone passes too close or isn’t paying attention. As much as I want to push the issue of share the road, and I have a right use the roads, it isn’t at all fun or inspiring with kids along. It’s just frightening and draining.

The other park we have an almost impossible time getting to is the new Webb Community Park. The light at Claycut and S. Foster is horrible for walkers or biking families. Once you cross the light toward Webb Park, there is nowhere to walk or to bike away from traffic. The other option is the use the Capitol Heights path, but then you have to cross S.Foster at that wretched crossing.

I’m a teacher at a small Homeschool Co-op at Grace Baptist Church. Many of the children in the co-op are from the outer suburbs. When we have a few minutes after our lesson, I’ve been taking the kids for short walks around Capital Heights and we talk about walking/biking friendly communities vs. car centric communities. We talk about how people powered transportation is much healthier for our bodies and for the environment. We yell “Yeah bikes” to all of the bikers we see. Showing the next generation different lifesyle possibilies is the highlight of my week.

Unfortunately, some of the moms are wanting me to stop taking these exporation walks b/c of the traffic on Capitol Heights. This breaks my heart! But, I see their point. The walking path is right next to the road, and cars DO NOT SLOW DOWN, even when they see a group of children walking along the path. And, as a mom, my heart skips a beat EVERYTIME a car goes by that fast, that close. There is no reason for Capitol Heights to have fast traffic, the walking/biking paths are just too close to the road for people to accelerate past. Why isn’t the speed limit lowered? And, there isn’t a stop sign on Capitol Heights after Ingleside (it’s about 10 blocks with not stops). So the closer you get to Acadian Thruway, the faster the cars are going. Why isn’t there a car stop sign at every intersection? That would really mitigate the speed.

I’m sure a lot of these intersections are fine for the amazingly graceful commuter and/or sporting bikers, with tons of confidence and speed and agility. I’ve seen some of the most impressive bikers in this part of town. That is not me! My foot slips off the pedals sometimes, my bike is a more European kind, handle bars are high and my seat is big. I’m not at all interested in “swimming with sharks”, especially with my kids in tow. I’ve been hit by a car, I know it’s possible. I just want to be able to not have a car and still get around safely. Is that so wrong?!

Most of Baton Rouge, my husband and I can navigate on bikes. We go downtown, the Perkins Road overpass area and to LSU quite frequently and really enjoy our outings. The real problems arise at the sub-standard and blatantly dangerous crossings when we try to get out as a whole family.

We are planning a month long trip to Amsterdam/Germany to see how they do the biking as a lifestyle and then we plan to spend 6 months in Portland, OR starting May ’14 to immmerse ourselves in how they live a more people powered family lifestyle. Then hopefully we can bring some new ideas and energy back to Baton Rouge!

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