UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
The core mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect human health and the environment. EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities (OSC)—or the Smart Growth Office— helps to support this mission by working with communities to reach development goals that create positive impacts on air, water, public health, economic vitality and quality of life for residents. OSC created the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program to provide quick, targeted technical assistance on specific smart growth development topics by bringing subject matter experts to communities. Communities request this technical assistance through a competitive application process.
The Building Blocks process is designed to move a community through a process of assessment, convening, and action planning—helping learn about a given topic and create a plan to move forward on implementation. The program helps a community identify potential challenges, as well as realize opportunities that already exist to make progress. It includes a series of pre-and post-workshop conference calls, a self-assessment, and an on-site convening of stakeholders to discuss issues, next steps, and actions related to advancing the communities’ specific goals. These efforts help a given community gain a deeper understanding of a particular smart growth issue and identify specific steps necessary to move them closer to implementation. The diagram below outlines the typical flow of the Building Blocks technical assistance program.
This memo documents the key outcomes of the technical assistance for Baton Rouge, Louisiana with the Bikeshare Planning tool, and identifies key community issues, prioritized goals, and specific actions. Bikeshare is a network of bicycles distributed around an area that allows and encourages non-motorized trips from one location to another. In Baton Rouge, the overarching goal is to achieve a bikeshare system in a bike-friendly community that boosts tourism and improves quality of life.
Key Community Issues
Business leaders, organizations, local officials, and many others are focusing on collaborating for new multi-modal transportation opportunities in Baton Rouge. Continued collaboration will provide numerous benefits to residents in Baton Rouge as the city pursues bikeshare in concert with other investments. A collective citywide effort can help to tackle Baton Rouge’s challenges, leverage its strengths, and capitalize upon the opportunities that exist to move bikeshare forward.
Baton Rouge has a number of strengths that will contribute to its pursuit of a bikeshare system. The foundation for bikeshare has already been laid with a strong bike community in the downtown areas, and the many bikable destinations for locals and tourists make the city attractive to explore by bicycle.
- Strong support: Overall, the public, political leaders, and stakeholders are supportive of a bikeshare plan. However, there is still some resistance in the community. A plan that identifies incremental/phased changes in infrastructure and/or citywide programs could help possible resistance to change and capitalize on existing support.
- Active local organizations: There are several very involved non-profit, governmental, institutional and educational organizations motivated to make Baton Rouge a better place to live and work. They view bikeshare as another tool in helping their goals of community and economic development by attracting employers to the city, strengthen the downtown core, and attract and retain students at area universities.
- Bike-friendly policies: In 2014, East Baton Rouge Parish adopted a Complete Streets Policy to ensure streets are designed for all users of all ages and abilities, which led to the organization of a the Complete Streets committee to help implement the policy (many of whom participated in the bikeshare workshops). The Complete Streets Policy will help pave the way for the continuation of bike-friendly streets around the city.
- Growth, development, and millennials: The downtown area is experiencing an increase in residential and business developments, which is likely tied to the increase in a new generation of entrepreneurs and young professional move to or not leaving Baton Rouge. The comprehensive plan, FUTUREBR, states the two primary sectors we need to provide balanced housing over the next 20 years are the older, aging in-place couples as well as the younger Millennials that want to be close to everything.
- Complementary projects: Several important infrastructure improvement projects designed to link these key developments, recreational destinations, and neighborhoods surrounding downtown are already underway. The city obtained TIGER grant funding from USDOT conduct a feasibility study for a tramline that would connect the State Capitol and downtown to LSU. Phase 1 of BREC’s Capital Area Pathways Project that will build a network of trails and greenways throughout East Baton Rouge Parish is under construction in the medical district. The Complete Streets Policy adopted by the Metro Council in 2014 will guide future roadway improvement projects, starting with the Government Street corridor that connects Mid-City Baton Rouge to downtown.
- Demand from universities: LSU is feeling the demand from students for better transportation options within and to/from campus. Representatives from the university said they are interested in bikeshare , and a proposal to pursue bike share could be presented to the university administration as a viable transportation alternative to include on campus for the student body and faculty.
- Centralized city services: The state government has worked to relocate many of its administrative operations to downtown office buildings. Adding to the downtown urban fabric is a new grocery store.
- Great riding conditions: While the weather in Baton Rouge can be hot and humid during summer months, the other 9 months of the year are ideal for bicycling. The flat terrain and a gridded system of streets make Baton Rouge a place with tremendous potential to promote bicycling. The street grid also helps because it allows for smaller, more bikeable routes parallel to major streets.
- Baton Rouge’s vibrant downtown, engaged stakeholders and agreeable climate are key ingredients for a successful bikeshare system. Planning for bikeshare can take advantage of these strengths.
About the United States Environmental Protection Agency
Born in the wake of elevated concern about environmental pollution, EPA was established on December 2, 1970 to consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. Since its inception, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.