Bike-Ped report: Perkins Rd alternative pathway

As he promised, Larry reported to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee of the Capital Region Planning Commission, ideas he had researched for “friendlier” bicycle routes to Perkins Road Community Park, avoiding a dangerous ride on Perkins Road.  This is a copy of that report:

It weighs heavily, that I had been unable to raise awareness and sufficient sense of urgency over the bicycle traffic I was seeing on that section of Perkins Road.  The “worrisome situation” turned to tragedy on January 21st, when my friend, Nathaniel Crowson, was run down there and killed by an alleged drunk- driver.  His riding- buddy, Daniel Morris remains hospitalized.
Following are my considerations on provisions that could be constructed to accommodate bicyclists instead of that dangerous section of Perkins Road.  Safety, convenience, cost, right- of- way, and other factors must be evaluated, of course.
In Baton Rouge, the popularity of bicycling is booming.  Our newly redesigned Perkins Road Park has many features and events dedicated to bikes, and this Extreme Sports facility undoubtedly contributes to bicycle traffic in that area.  Access to the park is difficult for young people who do not drive and for others who can not (or choose not to) arrive by automobile.  Bicycle commuters are also forced to travel that corridor; it is en route to the medical complexes around OLOL and BRGH, as well as colleges, Perkins Road Community Park, to a bike shop, restaurants, various shopping destinations, and the Mall of Louisiana.  How is one to make any of those bicycling connections without riding on Perkins or Essen/ Staring?  Here are some suggestions for consideration:

1.   Shared outside lanes on Perkins Road:  I would argue against this due to insufficient lane width, dangerous drains and debris, perpendicular- walled curbs.
2.  On- street bicycle lane:  this, I would also oppose, although it might be accomplished quickly and inexpensively by sacrificing the central turn- lane and re- striping the roadway with bicycle lanes on both sides.  My opposing argument is that the turn lane greatly facilitates motor traffic on Perkins; and bicyclists using an on- street bikelane would still be at great risk from motorists on that traffic arterial. My personal observations are that traffic on Perkins typically flows at speeds higher than the posted limit; many motorists there are impatient and/ or distracted; and cars could too easily encroach into a bikelane or make high- speed turns which would endanger cyclists.
3.  Share- the- Road routes through the neighborhoods would be my preferred alternative to bicycling on that portion of Perkins Road.  Moss Side Lane is a useable route, paralleling Perkins for about a mile; and a few improvements on Moss Side would be beneficial to cyclists.  Travel in and through a vast stretch of residential and business areas to the north and west of that area, and connecting to Moss Side Lane is fairly easy by bicycle.
3. a.  I suspect that Moss Side could be a good candidate for Sharrows and Share- the- Road signage, but I have heard speculation that local residents might be discontent with bicycles using “their” roads.
3. b.  The signal light at Perkins and Quail does not seem to sense bicycle traffic.  My own experience there has been a forced choice from undesirable options:  wait for a car to come along and trigger the signal, run the red light, or walk my bike across five lanes of traffic.
3. c.  Moss Side offers connections from much of Baton Rouge, but cyclists would need familiarity or good map skills to wend their way though the neighborhoods.  This difficulty might be helped by wayfinding signage, such as a system of park- to- park directional markers; or a system of bikeroute waypoints layered into CPPC’s Bike mapping project.
4.    Moss Side Lane has good potential but, like many areas in Baton Rouge, lacks connectors which could link the “easy” streets.  This failure of connectivity in Baton Rouge makes many destinations impossible for cyclists. The obvious missing link from Moss Side Lane/ Quail Drive is some sort of connecting bicycle path, eastward to Kenilworth Parkway/ 1 Perkins Place Drive/ Dijon Drive.  Maps and satellite images suggest several possibilities.
4.  a.  The most direct route could be accomplished by a Rail- with- Trail pathway sharing the Kansas City Southern right- of- way for ¾ mile, from Moss side to 1 Perkins Place.  From 1 Perkins Place, crossing Perkins Rd. at the existing signal would access Perkins Road Community Park.  To the north, Dijon Drive leads into the medical district and to destinations east and north.   A reply from Mr. McIntosh, of KCS was discouraging of the notion, expressing safety concerns over having a bike path so near their active rail line.  Nevertheless, Rail- with Trail pathways are used successfully in other places where there is no attraction for trespass across the tracks; and fencing is sometimes used to limit access to the rails, except at existing road crossings.  The bike path from LSU along Nicholson Drive to Tigerland is a similar Rail- with- trail situation.  I do not know whether any difficulty would be posed by the overhead power lines which run adjacent, between the KCS tracks and Perkins Rd.
4.  b.  Moss side has a spur to Pikes Lane, which runs into a residential neighborhood and terminates in a circle, approximately 1,000 feet from Odonovan Dr.  Odonovan is lined with medical office buildings, and connects via Dijon Dr., to Perkins Rd. and the Park.
4.  c.  Moss side to Burden Drive runs into the heart of Burden Research Facility, where a back- entrance gate and a series of farm roads exists.  There is said to be some inconspicuous way to cross the Interstate on Burden property, but I do not know of any connection across the drainage canal and onto Dijon Dr.
4.  d.  Quail drive to Kenilworth Parkway might be the simplest way to proceed; and there are several potential routes to consider for a connector- pathway there.
4.  d.  i.  Pollard parkway ends in a cul- de- sac neighborhood, with approximately a mile separation from Kenilworth and a drainage canal to cross.
4.  d.  ii. Routes through either of the Pennington parking lots would not be very desirable for PBRC or for cyclists, but I have heard of some cyclists who cut through on their routine commutes; and, on Friday night, 350 bicycles rode through Irene Drive and cut across the PBRC parking lots and maintenance trails, to get from the Park over to Quail Dr.
4.  d.  iii. There is an existing serpentine sidewalk along Perkins Rd that might be fitted up to serve as a multi- use path, with an extension added across to Kenilworth Pkwy   That sidewalk belongs to PBRC, and the open property eastward (the balloon field) also belongs to PBRC, up to the frontage fence.  I wondered whether PBRC might be amenable to improving access to the growing sports complex next- door.  PBRC encourages active lifestyles and has done much to promote them; they are involved in community efforts with BREC, HealthyBR, OLOL Children’s Hospital, and others.  So I asked PBRC who might be an appropriate contact- person, hoping to foster a discussion.  It seems to me that the urgency of providing a safer bicycle route through that area now demands emergency proportions, considering Nathan’s death and Danny’s injuries.   Unfortunately, planning, engineering, and constructing a bicycle facility to avoid Perkins Road will take a long time.  Too long.
In light of PBRC’s medical bent and their commitment to active lifestyle and community outreach, I asked them for a contact person who might engage in conversation with CRPC and explore the possibility of using the serpentine sidewalk as a temporary emergency bikepath.  The sidewalk’s width seems adequate and pedestrian traffic appears to be light, but there would remain the need for some signage, a connector path along the “balloon field” to Kenilworth, and working out liability issues.  Although I had hoped to open a conversation between PBRC and CRPC, I have received no reply from PBRC.  Perhaps some of you would know who to call; or maybe there has already been direct contact with CRPC about such a prospect.
4.  d.  iv. The property along the Pennington Biomedical Center’s Perkins Rd. frontage is, I was told, the State of Louisiana’s existing highway (Hwy 427) right- of- way and might accommodate a bicycle path.  According to a contact at PBRC, the road ROW takes in approximately to PBRC’s serpentine sidewalk; and along the “Balloon Field”, the ROW width runs about to the frontage fence.  A bike path along the Pennington frontage would seem an easy approach, due to the state already owning the land.  Even if future roadway needs should dictate against this frontage being available for a bike path, it might still be due consideration as a temporary, stopgap solution to providing an off- road facility.
I would be grateful for your review and discussion of these prospects in the next meeting.