Rightsizing Baton Rouge streets

Picture a busy surface street in the city you use frequently. How would you make it rightsized? By that, I mean, the street likely no longer meets the needs of the people who use it. The road doesn’t have a middle turning lane or a median to control traffic flow. The area is frequented by pedestrians and cyclists, but the infrastructure doesn’t allow safe crosswalks, bike lanes or even sidewalks in some areas. Maybe it needs additional lanes for heavy traffic, or less lanes because it no longer services many vehicles.

Government Street is an example of a local thoroughfare that could benefit from rightsizing. It desperately needs turning lanes and a median, there aren’t adequate crosswalks—as shown with events like White Light Night, where organizers have to hire police officers to safely get people from one side to the other—and several businesses have bike racks outside their storefronts, even though there isn’t a marked bike or shared lane.

Where Mid City is flourishing, the infrastructure is falling behind. That’s where the idea of rightsizing comes in. As a recent story on The Atlantic Cities website points out, one size doesn’t fit every street, and as the community’s needs change, the streets should change with it. In fact, Government Street is listed in the city’s FutureBR plan as a roadway that should be converted to a complete street model—with options for designated bike lanes, bus lanes and other amenities.

So how do you think Government Street be rightsized? What’s the best way to alter the street design to meet the needs of businesses and neighborhoods along the route?

A place to start is Better Block BR’s public workshop next Tuesday, Feb. 19. The team that’s planning a two-day demonstration, taking over a block of Government Street for an April weekend to show what it would look as a rightsized street (I wrote about the project previously here), is asking for public input on how to improve the area.

The public workshop is 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Ingleside Methodist Church, 4264 Capital Heights Ave. (Full disclosure: I’m one of many people lending a hand to help make this event a reality, and you’ll likely see me there!)

And while you’re thinking up ideas to bring to next week’s workshop, here’s a nifty interactive street builder that lets you design your own street, with bike lanes, parallel parking, landscaped medians and more. The site is still being tweaked, but in its basic form, StreetMix helps you imagine all the ways a street can work. You can see a screen capture of a model street I came up with at the top of the page.

Happy rightsizing!