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Proposed bike path would link 5 parishes in metro Baton Rouge; see early plans

Proposed Capital Region Bicycle Network Map.
Image courtesy of the Capital Region Planning Commission
Proposed Capital Region Bicycle Network Map.

The Capital Region Planning Commission is asking for public input on a bike path that would allow cyclists to travel through five parishes and across the Mississippi River.

Officials said the path would go through East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension, Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes. The Plaquemine ferry will help cyclists travel across the Mississippi River, according to the trail proposed by the CRPC.

The path utilizes existing trails and roadways, but new routes will have to be added to link everything together. The planning commission is working with local cyclists to discover the safest routes and with local governments to figure out the logistics of building new paths.

“We're really at the beginning of this process in terms of developing the concept for a regionally connected bicycle and pedestrian network,” Kim Marousek, the CRPC director of planning, said. “We've had some planning efforts take place at the parish or municipal level over the course of the past several years, but this is really our first look at what an interregional, connected network might look like.”

Marousek said that the commission has seen local efforts to add safe bicycle paths in Baton Rouge, Baker, Denham Springs, Zachary and Gonzales.

“There was so much momentum happening at the local level that it seemed like the next step was to take it to that regional scale and see, ‘how can we begin to think about connecting these communities across the region with a network?’” Marousek said.

CRPC Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Rachelle Trahan said the commission is “identifying opportunities, so that if (parish governments) are interested in it, we have the plan ready to go to help them move that forward.”

The project is part of CRPC’s larger Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which aims to make existing bike and walking paths safer and to add new routes. Baton Rouge has been deemed a “focus city” for such efforts by the Federal Highway Administration since 2015 because of frequent vehicular collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. That year, 107 cyclists and pedestrians were injured or killed in vehicle collisions.

Sharing the road with pedestrians is still a problem for East Baton Rouge Parish motorists. In 2020, only one fatal accident involving a cyclist was reported in the parish, but 29 pedestrians were killed in collisions. That’s more than double the yearly pedestrian deaths from 2016 to 2019.

CRPC began work on the regional plan in 2021 and hopes to have it completed by summer 2022. Marousek said that once the plan is finished, it’ll be up to parish and city governments to move forward with construction of the paths using a mix of parish, state and federal funds.

The federal infrastructure bill passed in November includes over $1 billion in funding for building and improving safe bicycle and pedestrian paths. CRPC Executive Director Jamie Setze said it’s hard to tell how much of that money will go to the Capital Region, though.

“It's going to be kind of an application to the federal government, so you're going to have states and other people applying for that money,” Setze said.

Residents can propose new paths and comment on sections under consideration using an online tool at the planning commission’s website until January 7th, 2022.

Aubry is a reporter, producer and operations assistant in Baton Rouge.