Conference Update: For the next few months we will be busy developing conference themes in preparation for our Call for Proposals which is set for December 13, 2017. Vital to that process is the Local Host Committee, which convened for the first time last week in New Orleans. Led by Dan Favre of Bike Easy, our host committee for Walk/Bike/Places 2018 is a dynamic collection of advocates, planners, engineers and public servants who are dedicated to their city and can’t wait to show you everything New Orleans has to offer.
A decade ago New Orleans began asking that question. No, they weren't wondering how to make every delivery on a cargo bike and make every street into a cycletrack. Instead, they were wondering how to embrace water like the Dutch.
For most of its 300 year history New Orleans has waged a pitched battle against the waters that surround it and the rain which falls upon it. But the pump-it-dry approach came into question following Hurricane Katrina. It wasn't working and keeping up with the predicted weather and climate change would require massive investments in gray infrastructure (pumps, levees, and storm sewers).
Today, with a $141M HUD grant and guided by an ambitious and award-winning Urban Water Plan, New Orleans is embracing green infrastructure as a way to reduce runoff and recharge aquifers (groundwater depletion is causing the city to sink). Evidence of this embrace was evident on our recent trip to the city: driveways and parking lots were graveled, sidewalks incorporated rain gardens, vacant lots were made into gardens, and Neutral Ground -- not to be confused with New Orlean's finest news source -- is being designed to capture and store runoff.
Resiliency is one lesson that New Orleans can teach us; reconciliation with the past is another. Our visit happened to coincide with the removal of the monument to General Robert E. Lee. If you haven't read Mayor Landrieu's thoughtful and moving remarks from that day, we recommend that you do.