Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Notes from New Orleans

So all that snow that fell Friday and Saturday? Sorry, sorry, that was me. I came through town with my bicycle in tow, thinking I might get out and do a little bit of riding. Ha! I still had a pretty great weekend in St. Louis, though. Photos to come in January!

The weather in New Orleans has been much kinder, fortunately, and I just finished the first of several days riding around town. A few thoughts:

  • New Orleans' flat topography and warm climate may make for easy bike travel, but otherwise the city is one of the least bike-friendly places I've been. There are no bike lanes to be found in the Garden District, French Quarter, or downtown. The streets are narrow, pinching bikers between racing traffic and parked cars. Despite it being a pleasant 65 degrees or so, I saw almost nobody biking today. It's a bit inexplicable considering how accommodating parts of the city are for the pedestrian.

  • Even disregarding the memory of what happened there in September 2005, the Superbowl and its environs are a horrible and inhuman place. The building itself is a mammoth superblock, with low-rise wings and parking garages taking up a vast area of downtown. Surrounding half of it are Interstate overpasses, cutting off roads and funnelling westbound traffic from downtown onto a limited number of routes. It's a classic example of the awful "urban" planning of the 1960s, all plopped down on the edge of what is otherwise a delightful downtown. The building itself, seen from ground level, looks like an arena of doom. I can't imagine how it must have looked to the poor souls who dragged themselves there on foot across a flooded city, with no idea what they might find within.

  • The Garden District and the surrounding neighborhoods are astonishing in their endless delight and vast architectural variety. And the neighborhoods just to the north are abuzz with construction and rebuilding activity.

    Tomorrow's travels: Charity Hospital, Canal Street north of downtown, Marigny, Bywater, and more!
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