Edgar Chase is always moving. "I used to be a runner," says
the New Orleans
native and former Marine Corps captain. Now 62, he and his wife Alva are
looking to keep active as they get older. "I can't run like I used to," he
says, so instead he and Alva "walk every day, and we don't miss a day. And when
my knee acts up too much, I ride the bike." But for Chase, walking and biking are about more than staying healthy. It's a way to get around town.
After raising children in suburban New Orleans East, the Chases were drawn closer to the city's heart by family
connections and a desire to have daily necessities within easy reach. Chase's
parents live in the city's Tremé neighborhood, and his family's business, Dooky
Chase restaurant, is in Lafitte. The couple settled in nearby Mid-City. "We
have small retail shopping districts--neighborhood grocery stores,
neighborhood pharmacy stores, neighborhood churches," Chase says. There's no
need "to use an interstate highway to go to shop. We could walk, we
Chase began bicycling in 2005, before Hurricane
Katrina hit the city. After the storm, he began riding more--to community
meetings, to festivals. Spurred on by his wife, Chase became involved with Friends of Lafitte Corridor, a group advocating
for a rail-trail through Chase's neighborhood that would connect the French
Quarter to City Park. He
eventually joined the group's board of directors. "The whole point of the
greenway," he explains, "is to encourage people...to use bicycling and walking to
go to shops, to go to restaurants, to do everyday living." Chase sees the
greenway not only as a way to revitalize local
businesses, but to bring more families to the area, who, like him, "would
like to have safe spots for our grandkids to bicycle, for us to walk every
Chase has passed bicycling on to his twin sons, as well. Now
35, they both commute to work by bike. "They have cars," Chase says, "but
they like to bike because they don't have time to get in the exercise they
normally would." It's an excellent way to make time to stay fit," he says,
especially if, like his sons, "you're a busy person and you're raising young
But Chase says his sons will bike the city's streets even
when he won't. "They're a little braver than I am. Sometimes they work late
into the evening, but they'll ride their bikes." That's where Chase draws the
line. "I don't ride my bike at dark, because I'm afraid of getting hit by a truck.
There's a little bit of danger so you have to be careful."
"I like to ride in a safe area," he says. "It's hard to find
streets with bike paths." Chase enjoys riding on Gentilly Boulevard because of
its bike lane. "We don't have that on Broad
Street, we don't have that on Carrollton Avenue, we don't have that on Tulane Avenue, we
don't have that on Nashville
Avenue. We have to cross bridges," which, Chase notes, can be difficult to traverse on a bike. "There's no bike path over the Broad
Street overpass. Then I turn on Nashville; there's no bike path there. There's
no bike path on Tchoupitoulas. We need it on all those streets," he says. And
once you arrive at your destination, Chase says, "There aren't enough bike
racks for you to safely park your bike. I think that's something we can improve on."
As the city rebuilds
its streets, he says, "We're building back better." Some now include
dedicated bike lanes. Despite the city's progress, there is still a long road
to achieving the vision Edgar Chase shares with many of his fellow New
Orleanians. "We could get back and forth to those essential neighborhood
services by bicycling or walking if we had some secure bicycling or walking
paths. It's a beautiful city here in New
Orleans, and the people are very friendly. We just need
to develop the infrastructure."
Photo courtesy Edgar Chase
Hike the Lafitte Corridor!
April 16, 2011
More in the link below:
4 corrections: Dookey Chase is on Orleans Ave at N. Miro St, across from what was the Lafitte Housing Project.
Hurricane Katrina did not strike New Orleans, it passed to the East of us.
S. Carrollton Ave does have a bike path, but only from the River to S. Claiborne Ave, and the Jefferson Davis Ave bike path goes over the interstate just 6 blocks from Broad St. While there is no bike path on Nashville Ave, one is being put in 2 blocks away on Octavia St.
The Lafitte Corridor will connect the French Quarter to City Park Ave, not the Park itself. It does insect the Jefferson Davis Ave path that does go to City Park and on to Lake Ponchartrain.
The progress in mid city New Orleans is encouraging. However, there are other parts of the city that is obviously being neglected as it relates to biking/walking safety. New Orleans East is floundering and in desperate need of these types of amenity. Avid bikers and kids alike truly have no safe paths to work, play and exercise. Promises, promises, promises. That all that the community has gotten since Katrina. When will we see some ACTION and RESULTS?
I live in the Bywater and find that St Bernard ave is pretty good for getting out to the lake and City Park area, not too much traffic usually, but it would be nice too get a bike lane marked for added safety, would make a nice loop coming back on Lafitte corridor to French Quarter and hopefully bike friendly new park be.ing constructed on the Bywater levee
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