Vehicle-free college life gets tough in car-centric Baton Rouge | News

Each time French junior Ali Redmann’s bike was stolen, she found herself without any reliable means of transportation to get to the LSU campus from her apartment near Nicholson Drive.

“There are several blocks near my apartment complex that don’t have any sidewalks and you walk through people’s yards,” Redmann said. “My apartment is within walking distance in theory, but that’s really only hypothetical.”

Even when she had a bike, navigating the streets of Baton Rouge without bike lanes or cracked sidewalks was dangerous. Once, she was nearly hit by a car while riding her bike on East Boyd Drive.

Using her hand as a turn signal, Redmann began to spin and was interrupted by a swerving car that almost knocked her off her bike in the middle of the road.

Although he chose to live in University View because of its proximity to grocery stores and the campus, living without a car has also presented health issues for Redmann, who takes prescription drugs. The nearest pharmacy that supplies her with her medication is at the end of a busy highway and across streets with no crosswalks.

“I have to take my life into my own hands and run if I want to get my prescription drugs,” she explained. “Or I have to wait for a friend with a car.”

Car-free living in Baton Rouge is difficult and dangerous given the lack of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. If LSU students don’t live in a handful of nearby apartment complexes with sidewalks or safe bike lanes leading to campus, car-free college life can become a dangerous game of “Frogger” in the poverty-centric city. car.

This reality is especially noticeable in areas around the LSU campus, where only a handful of off-campus apartments realistically allow pedestrian accessibility to campus.

Those who live in apartments on Burbank Drive past the intersection with Lee Drive or in student residences along treacherous Nicholson Drive, student life without a car is harder than expected.

Outside of on-campus apartments and dorm life, only six apartment complexes are close enough to campus for students to walk or ride bikes. The university bus system reaches some off-campus apartments, but some students have complained about the unreliability of the system.

Left with no other option, some students have adapted to the vagaries of the bus system.

First-year music education student Lily Espinoza said she’s adapted to using the Campus Transit transportation system to make life without a car easier. The on-demand system is available between 5 p.m. and midnight and moves students to and from locations of their choosing, as opposed to an itinerary-based system.

“When it comes to buses, I will say that I’m a big fan of buses and I’m surprised more people aren’t using them, especially on-demand ones,” Espinoza said.

But even services designed to help people live without a car can be troublesome.

“I tried using the on-demand buses once,” said Anna Montgomery, a freshman biochemistry student. “It was such a bad experience that I didn’t try again. In fact, I’m just walking across campus after dark, which isn’t a very safe decision, but that’s who we work with.

For Espinoza and others, the transit system is flawed, but they’ve gotten used to the quirks and even know which bus drivers to rely on.

Sophomore sociology student Brian Castanza joined the military between first and second year to pay for college. He wants to be sure of his financial stability before buying a car.

“It’s hard to be a student these days. Everything is so expensive,” he said.

Castanza generally relies on buses. It describes the inconsistency in the TransLoc application, as well as the buses themselves.

“I run to the bus stop because I’m 15 yards away, and they’re literally doing a touch and go, they don’t even stop,” Castanza said. “The bus must wait at the bus stop for at least 30 seconds or 10 seconds.”

Castanza wakes up two hours before her classes start so she can get physical therapy and get to LSU on the buses. Still, he likes the options offered by LSU’s buses; he just wishes the system was more predictable.

“The campus itself has average walkability with sidewalks and crosswalks,” said civil and environmental engineering professor Brian Wolshon. “Once you get off campus, I think it’s not really good.”

Deadly incidents — like the one that killed LSU professor Norimoto Murai last year — prompt calls for bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, but the calls fall on deaf ears at the university level. , explained Wolshon.

Norimoto Murai, an accomplished LSU professor and researcher of 37 years who instilled in hi…

Once the sidewalk moves away from campus property, it becomes a problem for the parish town. Much of this problem, especially on Burbank and Nicholson, he explained, is the result of archaic planning when the area was less residential.

“The problem is, once it’s built, we’re kind of stuck with it,” Wolshon said. “These developments happen because they provide convenience, but what the city hasn’t done well enough is ensure there are pedestrian routes with connectivity in its sidewalks.”

Once something is built, like the multiple malls along Burbank with very little pedestrian access, it’s hard to go back and update things, Wolshon said.

The rapid development of the area around campus over the past few decades is one of the main reasons why it is so difficult to access campus from most off-campus apartments.

“There are no sidewalks. No nothing. If you don’t have a car, you can’t drive there,” said freshman computer science student Donovan Brown.

Brown does not have a car because he and his family currently cannot afford the finances that come with owning a vehicle. He saved up the money to buy one, but things like gas, insurance, and regular maintenance are currently too much for his budget.

“I could get one now, but there are so many fees attached that I just can’t,” he said. “I work for minimum wage right now.”

Brown has an on-campus job as an office assistant in his residence hall. Like many jobs at LSU, the pay hover around minimum wage and not enough money to cover driving expenses.

Not having a car limits the ability to find a better-paying job — Brown is stuck with options near LSU and therefore the pay to go with it.

Even students who still live on campus struggle if they are without a car. Despite better access to campus facilities, freshmen living in dorms still feel the reality of Baton Rouge as a motor city.

Montgomery shares a car with her sister and says it’s just not her turn to have it this year. She’s from Lafayette and can usually be driven home by her sister, also an LSU student.

In general, Montgomery finds that life on campus without a car isn’t so bad. She walks around campus all the time, so it’s usually the odd errands and chores that are particularly troublesome.

“Every time I try to do random errands like I’m trying to get a scholarship and for that I need only one photo of me printed out and there’s nowhere on campus where I can do it,” Montgomery said. . “So I have to plan a time when my friends or my sister can drive me. It’s just these weird, specific races that show I don’t have access to the car.

A sidewalk ends on Sunday, March 6, 2022, near the intersection of East Boyd Drive and Burbank Drive.

Burbank, home to several apartments including the Legacy, the Lark and the Oliver, is an example of development coordination failure, said Jamie Setze, executive director of the Capital Region Planning Commission. Burbank was built over 40 years ago and has taken that time to develop to the current state, whose initial development did not foresee the need for bike lanes and crosswalks.

“Where we came from was basically 100 years of growth that wasn’t well coordinated,” Setze said. “There have been incremental improvements over time, but there have also been incremental failures to improve as well.”

Setze explained that the solution to such a problem around LSU is simple, especially when it comes to high-speed car routes like Highland and Burbank.

“Eighty years ago, before cars came into the Highlands, it was actually a very passable road. But it turned into this route for high-speed cars,” he said. said “It really doesn’t handle that many cars. We built Burbank just south of it with four lanes so Highland, other than local road access, can really be kept to a minimum.”

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