Hacking the Streets: Guerrilla Bike Signage

To improve biking for those traversing one of the most important cyclist thoroughfares in New Orleans, a group of volunteers took to the streets to make things happen.

It all started with an idea created by veteran bike commuter Ross Peizer, pointed out that the Jeff Davis bike path was in desperate need of improved lighting and signage.  Ross’ idea kicked-off a discussion of all of the bicycle “hot spots” throughout New Orleans–places where the network breaks down, where routes become unclear, and streets become unsafe. Inspired in part by the “guerrilla wayfinding” program Walk Raleigh, the team came to DIY bike signage as a way to make traveling through these breakdowns safer and easier.

“Signs were something we could do right now to start addressing the problem: we had the resources to make them, we could put them up without damaging any public infrastructure, and they call attention to the larger, more costly, and more long-term infrastructure improvements that are needed,” said Kathleen Onufer of the project. Before moving forward, the team researched the city’s bike network and surveyed over 70 people to identify which “hot spots” troubled cyclists most.

“We found a number of the hotspots that New Orleans cyclists identified fell along a key corridor stretching from the intersection of South Broad and Washington up to the Jeff Davis overpass and down to the Bayou, linking the many neighborhoods of greater Uptown and Mid-City across the barrier that is the I-10 freeway,” the team revealed during their presentation at the GOOD Ideas for New Orleans. “We found a number of the hotspots that New Orleans cyclists identified fell along a key corridor stretching from the intersection of S Broad and Washington up to the Jeff Davis overpass and down to the Bayou. This corridor (the green line) is the key link between the many neighborhoods of greater Uptown and MidCity across the barrier that is the I-10 freeway (seen here in white dotted line). We felt that this corridor needed its own identity to reflect how important it was, so we christened it the “Broad to Bayou Bikeway.”

DIY signage along the route not only helps cyclists navigate the troublesome spots along the transect, but also give the route a proper  identity.

“It gives the corridor a name, the Bayou to Broadway Bikeway, and once it has a name, it’s more of a place. And once a place is actually a place, you can start showing it more love,” Kathleen said.

Team member Tippy Tippens  took the lead designing the visual identity of the signs. Once produced, the team installed signage at a slew of “hot spots” along the corridor, providing missing information for cyclists at locations including South Broad and South Washington, Along Washington Avenue, The Jefferson Davis Overpass, and the intersection of Jeff Davis and Canal, among others.

“We looked into some cycling signage used in Europe & specifically the variety of signs used in the Netherlands for cyclists, which has a magnificent bike culture. Cyclists there are given as much info as drivers are. They have their own stoplights, lanes, warning signs, flow of traffic, etc. All of this infomation is needed when using a bike as true transportation,” Tippy explained.

Ultimately, the Broad to Bayou signage is temporary. But the renewed focus on the corridor is not. While the GOOD Ideas for New Orleans program has concluded, the bike team has set up a dedicated Broad to Bayou Bikeway Facebook page to continue building awareness of the corridor, and support for future action. They are also continuing to work with the sponsors of their challenge, Bike Easy and Transport for NOLA.