Wednesday, January 21

Car Crazy in New Orleans

I'm really not sure how to characterize cycling in New Orleans. Unlike newer southern cities, there's a lot of it going on. It has its fair share of brain-damaged, door zone bike lanes, one of which makes a star appearance in one of this post's videos. The standard of how people ride is generally no better than elsewhere, with wrong-way sidewalk riding abounding, even when bad bike lanes adjoin the sidewalk.

Today, however, I'm going to talk about a small subset of cycling and car culture in New Orleans, namely the French Quarter. The French Quarter was the original part of New Orleans and was mostly built up in the 17th and 18th centuries. After the Americans came around, it expanded greatly, with places like the Garden District.

Sharrows seem to be the fashion statement as you enter the French Quarter. Note that there is car parking on both sides of the street.

One thing that really struck me was the way bicycles were attached to just about anything that made sense, and that cars were parked everywhere. I do not recall, however, a single purpose-built bike rack. What's more, almost all of the car parking was paid parking, even on the street. There were some private lots, and parking there was about $10 for two hours. Doing a little math, with on-street parking costing $1.50 per hour and five or six bikes (average) in a car parking spot, the city would have to charge about a quarter an hour to break even. Can anyone say "bike share?"

There did appear to sort of be a designated bike route of some sort, though I saw no evidence that any of the local cyclists paid any mind to it. Given a sign on the same street, I don't imagine cyclist safety was a high priority in route selection.

Crescent Corridor Sign

In the area around Jackson Square, bicycles were not so welcome. In the Square itself, I'm not sure a person walking a bike would be allowed. Even dogs are forbidden and you might be tasered for feeding a bird.

Despite all this, the French Quarter shows why people ride their bikes everywhere in places like the Netherlands, and why I entitled this post "car crazy in New Orleans." As you may see from the photo below, the purple zone is the French Quarter and there are cars parked all the way along almost every street. What's more, as the videos show, there are cars parked in the traffic lanes of many of the streets.

Four Blocks Stroll from a Parking Garage to the middle of the French Quarter
Now, for notes on the videos. In the first one, shot on Decatur Street on the side with a bike lane, you see a pair of people using the bike lane. While I'm not sure the bike lane does any more than make people feel better about passing on the right, it IS the fastest route along the street. Later in the video, you'll see a guy come the wrong way down the bike lane. Right before he appears, the traffic signals turn red so he's actually riding through a red light on the wrong side of the road. Still, he doesn't appear to be in overly much danger. The first video is 27 seconds long. The light turns red about ten seconds in and the "Gulf Salmon" shows up about 5 seconds later.

In the second video, you can see how the lack of a bike lane distorts things. That skateboarder would have not been allowed had a bike lane been present, and the SUV would not have tried to make a U turn either. BTW, as I recall, someone making a U turn is supposed to yield to all other road users. The second video is 29 seconds long. Originally, the skateboarder was one clip and the SUV was another until I merged them together. You can tell from the music that they were shot one after another.

IMO, this location almost CRIES to be a "nearly motor vehicle free" zone. Sure, delivery trucks need windows to deliver. There are people who have garages on private property who should be accommodated, and parking garages would have to be erected to get all those cars OFF the French Quarter street, but we need to give all those high-falutin' urban planners SOME sort of challenge. Heck, maybe they could put in some streetcars with all those parked cars gone and a bike lane would take on a WHOLE new meaning. How, one might ask, do you protect cyclists from pedestrians? I guess that's one reason they mostly ride slow in Dutch cities...

Looking East along Decatur Street

Looking West along Decatur Street

They Still Love Andy in New Orleans

As can be seen, people in New Orleans still have a fondness for Jackson. These wreaths were seen on January 18 in Jackson Square. The inscription on the base; "The Union Must and Shall be Preserved" was added by Union General Benjamin Butler shortly after Butler's Union troops occupied the city early in the Civil War. Butler was a Jacksonian Democrat. Many in New Orleans called him "spoons" for short.

One last photo before we depart Andy. Actually, it doesn't have much to do with Andy other than both statues are on Decatur Street. The statue below is of Joan of Arc. It was a gift of the people of France. Originally, it was gifted in 1958, but New Orleans could not afford the $35,000 to have it erected, so it sat in a warehouse for eight years. Luckily, DeGaulle came to town and got people to raise money and it was finally erected at the Place de France in 1972. BUT WAIT, there's more! Joan became unwanted at her original locale when a big casino went in there, so she was moved her to her current location on Decatur Street a couple of blocks east of the cathedral. The statue is a duplicate of the one in Paris. I do not know if the casino paid for the relocation or not. Certainly, it was moved without DeGaulle's intervention. Presumably, they didn't rename "Place de France" to "Place de Harrah" or "Place de Monte Carlo."

Saturday, January 17


It was 200 years today that the last British shells were lobbed at Fort St Philip. While most think that the Battle of New Orleans was a quick affair on January 8th, fighting began on December 14th of 1814 and ended when the British packed their gear after the 17th of January. Most also think the battle didn't matter since the treaty was signed in December 1814, but the treaty did not take place until BOTH countries ratified it, which didn't happen until February 1815. What's more, the Brits thought the Americans might not ratify and New Orleans would certainly increase their motivation.

To make a long story short Jackson led very well and was also lucky. Before too long, he became our first Democrat President. Less uplifting is that to this day, some Indians will not carry $20 bills. BTW, I'll have observations on NOLA cycling after I get back.

Friday, January 9

Passing of an Era

Thomas Victor Jones, with YF-17 Model before it Evolved into the F-18
As is always the case, the end of a year is marked by news agencies summarizing notable people who passed away during the year. Among these articles reviewing 2014, there is at least one giant name missing; Thomas Victor Jones. You see, Tom Jones was the last of a breed in the aerospace industry that we are not likely to see again in our time. Some might not think that a bad thing, but it also probably means less future innovation in that same industry. The photo, above, comes from the LA Times Obituary. Perhaps it is ironic that Ralph Vartebedian wrote it - Ralph was a thorn in Jones's side for many years.

Northrop F-5 at Boeing Museum
In the first half century of aviation, most companies funded a major portion of new aircraft from their own resources. Northrop Corporation was one such. When I started work there, Jack Northrop was still alive, though frail. The CEO was Tom Jones. He made his name by pushing for the T-38 and F-5, aircraft that are still in service today more than 50 years later. He also pushed to get Northrop into the unmanned aircraft business. The mostly Northrop-funded YF-17 later developed into the F/A-18 on his watch and is still being built. It was a point of pride at Northrop that almost ALL the company facilities were company owned. More commonly, the US Government owned large aircraft facilities. Northrop was different under Jones. We purchased license plate holders that said: "Northrop Aircraft Division, a Good Place to Work" at the company store.

Less well known is that Northrop, again under Tom’s watch, played a major role in funding and supporting Boeing (his son just passed away as noted HERE) in the development of the original 747. I’ve been told that Northrop built and owned many of the original tools for that aircraft until Boeing later purchased them back. Certainly, Jones’s support of stealth research and guidance systems directly led to Northrop’s B-2, Peacekeeper missile and YF-23, and there is much more.

It was the F-20 that truly showed him as having the spirit of a Mississippi river boat gambler. It also led to his downfall. For those not familiar with the F-20, it started life as the “F-5G.” The F-5G was Northrop’s response to a Carter Administration initiative to have US companies privately develop fighters for export to friendly countries that were outside the NATO/Israel umbrella. Well, to make a long story short, Northrop spent $1.25 billion of its own money only to find its potential market completely undercut by that same US Government. It then got to spend hundreds of millions more on the ATF competition. Jones went away from Northrop and the last Mississippi river boat gambler was gone by 1990. You can read the whole, sordid story, HERE. Not long after he left, the City of Hawthorne renamed "Thomas Victor Jones Park" to "Holly Park." Sheesh.

Unlike Jack Northrop, who was pretty much despondent when the US killed off his flying wings and ordered them cut up, Tom Jones went into an elegant retirement. He founded Moraga Vineyards around his mansion in Bel Air, California. Moraga is the most expensive vineyard property on the planet. In 2013, he sold the place to Rupert Murdoch (yes, THAT Murdoch) and remained in the house itself until his death in early 2014. We will not see his like again soon. Perhaps it is fitting that the Moraga property once belonged to Victor Fleming who directed “Gone With the Wind.” Maybe Jones was a bit inspired by Rhett Butler.

From the Moraga site, a Low Key Note of Tom's

Wednesday, January 7

So Quickly They Change

It seems like yesterday (actually this last Spring) that Fergus joined us. You may see him as he was, HERE. In November, he discovered snow, HERE. Now, he's become that wild and crazy dog! Actually, mostly, he's been a pretty good dog.