Mary Matthews is a New Orleans native who plans to open a business on the Lafitte Greenway.
"At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Greenway, one thing (Mayor Mitch Landrieu) said that I thought was spot on was that for years urban renewal policies and highway planning reinforced segregation and broke apart communities, and for the first time we're building this thing that's going to connect people and become a community space. There are so many positive impacts that can have. One, jobs — given 19 percent of households in New Orleans don't have access to cars. Are we prioritizing things in safe ways for people who depend on bikes?
"Cars don't spend money, people do. If you get people passing through slower, they're going to see your business. They're going to stop and interact with it. What's important to me is for the city and businesses to invest in being accessible to people. The more we have that infrastructure, the more possible it is for people like me to not have a car. I moved back a little over a year ago, and I haven't had to buy a car because we have better bike infrastructure. All that money I would spend on a car — buying it, insurance, gas — it's all now dispensable income. ... That's more money going to the local economy.
"The challenge is the cost of using a space that already exists. A lot of it has just been sitting (since Hurricane Katrina). It can be as expensive to get to working order as something that's built from the ground up. It'd be helpful if there were NORA (New Orleans Redevelopment Authority] facade grants like they have on Broad Street — any kind of policy, tax credit or historic preservation credit, where people were incentivized to come in and reduce blight.
"(The BeltLine in Atlanta), people were completely overwhelmed. You would never guess how many people use it. It reflected the diversity of the city — all kinds of people were using it. That's something I think we'll see with the Greenway. It goes through all kinds of neighborhoods. Biking is really accessible to everyone and really brings people together. It'll be a community space that everyone in New Orleans can connect with.
"My hope is that there will also be a lot of kids using it to get to schools that are off the Greenway. I really admire Safe Routes to Schools. They have this great state where a generation ago, 50 percent of kids were walking and biking to school, and by 2009, we were down to 15 percent. That has a huge impact on the city. A lot of kids actually live in walking distance but don't walk to school. The Greenway will be a safe route for kids."
New Orleanians talk about the Lafitte Greenway
• Mary Matthews, treasurer of Friends of Lafitte Corridor