Longtime FOLC board member Edgar Chase is the subject of a feature article on the RTC TrailBlog. Check it out.
(We’re also copying the article here for archival purposes.)
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 could bicycle.”
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 day.”
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 kids.”
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