Meet the Board - Thomas Douthat


Where are you from?

I was born in Charleston, West Virginia, but I grew up in Montpelier, Vermont. I have also lived almost a decade in Puerto Rico. During graduate school my wife and I lived in Athens and Atlanta, GA. Since then we have been migrating southwest, with a stop in Pensacola, before Baton Rouge.

Tell us a little about yourself…

I have a law degree, and a PhD in City and Regional Planning from Georgia Tech. My expertise is in multi-jurisdictional and multi-scalar governance, law, and policy. However, I have always had a passion for urbanism, and the dream of living in a walkable and bikeable community in the United States. These are in short order, which has brought me to start working and advocating for safe streets more directly. Atlanta and Athens had lots of existing momentum, although progress has been slow beyond a few marque projects. I really got more involved in Pensacola, especially around the issue of street design and pedestrian traffic.

I am now faculty in Environmental Sciences at LSU, and live in the Garden District with my wife, and two children. We feel lucky to be in Baton Rouge, and we love it here. But no place is perfect, and there are many barriers to walking and biking in Baton Rouge.

What do you love about biking?
I love cycling, both as a means of transportation, and in the spandex warrior sense. Being on a bike allows one to explore and interact with cities in a convenient and fun way. One can see so much and also feel very connected to place. My love of biking is really an extension of my love of walking, and grew out of the desire to go a little further without getting in a car.

What would you like to see biking in Baton Rouge look like in the future?

In my vision of utopia, we would re-focus around Complete Streets principles, and recognize that parking should neither be free nor mandated by law.

My more practical goal is for Baton Rouge to have reasonable cycling connectivity among its activity centers, and for the central parts of the city to make progress so that one day it will be safe for my kids to bike to school or the store.

To do this, I think it is necessary to shift the conversation about traffic and transportation in Baton Rouge to one where at least in principle we invert the priorities pyramid to so that EBR recognizes the health, community, and environmental benefits of putting pedestrians and cyclists first. I think inserting this perspective into infrastructure decisions in our region is the biggest contribution we can make, but to do that we first have to convince our neighbors.