We spent time with city staff taking photos in Detroit neighborhoods that demonstrate the need for greater investment in better walking infrastructure.
From non-existent sidewalks to impassable ones, we didn’t document anything that was uncommon to Detroiters. In fact, during our journey we were stopped by neighbors asking that we visit their area in hopes of getting their sidewalks improved.
We thought it might be best to simply share our photos. Clearly, these need to be improved if Detroit is to become serious about building 20-minute neighborhoods.
Do you have any poor walking conditions in the city of Detroit that you wish to highlight?
Yes, “Zero-to-sixty” is a car term unless you’re a really fast cyclist and thinking in metric. However, it was used by city staff and it’s certainly accurate.
Detroit has three of the nation’s longest protected bike lane (PBL) projects under construction now. Four more significant projects are planned for construction in 2017. With only 0.3 miles of PBL completed today, Detroit is ranked #78 among US cities. We expect it to be in the top ten by the end of the year and in the top five next year.
We’re jumping from one end of the bell curve to the other.
While this is really exciting it also brings concerns about how this rapid change affects the users. Whenever you add new designs to the roads (e.g. roundabouts), it takes education and time for people to adjust. It’s not just motorists. It’s bicyclists, pedestrians, public transit users, DDOT drivers, law enforcement, delivery vehicles, street sweepers, snow plow operators, local businesses and more.
The good news is there’s a group meeting to discuss safety and education programming with some likely funding behind it. We’re working with MDOT on updates to their “What every motorist must know about bike lanes” brochure since it doesn’t include PBLs. It’s going to take time.
In the meantime, here are four suggestions for all of us:
- Be Careful & Considerate — Don’t expect everyone to instantly know how to operate around the new lanes, but especially if the planned two-way PBLs for Downtown get installed as expected. This is a major change for everyone. (Imagine the Dequindre Cut being routed on Downtown streets!) If you’re ever unsure, just be especially careful, go slow, and watch out for others. Remember that next year, Detroit Bike Share should get more people on bikes that may not be as experienced.
- Be Patient — As much as the city is trying to get PBLs designed perfectly from the start, they may need to be tweaked over time (see the next suggestion.) In some cases what’s wanted in the design is not yet approved by MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration. That could take additional time.We also need to step up education on motorists and where they should be parking. Motorists have been parking against the curb for the past century. Until we get to the next phase and start replacing the PBL separating posts with raised curbs, it’s going to look odd parking in the street. It’ll take time getting this message out to everyone.Lastly, sweeping and snow removal maintenance is a work in progress. The city is investing in special equipment that fits in the narrow PBLs. In some case they’ll be maintaining the PBLs on MDOT roads. They need to coordinate snow removal so that they’re not pushing the white stuff back and forth between the vehicle travel lanes and PBLs — or blocking the sidewalk. It’s going to take some time to get this working well.
- Provide Feedback — Please document your concerns and send them to us, firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share them with the city. We’ve already heard about drivers opening passenger car doors in the E. Jefferson lanes. Those buffer areas are much narrower than what’s typical due to the lack of space between the curbs. On the new projects, most of the buffer areas between the PBLs and parked cars will be twice as wide.
- Be aware of your options — PBLs are intended to create a safe riding area for less experienced and less confident bicyclists. That may not be you. State law doesn’t require that you ride in PBLs (or any bike lane for that matter.) If you’re going fast or riding in a large group, it may make more sense that you stay in the other travel lanes. We’ll educate local law enforcement on this legal option.
We will vouch that the city and all the stakeholders are putting a great deal of effort into this. There’s a huge learning curve for everyone. We’ve seen nothing but the best intentions from all involved to get over that curve.
As more Detroiters feel comfortable biking in PBLs (and we have the data to prove it), we can expect more investment in them. Over time, those white plastic posts can be enhanced with planters or replaced raised curbs. It’s going to take time, effort, education and bit of discomfort, but working together, we can adjust and improve — and get a whole lot more people feeling comfortable riding bicycles in Detroit.
Lastly, with this rapid change, we expect the national bicycle organizations won’t have a choice but to start acknowledging Detroit’s bicycle friendliness. Add in the nation’s most diverse bicycle culture and they’ll realize we’re the role model they’ve been looking for. The spotlight is coming. Let’s make sure we’re ready for our closeup.
We track all state legislation that gets introduced pertaining to traffic laws. Why? Like most Michigan cities, Detroit has adopted the state motor vehicle code as local ordinances. When the vehicle code changes, so to do the local traffic ordinances.
In October 2015, we found a safe passing bill for bicycles had been introduced in the Michigan House, which was apparently the same language the city of Grand Rapids used. It required drivers of vehicles to give five feet when passing bicyclists. However, we wouldn’t support it for a couple major reasons.
First, since bicyclists must follow the same rules as the driver of vehicles while on the roadway, they too would have to give five feet when passing other bicyclists.
Second, it mandated that vehicles (and bicyclists) to always pass bicyclists on the left. It would have prohibited passing bicycles on the right, which often happens:
- When a bicyclist is in a left turn lane
- When a bicyclist is at a light going straight and there’s a right turn lane next to to them
- On one-way streets with more than two lanes where bicyclists can ride on either side of the road
- Where bike lanes are on the left side of the road, like on Belle Isle.
Yes, with this legislation, cars could not legally pass bicycles in the bike lane on Belle Isle. Clearly all the implications of the bill hadn’t been considered.
We contacted the League of Michigan Bicyclists and learned they had a role in the bill language. We outlined our concerns.
Last month, we discovered a new safe passing bill was introduced in the Senate. One of the bills allowed right side passing as we’d proposed. However, the bills required bicyclists on the roadway to pass other bicyclists by five feet. Again, we couldn’t support the bills as written.
This time, working closely with our friends at Henry Ford Health System, we directly contacted the bill sponsors, State Senators David Knezek and Margaret O’Brien. We proposed alternative language so that the five foot requirement only applied to motorists.
And we were successful! Substitute bills (SB 1076 and SB 1077) with our modified language passed out of Senate committee before passing the full Senate. Since these bills aren’t tie-barred (one can pass without the other), it’s possible that just the left side-only passing bill will pass. We’ll see what happens in the House.
It’s great to have Senate support for improving bicycling in Michigan. Unfortunately, there’s little data that passing bills in other states have had much effect.
These passing bills are in some ways a reaction to the tragedy earlier this year in Kalamazoo. Clearly that driver ignored the state laws regarding driving while under the influence. He all but certainly would have ignored safe passing laws had they already been enacted.
Another consideration is that 36% of all reported Detroit bike crashes with vehicles are hit and run. Fifty percent of the crashes causing a bicyclist fatality are hit and run. If the driver gets away, no new bike law will help.
The Michigan Senate also passed a bill (SB 1078) that sets minimum time of one hour for the existing motorist education requirement on laws pertaining to motorcycles and bicycles. The bill also adds the laws pertaining to pedestrians. The Coalition supports this bill and thinks
Take Action: Please contact your state representative and ask them to support Senate Bills 1076, 1077 and 1078.
Press Release from the City of Detroit (includes corrections to earlier copy):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2016
CONTACT: Vince Keenan, City of Detroit Department of Neighborhoods, 313-236-3523, email@example.com
City of Detroit to host Open House with MDOT to discuss proposal to add protected bike lanes on US-12 Michigan Avenue from Cass Avenue to Livernois
An open house-style meeting to gather public input from interested parties about the proposed changes to US-12 (Michigan Avenue) to add protected bike lanes to Michigan Avenue between Livernois and Cass Avenue. Michigan Avenue is a State highway and the City of Detroit is working with MDOT and community groups throughout this process.
Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016
4 – 7 p.m.
UAW Local 22
4300 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48210
City of Detroit Department of Public Works & Traffic Engineering
City of Detroit Planning and Design Department
City of Detroit Department of Neighborhoods
Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)
Residents and interested stakeholders
Accommodations can be made for persons with disabilities and limited English speaking ability. Large print materials, auxiliary aids or the services of interpreters, signers, or readers available upon request. Please call 313-236-3523 to before meeting date.
As part of ongoing predestination efforts, The City of Detroit and MDOT are proposing a pilot project to add protected bike lanes on US-12 (Michigan Avenue) from Cass Avenue to Livernois. The change would connect the Livernois bike pathway and the planned Cass Avenue bike path. Existing bike lanes adjacent to motor vehicle travel lanes would be moved inside the parking lane to allow bike riders to travel next to the curb. Areas without bike lanes would be added.
The Michigan DNR held a public meeting on August 24th, 2016 to review a trail master plan for Belle Isle and gather input. The meeting discussed:
- Development of a new multi-use pathway located mostly between the outer park roads and the water
- Additional trails within the inner forest area
- Permanently closing some mostly unused park roads on the east end of the island to motor vehicle traffic
- Location of the Iron Belle Trail starting point
The presentation from this meeting is now available on our shared drive.
More details on this project as well as contact information is available on the DNR website.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting a public meeting to allow the community an opportunity for input as we develop a master plan for the Belle Isle Trail system.
DATE: Wednesday, August 24th
TIME: 6:30pm -8:30pm
LOCATION: Belle Isle State Park, Flynn Pavilion
Project Description from the DNR:
The plan is developing a 6-mile paved multi-use trail loop around the perimeter of Belle Isle Park in order to connect to existing park facilities and provide safe non-motorized recreation to all visitors on the island as well as siting of the southern trailhead for the Iron Belle Trail. The park currently includes bicycle lanes located on the park’s main perimeter road and two miles of hiking trails located in natural areas of the park. The master plan will develop a trail system through the 200 acre unique wet-mesic flatwoods on the East end of the island and identify gaps in the Belle Isle State Park’s existing trail system and locate a trailhead for the southern terminus of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail. The Iron Belle Trail is made of two statewide trails (hiking and biking routes) traveling 2,000 miles from Detroit to Ironwood several park attractions are not easily accessible to pedestrians and other non-motorized uses. The park is in need of a separate multi-use looped trail system in order to connect existing park facilities.
Uses enhanced by this project include bicycle, pedestrian, persons with disabilities, roller bladders, strollers, hikers. The trail will also provide access to natural ecosystems, wildlife observation and educational opportunities. The Master Plan will define types of trails to be developed, determine location of trails and trailheads, determine trailhead layout and site amenities, and develop standards for trail signage. Surfacing and signage will be selected to enhance the surrounding park landscape. Project documents will include estimates of probable cost and phasing plan for implementation of the improvements identified, taking into consideration the current funding climate.
This master plan is critical in developing the Belle Isle State Park as a regional trail hub, connecting the park to the region’s trail system. When combined with the additional amenities on the island, the proposed looped trail around the island with views of the Detroit River and Canada will be a one of kind experience not found anywhere else in the City of Detroit or surrounding region.
Upon Completion of the Coastal Zone Management Grant ($50,000) funded Master plan, the DNR Parks and Recreation Division will proceed with engineering drawings for the first phase of Belle Isle trail improvement that will include construction of the Iron Belle Trailhead. Construction of the Iron Belle Trailhead will be funded through grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund ($300,000) and National Recreation Trail Fund ($300,000).
If you watched Mayor Mike Duggan’s Keynote at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference — and you bike, walk or just love trails — you probably weren’t disappointed.
While the Mayor spoke across a wealth of topics, he did highlight existing and planned greenways and protected bike lanes as tools to “build a vibrant Detroit with opportunity for everyone.”
First, he touted the RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut, and how both are “jammed” with people walking and biking. These are competitive advantages that Detroit has which the suburbs do not. The Mayor recognizes the need to capitalize on these advantages.
Next he introduced the idea of a 20-minute neighborhood where every non-work trip can be made with a 20-minute bike ride or walk. That makes sense for many reasons. Cars are expensive to own and operate in the city. Providing less expensive transportation options is smart. It’s also highly desirable for those who chose not to drive. With most jobs for Detroiters located outside the city (for now), it’s not realistic to focus on bike commuting to work.
The high city-owned vacant land within these neighborhoods presents an opportunity to build residential greenways, not unlike what you currently see winding through Lafayette and Elmwood/Central Park. These would connect with protected bike lanes through commercial corridors and form a safe non-motorized network to help meet the 20-minute trip goal.
Again, these unique neighborhoods offer competitive advantages over many suburban neighborhoods where biking and walking are poor. Or as the Mayor note, you need to jump in your car and drive to the strip mall to buy a gallon of milk.
The initial three 20-minute neighborhoods are at McNichols/Livernois, West Village, and Southwest Detroit near Clark Park.
Lastly, the Mayor mentioned the Inner Circle Greenway and how it ties these 20-minute neighborhoods together and to the Dequindre Cut, RiverWalk, and more.
Below is the video of the entire presentation, though we’ve skipped forward to the portion that discusses greenways and bike lanes.
Originally published on the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative web site.
The city of Detroit has faced many major financial challenges after year after year of downsizing prior to its bankruptcy. Detroit simply could not provide the same level of service that other cities could. Parks were underfunded and many not maintained. Biking was often seen as a dispensable recreational activity, especially when faced with issues of crime, street lighting, blight, a declining population, and more.
But many in the community and philanthropy thought differently – and brought the city along.
Bicycling and trails were a means for economic development, inexpensive transportation, quality of life, and improved health. Through many years of working collaboratively with the city, much has been achieved. Trails such as the Conner Creek Greenway, Dequindre Cut, Detroit RiverWalk, and Southwest Detroit Greenlink were constructed. Not only did Detroiters embrace these biking options, they demanded more.
These trails along with Detroit’s flat terrain, moderate weather, lightly-traveled and overly-wide streets fostered a bicycle culture not seen in anywhere else in America: neighborhood social bike clubs that are largely African-American and embrace DIY customized bikes with music and lighting. Most of these clubs shun the stereotypical cyclist Lycra for regular clothes with club patches and more, not unlike motorcycle club colors. Each of the over thirty-some clubs have their own priorities. Some require club members to do community work often focused on getting more kids get on bicycles. Others are more about the fun and social aspects while lifting up better health.
These clubs embrace riding together, welcome diversity, and have a very low barrier to entry.
Interestingly enough, this Detroit club culture more closely mirrors that of the Golden Era of Bicycling (1890s) rather than the typical U.S. or Metro Detroit suburban club culture.
Slow Roll is another phenomenon that has helped define Detroit bicycle culture. This modest bike ride has grown from a handful of people to become one of the largest weekly bike rides in the world – and certainly one of the most diverse.
Where do we go next?
Bankruptcy has allowed Detroit to offer greater services. Detroit parks have certainly benefited from this as has the planning department.
New Planning Director Maurice Cox is rebuilding the department, hiring staff, and taking a much more active role within the city. This goes for biking too. Cox rides his bike to work every day and is a strong supporter for better and safer cycling options for all Detroiters.
The Planning Department, Public Works, consultants from other U.S. cities, the Detroit Greenways Coalition along with the clubs, Slow Roll, and others have collectively convinced the Mayor that building a healthier, more bike-able (and walkable!) city is a competitive advantage for Detroit. It can bring in greater economic development and more residents, with the latter being the Mayor’s self-prescribed metric for evaluating his job performance.
Just last month the Mayor kicked off a two-day workshop on reimagining all of East Jefferson and Grand River Avenues. He said we need to take advantage of our wide, lightly-traveled streets; make them more walkable, bike-able while improving transit. “We can’t out-suburb the suburbs,” he added but we create a great urban environment. He said Detroit could even experiment a bit as NYC did with converting street space to public plazas.
Just weeks later, the extension to the Dequindre Cut was officially opened. Again, the Mayor touted walking, biking and trails, and how they can reconnect this city. He also touted the recently submitted US DOT TIGER grant request ($18.8 million) to build over 30 miles of rail-trails and protected bike lanes as part of the Inner Circle Greenway. This grant included an emphasis on making walking and biking connections across freeways, many of which were intentionally routed through and divided communities of color.
Detroit bike culture is growing exponentially along with the demand for more. Understandably in the beginning our expectations were tempered with the city’s many challenges. Those expectations have been shattered.
In a meeting of Detroit bicycle stakeholders held earlier this year, Cox proclaimed of his tenure, “It is a stated fact that Detroit will be America’s most bike friendly city.” There wasn’t much reaction, which was likely due to incredulity rather than indifference. Is the city seriously on board with this?
Yes, it’s serious.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coalition, 313 649-7249
Detroit’s 2016 Bike to Work Day is May 20th
11th annual event is expected to be the largest yet
Detroit, MI … Hundreds of Detroit-area employees and students are expected to participate in this year’s National Bike to Work Day event that promotes cycling to work and school. This year’s title sponsor is Henry Ford LiveWell, Henry Ford Health System’s virtual Wellness Center of Excellence, designed to promote and optimize the well-being of Henry Ford patients, employees, and community members.
The event begins with morning group rides starting in the suburbs and converging Downtown at the Spirit of Detroit statue. There are also two pit/end stops in Midtown. All three locations are open from 7am to 10am:
- Spirit of Detroit on Woodward at Jefferson. Free bike parking will be provided by Wheelhouse Detroit from 7am to 6pm.
- Old Main at Cass and Warren hosted by Wayne State University
- New Center Park at Second and W. Grand Boulevard hosted by Henry Ford LiveWell
Through the generosity of our sponsors, there will be free snacks, coffee, vendors, local discounts and giveaways at these locations for those participating.
The event is free, but we ask that everyone register in advance to guarantee their complementary T-shirt and participant gift. http://detroitgreenways.org/bike-to-work-day/
“As a strong supporter of non-motorized transportation, I see Detroit Bike to Work Day as a way to put policy into action,” added Detroit City Council member Scott Benson. Benson helped arrange this year’s new Downtown gathering location at the Spirit of Detroit statue.
“We are so pleased to sponsor such a wonderful event like this,” says Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Senior Vice President of Community Health & Equity and Chief Wellness and Diversity Officer at Henry Ford Health System. “We believe wellness is an essential and lifelong commitment. Encouraging people to trade their car keys in for bike helmets, even for one day, is a great step toward achieving that overall wellness goal.”
Just last fall, Henry Ford and HAP announced their joint title sponsorship of Detroit’s new public bike share program, expected to debut later this year. Employees from as far away as Northville and Sterling Heights are expected to participate in Detroit’s Bike to Work Day.
Detroit Bike to Work Day event sponsors include Henry Ford LiveWell, American Cycle and Fitness, Blue Cross Blue Shield Active Blue, Café con Leche, Handlebar Detroit, KIND Bars, Miller-Canfield, Wayne State University and Wheelhouse Detroit.
The Route Map is available at http://detroitgreenways.org/bike-to-work-day/
A printable route sheet will be available on the web site by mid-week.
Photos credited to Detroit Greenways Coalition.