Detroit’s all in for greenways and protected bike lanes

Protected bike lanesIf 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.

Pedestrian greenwayNext 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.

Inner Circle GreenwayAgain, 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.

Plenty of Detroit Victories to Celebrate During National Bike Month

Originally published on the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative web site.

Maurice Cox addresses bicycle stakeholders in 2016The 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?

Senator Debbie Stabenow with the D-Town RidersBankruptcy 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.

Detroit’s 2016 Bike to Work Day is May 20th

For Immediate Release

Contact: Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coalition, 313 649-7249

Detroit’s 2016 Bike to Work Day is May 20th

Henry Ford LiveWell11th 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/

Detroit Bike to Work Day with Council Member Scott Benson“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.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwQ-G4AXAw1mbGNlTm5mLTRiOGs/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwQ-G4AXAw1mSGt3dVRlVGRqNU0/view?usp=sharing

 

 

“Detroit will be America’s best city for bicycling”

Detroit Planning Director Maurice Cox and D-Town Riders CEO Ashia Phillips

Detroit Planning Director Maurice Cox and D-Town Riders CEO Ashia Phillips

That’s not a quote from us. It’s a quote from Maurice Cox, Planning Director for the City of Detroit. He actually said it was a stated fact and it was something he wanted to accomplish during his tenure. He said it during a meeting last week with various bicycle stakeholders.

One way this will come true is by completing the Inner Circle Greenway. We were also at another meeting earlier that day with Cox and a couple of his planners, the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Works, and others to discuss the city’s TIGER grant for the Inner Circle Greenway. The Inner Circle has become much more than 26-miles of rail-trail and bike lanes. It’s about connecting Detroit residents to jobs and schools, providing multi-modal connections, improving quality of life, and revitalizing the neighborhoods and business corridors. While the group has not agreed on the final grant language, there is consensus that we needed to put forth the best TIGER grant possible.

The next day we led a van tour of the Greater Downtown area from the Riverfront to the North End and from Eastern Market to Mexicantown. The tour included stakeholders, Cox and a few members of his planning department, and a couple consultants. We stopped at various spots throughout the area to show the different street types, e.g. wide spoke roads, wide one-way arterials, wide boulevards, and more. Detroit has a wealth of vacant land on its roads that can be converted to a protected bike lane network throughout the city — something that nearly falls within our Coalition’s vision.

The tour also stopped at some challenging intersections (e.g Gratiot/Randolph/Broadway, Trumbull, MLK, Grand River.) We also made sure to highlight the poor maintenance of the existing bike lanes. Safety and education were also discussed.

The only surprise of the tour was a quick positive update on a related project. We were told that information must remain on the van for now, but we can say that everything is on the table. Bureaucracy and status quo are no longer acceptable excuses for making bad transportation decisions in Detroit.

While the van limited how many could join in, we were very fortunate that Ashia Phillips from D-Town Riders Bike Club could participate and share some perspectives on how bike infrastructure can better support the city’s growing bike club scene. For examples, should we plan for more bike meetup/rest areas like Harmonie Park? These areas could have bike repair stations, water, bathrooms, and local businesses.

There will be followup meetings later this year with the opportunity to bring many more Detroiters and bike clubs into the discussion of how to make the city a better place for biking. This is just the beginning of a very exciting planning effort.

Our wide roads, low traffic volumes, and abandoned rail corridors give Detroit a big advantage over other cities when it comes to making better biking opportunities. With these opportunities as well as the bike clubs, rides and many other Detroit bicyclists, it getting much easier to envision being the number one city.

Inner Circle Greenway: Bridging over freeways

U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx has recently called out freeways and how they were rammed through poor neighborhoods.

That certainly happened in Detroit — and it was intentional.

According to the 1945 Detroit Expressway and Transit Plan, “Genuine, large-scale slum clearance to let in sunlight and air can be accomplished by opening up wide arteries and often can be hitched to an expressway project by going just a little out of the way at an inconsequential time loss.”

This was reflected in the expressway route recommendations:

  • Grand River Expressway (Now I-96)  “Through much of its length it would take land in substandard areas where there is acute need for the incidental improvements to the ex­pressway.”
  • Lodge Expressway (M-10)  “[It] would lay the backbone for the rehabilitation of a neighborhood that badly needs it. The alignment has been judiciously planned to fit in with the layout of the proposed Jeffries housing project.”
  • Hastings Expressway (I-75/I-375)  “[It] would pass through substandard areas… Acquisition of the right-of-way actually would constitute a slum clearance project for much of its 6.8 miles of length and construction of the expressway would invite and justify private development of wide scope along it.”

The plan also called for non-motorized improvements that were never realized.

“Walks and promenades with benches should be fitted into the landscaped slopes wherever possible. Bicycle paths could be included for some stretches at comparatively little additional expense. These features would be very popular and would make the expressways useful for Detroiters and visitors who are without automobiles.”

So, we’re excited to hear Secretary Foxx talk about righting these wrongs and we think the Inner Circle Greenway has a role. Over its 26 miles, the greenway has eight improved non-motorized freeway crossings.

One of the major connectors is in Northwest Detroit where the proposed greenway crosses the Davison entrance ramp and I-96. We’ve found DTE aerial photographs from 1967 and 1997 that show the before and after affects of I-96 in this area. By moving the center slide left and right, one can see how schools, parks, local businesses and neighborhoods were severely divided.

While we have no delusions that the Inner Circle Greenway can mitigate all of the expressways impacts on Detroit neighborhoods, it can be valuable start.

Jeffries-1967Jeffries-1997-icgw

Five most impactful Detroit bike and trail projects for 2016

With all that’s going on — not to mention Slow Roll, the expanding diverse bike club culture, Tour-de-Troit, and bike manufacturing — Detroit deserves greater national attention as a great biking and trails city.

To help prove that, we’ve made this list of major projects that are really going to make a great impact this year. These are not in any specific order.

Link Detroit: Dequindre Cut, Eastern Market, Midtown Connector

20150921_180244Yes, this was on our 2015 list, too, but it’ll officially open this spring. $20+ million projects certainly deserve being mentioned twice. While most of the construction is complete, the security boxes and cameras won’t be operational until spring. There’s also continued work happening on those private properties along the Dequindre Cut.

The bike lanes along Wilkins, Brush, Mack, and St. Aubin are complete. There’s also much new bike parking in and around Eastern Market.

A grand opening ceremony will be announced for the spring as well.

Cass Ave Bike Lanes & Midtown Loop

Cass Avenue Bike RouteThis Midtown Detroit project began last year but will finish this year. The bike lanes start at W. Grand Boulevard and continue south to Lafayette. The route gets sharrows and proceeds a east one block to Washington before continuing south Cobo Center. Here,  the route transitions to an an off-road path heading east along the south side of Jefferson to Bates Street, which connects to the RiverWalk.

When you’re going downhill (and fast) on Bates, you get sharrows on the road. When going uphill (and slower), you’ll have a protected bike lane.

This project also includes:

  • The final section of the Midtown Loop streetscaping between Kirby and Canfield
  • Three public bike repair stations
  • Multiple in-ground, automated bike counters with two kiosks displaying real-time counts

This project was largely funded by MDOT to help make Cass a more desireable bike corridor than Woodward since the M1 Rails are causing safety issues with bicyclists’ tires.

While not part of this project, the underpass at Cass is now a public art display.

We’ve also been working with City Council and Olympia Development to upgrade a portion of these bike lanes as part of the new hockey arena construction. And in the long term, we hope to extend this Cass Avenue bike route to the Detroit Zoo using both Second and Woodward Avenues.

Automated counters

Mobile bike counter on Cass AvenueWe know more people are biking and walking but we don’t have numbers. That’s about to change as automated counters start operating 24/7 on Cass with real-time data uplinks. The Dequindre Cut extension is also getting three counters which will tally bicycles as well as pedestrians. While this data won’t tell us the total number of people on bikes or foot, it will show trends.

The Detroit Greenways Coalition will also be using our mobile bike counters again this year. In 2015 we took counts on Cass Avenue and E. Jefferson before any bike lanes were installed. We want to have before and after counts so we can measure the impacts these projects are having — and justify continued non-motorized investment.

Public Bike Share and Street improvements

The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) is still hopeful about launching this year. The anticipated footprint is from Clark Park to Belle Isle, and from the River to W. Grand Boulevard. Phase I calls for 35 stations and 350 bikes. The great news is Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan have signed on as the title sponsor. We’ve been working with the DDP and others to insure this bike share access is inclusive and serves a diverse audience.

With all these new bikes will increase demand for more bike lanes in the Downtown and the DDP is working to address that through road diets and one-to-two way conversions in the near future.

Livernois Bike Lanes

The City of Detroit installing bike lanes on four miles of Livernois from Grand River to W. Vernor. Eventually we expect to continue this route to Historic Fort Wayne and the Detroit River as part of the Gordie Howe Bridge U.S. Plaza project.

Detroit Planning Director Maurice Cox has also announced intentions for pop-up (i.e. short-term prototype) bike lanes on Livernois in the Avenue of Fashion between McNichols and Eight Mile. There’s not enough width between the outside curbs for four vehicle travel lanes, two parking lanes, and bike lanes. Would the street work with two vehicle lanes? This is one way to find out and it’s a technique that could be applied on other roads.

Having better biking facilities on this portion of Livernois would be very welcomed as they could connect with Ferndale’s bike lanes (and their downtown) to the north and the river/Fort Wayne/Canada via the Gordie Howe Bridge to the south.

Honorable Mentions

Some of these projects are super exciting as well. Some are not yet ripe and we can’t provide specific details yet but we wanted to note that they’re moving forward.

  • 20151105_173047E. Jefferson Protected Bike Lanes — Jefferson East got the city’s first protected bike lanes installed last year just west of Alter Road. The city’s plan is to extend that same design all the way to E. Grand Boulevard/Belle Isle. The timing and scope of this project is not clear. When complete, this will be one of the longest protected bike lane projects in the U.S.
  • RiverWalk section — A new section of East RiverWalk is under construction between Jos Campau and East Chene Park. It’ll also include a bridge over an old boat slip.
  • Inner Circle Greenway — The $10 million TIGER grant was not funded last year which would have built about six  miles of the Inner Circle Greenway. We now developing a revised funding plan, which may include another TIGER grant request. In the meantime, the rail corridor land acquisition is progressing.
  • Beltline Greenway — We helped get significant Iron Belle Trail funding to acquire land for the proposed Beltline Greenway from the RiverWalk (at Mt. Elliott Park) to Gleaner’s Food Bank. Progress is being made in a collaborative effort with the DNR, city of Detroit, DECC, and the Coalition.
  • Elmwood Greenway — We partnered with Elmwood Cemetery on a grant request to further plan an off road trail from Gleaners/the Beltline Greenway to the Dequindre Cut near Gratiot. We expect the greenway would connect into the historic cemetery as well.
  • International Greenway Vision Map — We are working with a large number of parties on both sides of the Detroit River produce a map that highlights the greenways and bike routes adjacent to our international border. We want to show the value in building connections between the U.S. and Canada so bicyclists can enjoys both countries without needing a car. That could mean ferry service between downtown Detroit and Windsor, as well as bike lanes on the Gordie Howe Bridge.
  • Open Streets — We’ve been working with the DDP, DTE, City of Detroit, Wayne State, and others to bring one or two Open Streets events to Detroit in 2016.
  • Indoor Velodrome — There’s nothing official to report yet, but the project is moving forward.

 

Among many things, Ron Scott was a bike advocate

Ron Scott talks about bikes in DetroitI met Ron Scott on the stairsteps of the old Detroit Police Department (DPD) headquarters on Beaubien in 2008. I didn’t know much about him except that he was interested in helping organize a bicycle ride against the police department’s suddenly announced enforcement of mandatory bicycle registration ordinances.

Along with fellow advocate Tawanna Simpson, we organized a bike protest ride while simultaneously working to make the bike registration ordinances voluntary.

From my limited policy perspective as the MTGA Detroit Greenways Coordinator, the ordinances were archaic and and burdensome. For Ron, it wasn’t a coincidence that DPD starting enforcing the ordinances. It was a tool for targeting certain types of people who happened to be on bikes. Unlicensed bikes were an easy way to write $75 tickets. This was an issue of fairness and equity.

Along the way, Ron bought a bike and was rapidly absorbed in the fun and health aspects of bicycling. He spoke of bicycling’s ability to build inclusive community, perhaps foretelling Slow Roll. He certainly brought a more broad perspective to the discussion.

At the Detroit City Council hearing on the registration ordinances, I was taken aback by the respect and admiration each council member gave Ron as they entered the room. Still not knowing his past, it gave me a great deal of confidence. Council called Ron and I to the table where he spoke elegantly and introduced the need to remove the city’s unnecessary bicycling restrictions. He then introduced me as his brother, which elicited some chuckles. While we’re both Scotts, we don’t look much like siblings. I proceeded to outline the specifics of why mandatory licensing didn’t make sense from a policy perspective.

Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-CummingsMore people spoke against the ordinances with only DPD speaking in support of them. City council not only moved to make the mandatory bicycle registrations voluntary, they thanked us for bringing this issue before them. Our protest bike ride was then turned into a bike ride celebration that even saw the Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings riding with us.

Seizing on this political momentum, we decided to bring the Department of Public Work’s non-motorized master plan before council for their approval. Council passed it unanimously before we could finish our presentation. More success!

In the end, DPD gave us a gift that not only led to Ron’s involvement, it fostered a relationship with Council that made Detroit more bike- and trail-friendly. Our positive relationship with Council continues to this day.

Belle Isle State Park

Another issue dear to Ron was the lease of Belle Isle to the State of Michigan. With that lease came an increased state enforcement that made many long time park users feel unwelcomed. This included many Detroit’s bike clubs that no longer felt comfortable holding their events on the island.

We worked with Ron and the bike club presidents to have DNR State Parks Director Ron Olson and the DNR Chief of Southern Field Operations Scott Pratt ride together for the 2014 fireworks. It was an opportunity to make introductions and an initial attempt at changing conditions and perceptions.

The following month, Ron and I spoke before the Michigan State Parks Advisory Committee. Per the meeting minutes:

Scott Pratt, Ron Scott, Ron OlsonRon Scott, applauds the state for what they have accomplished so far with Belle Isle and the increase in Recreation Passport sales just in the Detroit area. However, he encouraged the DNR Parks and Recreation Division to reach out to other stakeholders in the City (i.e. businesses, organizations, the districts, and the general public) and the surrounding areas. For whatever reason, some groups or individuals have not felt comfortable or welcome on the island. He feels that if the department were to reach out to these groups (i.e. have public meetings, discussion or interaction), regarding what would encourage them to visit and enjoy the island, it would not only benefit the island with increased revenue, but it would also help the city and local businesses. He also recommended reaching out to surrounding communities to encourage interest in Belle Isle and point out what it has to offer on a more localized level. Organizations like the Detroit Greenways Coalition, the state, and others would benefit by meeting, having these discussions and figuring out ways to attract more visitors to the area. He also reminded the committee that the state needs to be sensitive to the way enforcement is handled on the island.

 At an event just last month Ron reiterated the need to resolve this issue. We’re still working on it.

Certainly Ron contributed much more to Detroit than bicycling advocacy. Others will write much more about that. I just feel so fortunate that our causes overlapped, to have worked with him and be inspired by him, and to be called his brother.

Thank you, Ron.

On November 30th, 2015, Ron Scott passed after a battle with cancer at age 68. 

[More about Ron Scott]

At a glance: Michigan Road Funding bills

1280px-Michigan_state_capitolThe Detroit Free Press has a story today on the package of Michigan road funding bills headed to the governor.

While state road funding is one of many used in Detroit, it’s typically not the primary source for trail and bike lane projects. Those projects rely more often on federal grants and philanthropy. Still, this funding is important and does affect our work.

The good news is that unlike legislation introduced in earlier sessions, these do not affect the road funding formulas much. Prior changes included registration and fuel tax increases while effectively shifting funding from cities to the counties. Detroit was set up to lose millions. Other bills bypassed the formula altogether which shortchanged public transit funding and the 1% for non-motorized requirement. Those changes aren’t happening with these bills.

However, one change does give Detroit the flexibility to shift up to 20% of its state road funding to DDOT.

These bills also transfer substantial general fund money to the transportation funding. It’s a major shift from motor vehicle user fees (e.g. vehicle registration and fuel taxes) to general funds that everyone pays through state income and sales taxes. While these transfers have been done in recent years — especially at the federal level — they haven’t been done to this extent in Michigan.

Having more general funding for roads only reinforces the justification for Complete Streets. We’re all paying for the roads so they should be designed for all of us.

Restrictive youth bicycle ordinances repealed

Photo from Council member Castaneda-Lopez's Facebook photo album

Photo from Council member Castaneda-Lopez’s Facebook photo album

Moments ago, Detroit City Council unanimously repealed three city ordinances that restricted youth bicycling within the city. In brief, these ordinances prohibited bicyclists under age 12 from riding in the street even if they were with a parent or guardian. Bicyclists between ages 12 and 17 needed to carry a permission note with them. The penalty for violating either ordinance was the Detroit Police Department could ask parents that they withhold bicycling privileges for up to six months.

We sought to remove these as we outlined in a prior post.

Yesterday we testified at a public hearing that these ordinances were archaic, unique to Detroit, and not best practices. They also did not seem to be enforced, which made youth safety education more challenging. Should we tell youth to ignore them?

Also at the public hearing was Heather Nugen, Executive Director for Back Alley Bikes. Nugen brought her wealth of experience in youth cycling to the table. Council member Scott Benson recognized Back Alley Bikes for all the great work they do in the city.

Next up were two third-graders who road their bikes to school and knew how to safely ride in the road. They clearly had the most impact. Thanks to BikeVON for bringing these kids to the hearing.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, Council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez and Benson posed with them. Member Castaneda-Lopez wrote on Facebook:

I love when youth come to speak at City Council- it can be intimidating even for adults. Today these two 9 and 10yr olds, respectively, came to support repealing archaic restrictions around youth riding bicycles. They ride their bikes to school. I hope that someday soon everyone in the city feels safe & comfortable riding bikes and using this as a viable means of transportation. #detroitcycles #nonmotorizedtransportation#youthempowered #district6

We share that hope!

Also, we do want to thank People for Bikes in helping spread the word on this with an Action Alert.

Repealing Detroit’s Restrictive Youth Bicycling Ordinances

A public hearing to repeal these youth biking ordinances was held on Monday, October 26th at 10:30AM at Detroit City Council. The repeal was successfully voted out of committee and is on the Tuesday Council agenda for an expected final vote.


 

Last May, Detroit made a massive overhaul of its traffic ordinances. City Council repealed most of Detroit’s traffic ordinances and adopted the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code and Uniform Traffic Code in their place.

We supported this change as it makes Detroit’s traffic ordinances more consistent with other Michigan cities.

It also meant bicycles no longer required bells. We’re not anti-bike bell, we think they’re a great idea. We just don’t think bicyclists should get a ticket for not having one.

Three ordinances that didn’t get removed involved youth bicycling.

Sec. 55-4-11. – Operation of bicycles—Persons under twelve years of age.
No person under the age of 12 years shall operate a bicycle upon any street, highway or alley of the City, provided, that such person under twelve 12 years of age may operate a bicycle on the sidewalks of the city. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

Sec. 55-4-12. – Same—Persons twelve to seventeen years of age.
Any person over the age of 12 years and under the age of 17 years may operate a bicycle upon the streets, highways, and alleys of the City, provided, that such person has in his possession the written consent of the parent or guardian to do so. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

Sec. 55-4-13. – Same—Police to notify parents of violations.
If there is any violation of section 55-4-21 or section 55-4-22 of this Code, the Police Department shall notify the parent or guardian of the violation, giving the details of the violation, and shall recommend the confiscation of the bicycle by the parent or guardian for a period of not more than six months. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

These ordinances are archaic and unduly restrictive. To the best of our knowledge, they are not enforced.

We asked members of the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Planners if they were aware of another U.S. city with similar restrictions. The answer was “no”.

Repealing 55-4-11 does not mean all Detroit youth are prepared to ride safely in the streets, but certainly some are. Many youth under age 12 ride in the streets with their parents/guardians or with organized groups such as the Back Alley Bikes Youth Rides and the Safe Routes to School program. This happens safely across the city and should not be prohibited.

Also, Council adopted the Michigan Uniform Traffic Code by reference in May 2014. That includes a rule that holds parents/guardians responsible for their children:

R 28.1201 Rule 201. Required obedience to traffic ordinances; parental responsibility; violation as civil infraction. (1) It is a violation of this code for any person to do any act that is forbidden, or to fail to perform any act that is required, by the act or this code. (2) The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit this child or ward to violate any of the provisions of the act or this code. (3) Unless otherwise specified, violation of any rule of this code is a civil infraction.

We met with Council member Scott Benson this summer to discuss their repeal. The repeal amendment went before the City Council Public Health and Safety Committee today and was moved to tomorrow’s City Council of Whole.