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 City Council repealed most of Detroit’s traffic ordinances and adopted the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code and Uniform Traffic Code in their place.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.

 

Growing city support for greenways in Detroit

2015 Bike Trails and Cocktails bike tour mapSeven years ago our only major biking and trails proponent was packing up his desk at the Detroit Mayor’s office and heading back to a job in the private sector. Our city support was looking bleak.

What a change we’ve seen since then!

We now have supporters throughout most city departments and in the Mayor’s office. Though Detroit has many challenges and priorities, our work is seen as an important quality of life issue from the neighborhoods to downtown.

This summer we’ve gained another supporter with the new Planning and Development Director Maurice Cox. We heard this support firsthand at a recent event on the RiverWalk

With help from the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative and Bedrock Management, the inaugural Bike Trails and Cocktails event was held. It began with a guided 8-mile bike tour of nearby greenway projects with assistance from Detroit’s Eastside Riders bike club. This tour included recently completed portions of the Detroit RiverWalk, the Dequindre Cut Extension, the planned Beltline Greenway and Elmwood Connector.

At the ride’s conclusion, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy provided more updates on their work and answered questions.

Next up was Cox who made a statement by riding to the event. This was not atypical for him though. He bikes to work, to Eastern Market, and all around town. Biking has been his primary means of transportation long before he got to the Motor City and he sees no need to change.

Bike-Trails-and-Cocktrails-by-Khalil-LigonLiving in Lafayette Park, he uses the nearby Dequindre Cut often. He told the attendees that every Detroit neighborhood deserves a great greenway like this — something that’s very much in line with the Detroit Greenways Coalition vision and Food and Fitness Collaborative goals.

One major project that will bring a greenway to many Detroit neighborhoods (as well as Hamtramck, Highland Park and Dearborn) is the 26-mile Inner Circle Greenway. Cox spoke highly of the project and the opportunity to look beyond just the trail. He added that the greenway can be catalyst for development similar to the Atlanta Beltline.

He also stressed the value in having the Coalition in Detroit to help show community support. He told the crowd that he would join the Coalition before the event was over. He also noted that he was heading to Copenhagen the next day as part of a study tour that looks at progressive European transportation and public space designs that are people-focused. We’re looking forward to what ideas he can bring back to Detroit.

What a change from seven years ago!

 

Register now for Inaugural Greenways bike tour

Bike Trails and Cocktails

 Registration is closed for this event
Detroit Greenways Coalition bike tour and gathering

The Detroit Greenways Coalition (DGC) invites you to join us on Thursday, September 17, 2015 for a bike tour to showcase some of our supported projects on Detroit’s Eastside. The Detroit Greenways Coalition strives to make Detroit a world-class city for biking and walking. Our  mission is to create, conserve, and promote greenways and green spaces to connect people, places and nature. We hope this will be the first of many group rides where we explore DGC supported projects in the region, and there is no better time to start than during Detroit Bike Week!

Our route will be a leisurely ride of approximately 8 miles. We will be led by Board members and volunteers of the Detroit Greenways Coalition. Guests will enjoy appetizers before and after the ride, and drink specials will be available.

Tickets are $25 and the first 100 get event T-shirts. You can save $10 by registering and adding a Detroit Greenways Coalition membership. We are a non-profit and your membership is tax-deductible.

Major thanks to our event sponsors Bedrock and the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative for making this event possible.

September 17th, 2015 5:00 PM   through   8:00 PM
201 JOSEPH CAMPAU ST
DETROIT, MI 48207-4118
United States

Show large map
Phone: (313) 649-7249
Registration $ 25.00
Add a DGC membership and save $10!
Adult $ 25.00
Student/Senior/Limited income $ 10.00
Family $ 35.00
Supporter $ 90.00

Help spread the word

Please help us and let your friends, colleagues and followers know about our page: Bike Trails and Cocktails


 

Detroit’s $10.4 million TIGER request for Inner Circle Greenway

Inner Circle Greenway Phase 1 mapEarlier this month the city of Detroit submitted a $10.4 million federal TIGER grant request to build the first phase of the Inner Circle Greenway. This phase is basically the entire west side of the trail, including new bridges over the Jeffries expressway.

The initial plan was to submit a $25 million TIGER request to build the entire trail at once. However, there was a concern that only a portion of that money would be awarded with the city responsible for the difference. Given the recent financial issues, many weren’t comfortable with that risk.

As you may recall, the Link Detroit project (which includes the Dequindre Cut extension) asked for $15 million in TIGER funding but received $10 million.

The city should know by the end of the year whether the request is funded. It is highly competitive so there are no guarantees, but we’re optimistic.

Also underway right now is additional design work for the trail.

We have updated our Inner Circle Greenway page with the most recent information. We’ve also included a link to the entire TIGER request.

Updates on Belle Isle’s streets and sidewalks

20150416_113940Last Friday the DNR called a meeting to address the concerns we’d outlined in a previous post about the construction and conditions on Belle Isle related to the Grand Prix. The meeting also included MDOT representatives, State Representative Stephanie Chang, and Michele Hodges from both the Belle Isle Conservancy and Belle Isle Advisory Committee.

This meeting was mostly about information gathering. The DNR is hiring a planner soon and will host public listening sessions this summer to discuss these issues further with a much wider audience. We’ll let everyone know when those listening sessions are scheduled.

Three MDOT issues seemed to rise to the top.

  • MDOT took a small portion of the $4 million road funding for project management. The remainder went to the Grand Prix, who designed and built the Belle Isle roads. There were no public meetings and MDOT thought that listening to the DNR was sufficient stakeholder input. We don’t believe this follows their Context Sensitive Solutions or Complete Streets policies.
  • On portions of the new road, they will paint a pedestrian lane. This is not a sidewalk, but a pedestrian lane next to the curb and in the street. A bike lane will be next to this walking lane. An on-street walking lane does not follow AASHTO guidelines even though that was a design requirement. Also per AASHTO, “sidewalks, provided on both sides of a street, are the preferred pedestrian facility.” We learned that the initial Grand Prix design removed more sidewalks, so perhaps this was a compromise. We are waiting to see the road design cross sections from MDOT. However we do know these designs were not reviewed by MDOT’s bike and pedestrian coordinator.
  • On some new sections of road, no sidewalks were installed despite the MDOT Complete Streets policy. MDOT ‘s explanation was that they typically assume local governments will add them,  or in this case, the DNR. While local governments can be asked to contribute to adding sidewalks, MDOT cannot assume others will keep them compliant with their own Complete Streets policy.

One frustrating point that others made was that the sidewalk was in poor condition and that this somehow justified it being removed. However there was no evidence of its poor condition in Google Streetview. We passed around photos showing that. Besides, under this logic, the road was in poor condition. Why wasn’t it removed? That logic has no place under a Complete Streets policy.

Grand Prix impact on other park users

The other major concern discussed was the impact of this year’s Grand Prix event set up on other park users. The DNR inherited this event permit from the city of Detroit and we were told there are some gray areas within in. Seemingly unbeknownst to those at the meeting, the Grand Prix had a different interpretation of the permit requirements and set up earlier than expected.

The DNR will discuss this with the Grand Prix to make improvements for 2016. They plan to update the permit when it expires after next year’s event.

As a means for overseeing all this activity, Michele Hodges will add this entire topic as a standing agenda item to the Belle Isle Advisory Committee meetings.

We look forward to addressing all these issues and keeping Belle Isle as a great place to bike and walk.

Complete Streets? MDOT removes sidewalks at Belle Isle

MDOT has undertaken $4 million in road “improvements” at Belle Isle State Park where they not only failed to build sidewalks that were missing — they removed existing sidewalks.

When we first learned that substantial taxpayer dollars were allocated to Belle Isle roads, we wrote MDOT and the DNR asking that “All of the park roads, including the MacArthur Bridge, should be designed using Complete Streets principles. The major park roads should have wide sidewalks.” We also asked for other non-motorized improvements.

We were clearly ignored.

Now we can expect to see more pedestrians having to walk in the roadway, and more specifically in the bike lane, forcing cyclists to swerve into the vehicle lanes.

Not smart. This certainly does not follow MDOT’s Complete Street Policy.

The political reality is the Detroit Grand Prix got the $4 million from the state legislature with the intention of improving Belle Isle roads for racing. But these are state trunklines — and in a state park no less — and that same legislative body also passed the Complete Streets laws.

Making matter worse, for at least a month now MDOT has allowed the Belle Isle bike lanes and sidewalks to be blocked and inaccessible. We expect this to last at least two more months until after the Grand Prix finishes.

Neither MDOT nor the DNR are being proper stewards of a state park when public access is compromised for a quarter of the year.

While some may point to the benefits the Grand Prix brings to the island, they must be weighed against the $4 million benefit it got from the Michigan taxpayers.

In the end there must be a balance. This is a state park first and foremost for the people.

UPDATE, April 19, 2015: Through Michele Hodges of the Belle Isle Conservancy, the DNR has stated that the removed sidewalks were in poor condition. That is not true, so we’ve added three more photos showing the very good sidewalk condition prior to their removal. (The replaced road surface looks very good as well.)

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Real reason Detroit’s Walkscore increased? A bug fix

Walk Score recently ranked the most walkable U.S. cities of 2015. Detroit’s score has risen 2.2 points since 2011.

The Redfin Blog largely credited the revitalized Downtown — which Model D echoed.

“Downtown Detroit has become noticeably more walkable over the past few years thanks to Dan Gilbert’s initiative to move his company, Quicken Loans, and others from the suburbs back to the heart of the city,” said Lauren Buttazzoni, Redfin market manager in Detroit.

Downtown’s Walk Score has increased dramatically. In fact it scored an 18 in 2011, which is half the score Auburn Hills got. Now it scores a remarkable 93.

However, Redfin and Model D are both wrong. This increase was largely due to a bug fix in the Walk Score algorithms that was well-documented in 2012 by m-bike.org.

The old algorithms got confused on international borders. They chose the closest grocery stores, coffee shops, etc. as the crow flies. In Detroit, that often includes businesses in Windsor. When they calculated the walk distances across the Detroit River (hint: you can’t) the border areas got incorrect wrong scores.

That’s apparently fixed as seen in the Walk Score heatmap comparison graphic. You can see how the bug created a stairstep region of poor walkability along the river in 2011. That’s gone in 2015.

While we’re certainly grateful for Mr. Gilbert’s investments in Detroit, unless he made the algorithm fix himself, the credit for Detroit’s dramatically improved Walk Score belongs elsewhere.

New Detroit Hockey Arena Development

Bike improvement opportunities around Detroit hockey arena district

The blue lines represent potential bike route improvements

Detroit City Council will vote on a couple critical rezoning requests this morning for the newly planned hockey arena district (aka Catalyst Development.) One concern raised by Council as well as the Detroit Greenways Coalition is how this development will affect the new bike lanes being built on Cass Avenue this year.

Olympia Development, the organization planning the new arena, was asked by Council member (and Coalition board member) Scott Benson to meet with us to coordinate efforts. We did that.

One shared goal is connectivity. For the Coalition, that’s from a walking and biking perspective. The district area is not very walkable today, not due to the sidewalk conditions so much as the land use. Vacant fields don’t make for good walkability and the new district development will undoubtedly change that. It was great that they were already familiar with Complete Streets.

For biking, our first concern is preserving the Cass Avenue bike lanes being constructed this summer from the RiverWalk to W. Grand Boulevard. Here are our official comments from a letter we wrote to Olympia Development and shared with City Council and others:

A major bicycling connector is Cass Avenue. The bike lanes to be installed this year are a critical north-south route from the Detroit River to New Center. MDOT and the FTA have identified and invested in this route as an alternative to bicycling on Woodward due to the safety issues related to M1 Rail. . We are also actively working to extend them to the Detroit Zoo.

Closing or taking vehicle travel lanes on Cass during events has little affect on bicyclists so long as the bike lanes remain open and safe. We believe the ingress/egress concerns at the parking garages can be addressed through good design and traffic control personnel. Colored pavement can highlight any potential vehicle/bike conflict areas. Designs should make the motorist feel they are crossing a bike lane rather than make a bicyclist feel they are crossing a driveway. This can encourage proper right-of-way yielding.

When Cass Avenue is redesigned, we propose changing the buffered bike lanes to protected bike lanes. This is a low-cost upgrade that studies show increase bicycle ridership.

We also discussed adding protected bike lanes on Grand River Avenue from Downtown to W. Grand Boulevard. This would also involve improving the unsafe and inadequate intersections at Trumbull/MLK and at Temple.

With regards to the arena itself, we did note our appreciation for their planned bike parking at each of the main entrances. The location and number of racks looks great.

It’s still early to say what the final outcome will be, but Olympia Development wants to maintain a regular dialog with us. We’re looking forward to that and ensuring that Detroit is a better place for walking, biking — and playing hockey.

Historic note: James Norris had been a member of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association whose logo was a winged bicycle wheel owing to its cycling heritage. (They also played hockey and won the first ever Stanley Cup.) When Norris established the Detroit Red Wings, he borrowed the logo design and changed the bike wheel to a car wheel.

Clearing downed trees just got easier

The City of Detroit released a smartphone app called Improve Detroit that lets you various report issues, including downed trees on roads and sidewalks. We thought we’d give it a try.

There are a couple instances of trees blocking the northbound bike lane and sidewalk along St. Aubin, which is part of the Inner Circle Greenway.

We took care of one with pruners but the other was much more significant, so we used the phone app. We reported it on Monday later afternoon and it was taken care of the next day — in less than 24 hours.

We visited it yesterday and confirmed their work. Certainly the sidewalk needs improving and the street needs sweeping, but unfortunately neither are reportable with this new app. At least there won’t be tree branches extending into the road this year. The street sweeper can stay at curb, too.

We have proposed adding street sweeping requests, to which Detroit’s CIO Beth Niblock replied via Twitter.

detroit-app-sweeping-request

The Improve Detroit phone app is available for both Android and Apple. More information is available on the City’s website.

Governor approves Beltline Greenway funding & more

Beltline GreenwayGovernor Rick Snyder signed the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund appropriations bill today — St. Patrick’s Day — which spreads a bit-o-green around the state.

Included in the bill is $2 million in land acquisition funding to buy property within Wayne County in order to complete gaps in the cross-state Iron Belle Trail.

One of those gaps is the Beltline Greenway in Detroit. This conceptual path was part of the GREEN non-motorized planning for the lower eastside. The community recognized it as a priority connection.

The greenway would follow a former railroad called the Beltline that connected the Uniroyal Site on the RiverWalk and headed north to the Gleaner’s Community Food Bank and beyond. It actually goes under E. Jefferson Avenue. The city rebuilt this bridge last year in anticipation of the greenway.

For the Iron Belle Trail, the routing goes from the RiverWalk to Kercheval, shown as the purple line on the map graphic.

Conrail no longer owns this railroad property. The DEGC owns the property south of Jefferson while it’s in private hands to the north. With this funding, the DNR will have conversations with these private property owners about purchasing land to create the trail.

Of course additional funding is needed to design, build, and endow a maintenance/operations fund, but this is a major step forward.

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