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!

 

Active Living Detroit Mini-Grants for 2015

2014_flyer_pictureGrant funding usually takes a lot of effort to get and it comes with significant requirements. That makes it unattainable for many worthy grassroots community projects.

Recognizing this, the Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP) created a mini-grant program to support Active Living projects. Seeing the program’s success, the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative’s Active Living committee (which the Coalition co-chairs) began contributing funding, too.

This program has continued to support successful grassroot projects throughout Detroit, so it’s exciting that another year of mini-grants are available.

The Active Living Detroit Mini-Grant Program awards mini-grants of up to $1000 to Detroiters developing sustainable projects and activities aimed at promoting physical activity and environments that support active living.

Priority is given to projects that:

1) Engage community residents, particularly youth;
2) Support complete streets concepts and implementation; and
3) Incorporate Detroit Greenways.

Any neighborhood groups or organization located in the city of Detroit are eligible to apply. This includes, but is not limited to, block clubs, art groups, service organizations, parks and recreational organizations, churches, professional associations, school-based groups, and individuals. Limit to one application per organization.

The grant application and flyer (in English and Spanish) are available on HEP’s web site. Examples of other previously successful grants are also listed.

For further information, contact Cindy Gamboa, HEP Community Outreach Coordinator at (313) 593-0924 or cegamboa@umich.edu.

Making Progress: Designing Detroit for All Users

Written by Myra M. Tetteh. Originally published on the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative web site.

Click the above image for a copy of our Detroit Complete Streets brochure

Click the above image for a copy of our Detroit Complete Streets brochure

In May of 2010 the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion received a complete streets grant from the State of Michigan with three components to complete within one year!  The tasks to 1) form a coalition; 2) educate the community on complete streets; and 3) pass a local ordinance, seemed relatively simplistic at the time.  We had no idea that it would take so much more energy, time, and priority shifting.

Unlike other communities in Michigan that received the same grant, we had many other pressing concerns in the community, namely lighting and blight.  Community residents rightfully educated us by stating: what is the use of a bike lane or new sidewalk if the streetlights are not working or I feel unsafe because of the abandoned building I have to pass.  Though the city still faces many challenges, we have made sure to be involved in advocacy efforts that are repairing our community – the work is progressing, the city is moving forward.

We have worked diligently since 2010 to get complete streets as part of the framework for the city moving forward.  Still, we are not where we would like to be, but we are at the table!  Many iterations of the ordinance have been developed over the years and it is our hope that we are finally close to the finish line of an ordinance that intentionally plans for the incorporation of complete streets in road projects.

In the meantime, we have not stopped our momentum to do the work making the city safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers regardless of physical ability or age.  To date, the city has 158 miles of bike lanes, 35 miles of complete streets infrastructure, and 17 miles of greenways.  Next year, these numbers will increase as plans are being funded to do more work.   In five years, we hope to see miles of bike lanes, complete streets infrastructure, and greenways more than double.

Our progress in Detroit is gaining national attention.  Recently, we were invited to the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting to present on how our work is improving the health and wellness of our residents.  Even Apple filmed a commercial showing the Slow Roll bicycle rides taking over the City of Detroit.

While our progress is impressive, the work of Detroit is in large part contingent on what happens at the Federal level.  Currently, we are operating under an eight month extension that keeps the status quo for funding, including non-motorized funding.  But time is running out, the Federal Transportation Bill is once again set to expire on May 31, 2015.  Then the funding will dry up.  Our elected officials have a propensity for last minute saves, the 2013 shutdown notwithstanding.  The current bill being discussed will only cover roads and not include non-motorized financing, including nixing Safe Routes to School.  This would be a big step backward for our work and progress.  As the new Congress takes office in 2015, we will see if our officials are committed to moving us forward toward safer throughways for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers regardless of physical ability or age.