Goodbye, Inner Circle Greenway. Hello, Joe Louis Greenway.

Joe Louis Greenway MapThe 26-mile greenway that wraps around the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park has a new name.

Back in February 2017, Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley asked, “When Joe Louis Arena is gone, how do we honor Detroit legend?” Legend isn’t used lightly with Louis. He was so much more than a world champion boxer. From breaking color barriers to fighting fascism, Louis was an inspirational both inside and outside of the ring.

So when Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan proposed naming the Inner Circle Greenway in his honor, it also lifted the greenway. A conceptual asphalt trail around the city in 2008 was now being named after the city’s most impactful athlete. Riley’s followup column wrote, “Detroit cements honor for Joe Louis with a giant greenway around the city.”

Louis’s family approved of the naming. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise as his son is a bicyclist and is a board member for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

“I am delighted that the (greenway) will be named after my father Joe Louis,” said Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. son of the famous boxer. “It is a fitting tribute to a person who had a positive impact on so many people.”

Mayor Duggan added, “It will unite neighborhoods from all corners of this city in a dedicated area for walking and jogging and biking.”

Before this announcement, we contacted retired city attorney Jim Edwards. Jim was an early champion of the trail and coined the original name. He was very supportive of the renaming.

One interesting coincidence with the original name was the this caricature of P.N. Jacobsen standing in an “inner circle”. Jacobsen led the creation of the Detroit Terminal Railroad — which makes up about 8 miles of the greenway — and was an active Detroit cyclist during the 1880s and 1890s.

He wrote an article called The Detroit Wheelmen for the Outing Magazine in 1891. It noted that a result of the city putting on asphalt on the streets, “Wheeling has attained a height of popularity in Detroit heretofore unknown.”

Of course this was years before Detroit was Motor City — and we’re not advocating relinquishing that title. We just suggest adding a new one.

Detroit, world heavyweight greenway champion.

More information on the Joe Louis Greenway

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.

Mayor Duggan appoints a new Planning Director

Photo by Hawes Spencer, The HookWe’ve not met Mayor Mike Duggan’s appointee for the Planning and Development Department, but we like what we’ve read so far.

His name is Maurice Cox and he is coming to Detroit via New Orleans and Charlottesville, Virginia. According to this 2012 article in The Hook, Cox was long-time bike commuter and an apparent supporter of Complete Streets.

More of his background is available in this City of Detroit release.

That release also mentioned that Cox will focus on the neighborhoods:

With new businesses and residential developments already going strong in downtown and midtown, Mayor Duggan has charged Cox with focusing his energies on developing strategies to strengthen existing neighborhoods and reuse land in largely vacant areas of the city.

Mayor Duggan has expressed an interest in exploring new uses for large tracts of vacant city land, including green infrastructure to reduce storm water run-off and appropriate urban agriculture.  He also has talked about creating more densely populated and walk able urban neighborhoods throughout the city that are sustainable unto themselves with a diversity of residents and small businesses.

Cox thanked Mayor Duggan for this opportunity and said he hopes to build from the uniqueness of Detroit while bringing new ideas that represent the best of what he’s seen and done elsewhere.

“Detroit has a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine the American city, transforming an abundance of land into a valuable community asset. We can take advantage of Detroit’s many historic neighborhoods to create new urban housing anchored by revitalized commercial corridors, parks and greenways, all working together to enhance the quality of life in this city for everyone,” Cox said.  “Detroit is well positioned to be the place where urban innovation and economic opportunity intersect, creating a new kind of sustainable city–one that is equitable, just and simply more beautiful.”

Those are his words but our underline. Yes, he mentioned greenways.

His appointment does require City Council approval, but so far he has ours.