Restrictive youth bicycle ordinances repealed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Moments ago, Detroit City Council unanimously repealed three city ordinances that restricted youth bicycling within the city.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.

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.