Complete Streets Policy Safety & Education

Pedestrian Safety in Michigan

Late last year we were interviewed for an article on the dramatic rise in pedestrian and bicyclists crashes in Michigan. That article was published (Michigan pedestrian deaths rise, safety laws questioned) but most of our input didn’t get included.

Our views on safety don’t align well with the status quo. As the safety numbers for bicyclists and pedestrians get worst, it’s clear that the current approach pursued by others hasn’t worked. That’s reflected in our complete answers.

Do you think the state pedestrian safety laws (i.e. yielding to peds in crosswalks) are sufficient? Why or why not?

There are very few state pedestrian laws. Unlike other states, the Michigan State Police (MSP) has put most of the pedestrian law language in a PDF document and asks the nearly 2,000 local government entities to adopt them by reference. That law language is based on the Uniform Vehicle Code model laws that all states use. However, MSP has modified the language in at least a couple instances to reduce protections for pedestrians and bicyclists. Is it sufficient? That may not be the right question when it’s unclear that law enforcement across Michigan have been properly trained on these laws. When reading the crash reports that law enforcement gives to the media, it seems there’s not a comprehensive understanding of the current pedestrian laws.

What you do think about the cities who have ordinances with stronger pedestrian laws, i.e. Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, etc? Should more cities follow suit? Should the legislature follow suit? What should the legislature do?

It seems the one benefit (perhaps the biggest) of stronger local pedestrian laws is that law enforcement is more likely to be aware of them. 

The Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) provides grants to select cities during Pedestrian Safety Month for pedestrian safety enforcement efforts where motorists and pedestrians are given warnings and citations. Is this a step in the right direction? Should this be expanded on? How could it be expanded? 

We do not support OHSP pedestrian or bicyclist enforcement efforts. Such enforcement is a largely temporary and often ineffective method for improving road safety. In fact, nationwide organizations such as the Vision Zero Network are explicitly removing enforcement as a strategy for improving safety. We are members of the Transportation Equity Caucus that is working to prevent federal safety funding from paying for enforcement efforts such as this. 

Like many others (including the FHWA and NTSB), we believe Safe Systems is the best approach for improving road safety for everyone. Safe Systems has a heavy focus on improving roads so that motorists drive safely without the need for enforcement. 

Is Michigan more motorist friendly than pedestrian friendly? If so, how can we make changes? What changes are already happening?

Most Michigan roads are designed to be motorist friendly — and the conditions are getting worse. There were 175 pedestrian deaths in Michigan last year, a 17% increase. In 2010, 14% of all road fatalities in Michigan were pedestrians. That’s now over 16%. Despite this, MDOT only focuses 1.4% of its federal Highway Safety Improvement Planning dollars on pedestrians. (It focuses zero on bicyclists.) That will change with the recent Bipartisan Infrastructure bill which will force MDOT to spend a minimum of 15% on improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety.

And if I haven’t asked the right question yet, please feel free to tell me whatever is topmost on your head and/or agenda regarding pedestrian safety in Michigan.

It seems two biggest factors affecting pedestrian safety are:

  • Road design that prioritizes motorist speed over pedestrian safety (and encourages speeding.)
  • Vehicle designs that have larger, higher, more blunt front ends; are heavier and faster; and encourage driver distraction.

I would also suggest looking over the 2020 OSHP Annual Evaluation Report, if you haven’t already done so. They substantially increased pedestrian and bicyclist fatality goals for 2019. This shows how ineffective they see themselves in reducing fatalities and their unwillingness to commit to Towards Zero Deaths. 

You might also consider the letter FHWA sent to the MDOT director in April of 2020 about their safety performance. It’s on page 51 of MDOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Plan

Based on the review of your safety performance targets and data, it appears that Michigan has not met or made significant progress towards achieving its safety performance targets. The below table provides a summary of the target achievement determination

Federal Highway Administration letter to MDOT Director, 2020
Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter Policy

News from the Trail – May 2022

Link to our May 2022 newsletter


Hamtramck Bike Ordinances Updated

Hamtramck City Council person Amanda Jaczkowski

The City of Hamtramck had some outdated bicycle ordinances that were restrictive for both youth and adults.

  • Youth under 12 years old were only allowed to ride their bikes on sidewalks. That meant they wouldn’t be able to legally ride on the new Joe Louis Greenway that is planned for the Hamtramck alleys west of Jos Campau.
  • Youth between 12 and 17 could ride in the streets and alleys but had to carry an operator’s license from the Chief of Police or a note from their parent or guardian.
  • Every bicycle ridden in Hamtramck had to be registered either by the city or an adjacent city. The registration would have been required for anyone riding on the Joe Louis Greenway in Hamtramck.

Fortunately these weren’t being enforced, but it made sense to get them off the books. They were burdensome and provided no benefits.

  • Under state law, parents and legal guardians are already responsible for their children’s bicycle riding.
  • Bicycle registration can help law enforcement return stolen property to their owner. With the advent of the Internet, there are now a couple free nationwide registrations (or through WSU.) In addition, mandatory bicycle registration can be a pretext for stopping any bicyclist.

The City of Detroit had very similar bicycle ordinances, but we helped remove them years ago.

Now they’re removed in Hamtramck thanks to the leadership of newly-elected City Councilperson Amanda Jaczkowski. Ms. Jaczkowski is also an active bicyclist and supporter of the Joe Louis Greenway.


Connecting the Rouge

From the Connecting the Rouge planning team:

Trails, greenways, and other non-motorized transportation facilities are becoming a critical part of southeast Michigan’s mobility infrastructure. Whether helping to connect people to recreation opportunities and nature, tourists and visitors to local economies, or residents to their schools and jobs such facilities play heavily into the quality of life of the region.

Connecting the Rouge is a community greenway planning effort initiated by Wayne County Parks and funded through a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. This effort seeks to improve access to the Hines Drive trail system, the Lower Rouge River Greenway, and the Rouge River Gateway Greenway. This effort identified linkages between neighborhoods, communities, jobs, commercial areas, and destinations throughout the Rouge River valley. Ultimately, the planning process is a chance to take stock of current facilities and position county government, local municipal partners, and other agencies to pursue and implement critical non-motorized connections in Wayne County.

The Connecting the Rouge Framework Plan was developed iteratively through the planning process, incorporating the results of the technical analysis and evaluation as well as stakeholder and community feedback. The framework plan began with the overall network of potential routes and then refined those projects down into a Priority Network of routes that should be pursued first for implementation.

Please take a minute to review the draft report at where you can also find a brief overview of the project and a survey to provide feedback.

Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – April 2022

Our April Newsletter is now online!


Gloria Durfield-Mitchell

Gloria was a mainstay in Detroit bikelife. Always in purple, she was someone you could count on seeing on a ride — and everyone knew and liked Gloria. She did everything with class and style.

So when the Detroit Greenways Coalition was looking for a bikelife person to serve on the board, she was our first choice. We are grateful for her years of volunteering and support as a boardmember with the Coalition.

Detroit has lost a great one. It’s difficult finding the words that can fully explain this, so we’ll leave you with some of our favorite photos. 💜

For more photos, visit the bike club Gloria founded, the Detroit Diva Cruisers.

What can I do to help?

I can clearly hear Gloria asking me that because she did so many times. She was always willing to volunteer to make good things happen. She may have retired from her job, but she never retired from working.

When we had an open seat on the Detroit Greenways Coalition board, she was our top choice. Yes, her willingness to help was one reason why, but also, she was well loved and respected in the biking and walking community.

She had photos with everyone. In fact, if you weren’t in her photos then you’d have a hard time convincing me that you were part of Detroit bikelife.

She was always a voice of reason. She always took the high ground. I think I can safely say that she never got put in Facebook jail.

We are all going to miss seeing her on the rides this summer, but she will forever ride with all of us.

Thank you, Gloria.

Reflections given at Gloria’s Celebration of Life by Todd Scott, Executive Director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition