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Our Belle Isle Mobility Comments

The below comments on the Belle Isle Mobility Plan draft were submitted to the DNR on July 24, 2023:

While we attended the video presentation (and have since rewatched it many times), we don’t feel we have enough information to fully weigh in on the changes proposed in the mobility study. We still have many design questions that prevent us from offering our full support at this time. However, there’s quite a bit that we do like and there are opportunities to make further improvements – 

10-foot vehicle travel lanes – We would like the plan to consistently use 10’ travel lanes. This will reduce speeding without other negative safety impacts.

Cycletrack on MacArthur Bridge – We like this design as it provides separation from the vehicle traffic. We also ask that:

  • This facility safely and efficiently connects with the West RiverWalk, East Jefferson, and East Grand Boulevard. We understand that the East Jefferson intersection is outside the scope of this plan, but it is absolutely critical that it is designed properly.
  • More information is provided on how this cycletrack connects with the bike lane that encircles the island.
  • The cycletrack is at least 12-feet wide, which can be accomplished with 10’ vehicle lanes. Per NACTO, “the desirable two-way cycle track width is 12 feet.” 
  • The buffer reduces road debris migrating from the vehicle lanes into the cycletrack. 
  • An automated, permanent bike counter and pedestrian counter is installed. 
  • A prominent sign be installed for travel lanes heading on to the island that clarifies bicyclists legal right to travel in the roadway. This can inform motorists and law enforcement on what to expect on the island and what is legal. 

Outer roads – We support the one-way to two-way conversions to improve safety, but think there’s still some opportunity for improvement. We think this will reduce the Vehicles Miles Traveled on the island, which is a benefit to those walking and biking, as well as teh environment. We do support the separated bike lane traveling clockwise around the island. 

  • We like that Sunset Drive remains one-way. For larger, faster cycling groups traveling counterclockwise on the island, this is where the groups are at their widest and the design accommodates that. However, we’re not sure the two roundabouts are necessary and they could cause issues for the larger groups. 
  • We are concerned about the transition from the single-lane on the Strand and would like to see this design. We’re not sure there’s much benefit having two-way vehicle traffic between Fountain Drive and Picnic Way. We’d prefer keeping this one-way for the larger cycling groups to allow them to pass slower moving vehicles, which is common in this busier section of the park. It would be ideal for the larger groups if the one-way vehicle travel continued to Nashua Drive where the Strand gains a travel lane. Again, the roundabouts seem problematic for the faster cycling groups, so their need and design should be very intentional. Other traffic calming treatments might be preferred. 
  • For the constrained section of Lakeside Drive, a 10-foot clockwise travel lane will free up space for cycling groups traveling counterclockwise. We do have a concern about groups making unsafe passing decisions on this constrained segment. 
  • For Riverbank, we would like to see additional space for the larger groups traveling counterclockwise. Having 10-foot lanes would help, but they would also be traveling near angled parking, which would be less safe. As with the constrained portion of Lakeside, we are concerned that the cycling groups will make unsafe passing decisions.

Other roads –  We generally find these roads to be less of a concern for bicyclists compared. 

  • We like the Central and Inselruhe Avenue promenades. 
  • We also like the shared use path along Loiter and Vista Drives but we’re not clear how this interfaces with the promenades, the forest pathways, and Iron Belle Trail loop. 
  • We support the reduction in curb radii as a means of traffic calming and shorting crosswalks.
  • We have received multiple reports of motorists traveling in the Central Flatwoods bike lanes, so we really appreciate this road being converted to a walking and biking pathway. We don’t see the need for any one-way vehicle travel on this segment. 

Bike lane maintenance – We want to see that the DNR and/or MDOT is committed to a maintenance plan for all of the bike lanes.  Too often we’ve seen separated bike lanes suffer from a lack of maintenance, resulting in debris and stormwater collecting at the curb. 

Stormwater Management – We support adding infrastructure and trees that naturally manage stormwater. We also find that removing pavement and other impervious surfaces is an even simpler solution that should be considered in all mobility designs. It seems that this plan adds to the island’s total impervious surface area, which is a concern.

Belle Isle’s Bicycle Heritage – There is a unique opportunity to celebrate the island’s bicycle heritage, especially with the Bicycle Pavillion.  Bicyclists were riding on the island well before the first car was ever driven in Detroit. There were many prominent bicycle events on the island from major races in the 1890s to the Wolverine 200 ride. We would like to see how this connection between history and mobility could be included within the plan. 

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Getting Involved: Five Detroit Projects for 2023

Giving input given during project planning is the most effective way for the public to improve them for walking and biking. It gets much more difficult to make changes once a project is under construction.

Below is a list of five major Detroit projects that will have planning in 2023. The first two have surveys you can take now to provide your input. The other three should have meetings later this year. While we’ll do our best letting you know when those occur, you might consider subscribing to get email updates.

Belle Isle Mobility

We’ve been raising safety issues for bicyclists and pedestrians on the island for over a decade. Little has been done, but that could be changing. There is a currently a mobility plan underway that could lead to real safety improvements on the park roads as well as the MacArthur Bridge. The first step is to take the survey which is open through February 19th. There will be additional engagement throughout the year.

ACTION: Take the Multimodal Mobility survey

MDOT Pedestrian Bridges

Pedestrian bridges over the freeways provide safe, critical community connections. However, MDOT doesn’t want to maintain these pedestrian bridges, and when the bridges are no longer safe, they want to permanently remove them. One of the recent closures is the Spruce Bridge that safely connected North Corktown to Downtown. MDOT has a survey to collect feedback on how people use the bridge and while pitching the much less safe alternative crossing at Temple — a bridge that doesn’t provide east-west crossing for bicyclists.

ACTION: Take the MDOT Spruce Bridge Survey

Later this year MDOT will be evaluate all the Detroit pedestrian bridges to determine which other ones they can remove. We asked that MDOT also evaluate where pedestrian bridges need to be installed, though it remains to be seen if they will do that. We really need the community voice to back us up and tell MDOT they can no longer disinvest in their Detroit infrastructure and disconnect communities.

I-375 Replacement

MDOT will be replacing the current I-375 freeway with an surface-level boulevard. While the basic framework for this project is set, there are still opportunities to get involved and provide feedback. For example, we’re continuing push for safer biking and walking along and across the boulevard so that it really does reconnect communities. Per MDOT, “there will be many more opportunities for community input and participation” but especially as it relates to excess property this project creates.

ACTION: Subscribe for MDOT Updates

Gratiot Avenue

Gratiot Avenue in Detroit is likely the most dangerous road in Michigan. By our estimates, 1.5% of all Michigan road fatalities occur on this stretch of road. MDOT has now started a PEL study to “identify and evaluate safety, multimodal mobility, transit needs, and proposed improvements.” We expect there will be community engagement this year and hope there’s a strong collective voice that demands a safer, saner street for all users.

ACTION: Sign up for MDOT Updates

A PEL Study was completed for Michigan Avenue. That helped attract $25 million in federal funding to rebuild that state road. We want to see the same happen for Gratiot.

Joe Louis Greenway

Planning and construction is happening quickly for the 27.5 mile trail. The City of Detroit is trying to keep everyone updated on this project as well as the public engagement opportunities. The best way to get “in the loop” is to subscribe to their newsletter.

ACTION: Subscribe to the Detroit JLG newsletter

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News from the Trail – November 2022

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