Complete Streets Greenways In the Media Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail — June 2021

Underground Railroad Self-Guided Bike Tour 

For Juneteenth 2021, the Detroit Greenways Coalition has created a free self-guided bike tour of Detroit’s historic Underground Railroad sites. The 14.3 mile tour includes 25 stops that help tell the story of those seeking freedom from slavery as well as those that supported abolition. 

Highlights along the tour include the Gateway to Freedom International Monument, the site of the Blackburn uprising, the Ulysses Grant house, and Elmwood Cemetery. 

Detroit had a significant role supporting the Underground Railroad as well as shaping the politics of abolition during the 1800s. The city’s smaller footprint during that era has made the historic sites relatively close and easily biked to. 

The bike tour is available through the Ride with GPS program. The phone app provides turn-by-turn navigation and includes the points of interest along the way — some with photos and links for those seeking additional information. 

We’ve also updated our Underground Railroad webpage with information on this bike tour and much more. Additional self-guided tours are also being planned.

Federal Funding Updates

The process to develop the next federal INVEST in America transportation bill continues — and so far, so good. The current House and Senate bills both would double the amount of dedicated funding for active transportation. The Transportation Alternatives program, which funds many local Complete Streets projects, would see a 75% increase. The Recreational Trails Program, which the DNR uses exclusively for its trails, would also increased by 75%.

Both bills also include the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System or CAATS. This new program would provide grant funding for major non-motorized projects such as the Joe Louis Greenway. CAATS would provide $1 billion in funding over 5 years with a mininum 30% for building out networks within communities and 30% for building spines between communities. The minimun construction grant would be $15 million. We’ve been assisting the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy on this. 

Included in the House bill are Member Designated Projects, formerly known as earmarks. Our local House members included funding for trail projects and two from Representative Lawrence have made the cut:

  • $1.8 million for the Detroit RiverWalk to connect the Riverfront Towers and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park. 
  • $3.9 million for the Joe Louis Greenway to connect a future Dequindre Cut extension to Joseph Campau in Hamtramck (see conceptual rendering below).

There are additional positives aspects within the bill as they includes goals for climate change, safety policy (especially for bicyclists and pedestrians), accessibility, and equity — all of which could lead to more Complete Streets being built without the need for dedicated non-motorized funding.

Both the House and Senate bills include funding for freeway removal, which could help with MDOT’s I-375 project, This project has been in the news more lately and was just featured on NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Click4Detroit, and Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Of course neither bill has been signed into law yet, but it is positive that unlike prior multi-year federal transportation bills, there was little opposition to non-motorized priorities. Given the policy changes the bill includes, INVEST will require some level of bipartisan support. 

You may have also heard about the American Jobs Act, an infrastructure stimulus bill. President Joe Biden has said he wants that bill to be separate from INVEST and provide additional funding. It’s too early to know what that bill will include.

American Rescue Plan

Federal funding has also been distributed to cities, counties, and states through the federal American Rescue Plan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is proposing $250 million of this funding to be allocated to state park and state trails to help address the backlog of maintenance projects — many of which are on Belle Isle. Her funding proposal would need to be approved by the legislature.

The City of Detroit is receiving $826 million in American Rescue Plan funding. Mayor Mike Duggan has proposed how that funding should be spent, which includes setting aside $400 million to fund the city’s workforce and prevent layoffs. 

Of the remaining $426 million, the Mayor has proposed $50 million for parks, walking paths, and the Joe Louis Greenway as part of a larger $100 million investment in parks, recreation, and cultural facilities.

This seems like a wise investment given that residents used greenways much more during the pandemic. (Dequindre Cut usage was up over 40%!) Biking and walking not only improves community health and resiliency to COVID-19, it also increases the effectiveness of vaccines

The Mayor has been collecting feedback from Detroit residents at meetings throughout June. There’s a survey available as well. 

Other Updates

  • Detroit DPW has announced a Paint the Streets program for residents and community groups interested in adding “artistically painted streets and crosswalks.” The program has developed guidelines for what’s allowed and where this artwork can be located.
  • Detroit ranks 61st in latest The Trust for Public Land ParkScore. The bright spot is 80% of residents are within a 10-minute walk of park,” well above the 55% national average.
  • We will be joining the SmithGroup and others for a Rails-to-Trail Conservancy webinar on June 23rd at 1pm called, “Creating Inclusive & Equitable Trail Development: Case Studies in Detroit and Milwaukee”. Detroit and the Joe Louis Greenway will be a major focus of the webinar. Registration is free.
  • Did you know the Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) has Instagram and TikTok pages where they’ve posted some brief, introductory, and fun videos about Complete Streets, biking, and more. We especially like the ones on Grand River and Bagley.
  • WeRun313 also posted this city-made video that features them and talks about the Joe Louis Greenway and more. This is a much watch!
  • Have you signed up for the Detroit Bike Challenge yet? This free City of Detroit program that’s encouraging more people to ride bikes continues through October. Your rides help you earn points and get the chance to win prizes. The city has released this brief video to help promote it. There’s also a Juneteenth ride planned at 11am from the Heilmann Recreation Center on the Eastside.

Additional Reading

Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways In the Media Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – February 2021

Joe Louis Greenway

This is going to be a banner year for trail construction in Detroit — and here’s proof. There’s now an actual banner announcing the future of the Joe Louis Greenway. The banner is located on the north side of Grand River just east of Oakman Boulevard. 

The Phase 1 construction start is still pending some final environmental approvals. When those are complete, you can expect the City of Detroit to make an announcement. 

You may have read the recent Crain’s Detroit Business article ($) about a local company encroaching on the city’s trail property — and the resulting lawsuit. The land in question is along Dexter, north of Oakman. While this segment is not part of Phase 1, it is a critical trail connection. We are hopeful this lawsuit doesn’t delay future trail construction. 

Speaking of land, the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) is hosting a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, February 16th from 6-8 PM to discuss their Neighborhood Improvement Plan for land disposition.

The DLBA owns a significant number of properties across the city. Much of the land along the greenway route has been held to restrict outside speculators. Recently, some of this land was transferred to the city for Phase 1 greenway amenities, such as neighborhood connecting trails. Additional properties are available to neighbors along the greenway and this meeting will discuss those options. 

This land strategy is one method the city is using to mitigate gentrification — the displacement of local residents along the greenway. Other greenway developments around the country have shared their regrets of not addressing this issue before their trails were built. We’re glad to see the City of Detroit tackling this issue from the start. 

Planet Detroit recently published an article on this topic, Can Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway avoid gentrification? Second Wave Media also touches on this issue with this article, Connecting Detroiters with the Joe Louis Greenway. Both articles include a wealth of great photos, too.

Rail bridge over Woodward in Highland Park. A Planet Detroit photo by Doug Coombe

Speed Limits

Last year we supported state legislation that clarified the modest flexibility that local governments have when setting speed limits based on factors other than just the 85th fastest motorist traveling under ideal conditions. Among many safety factors, it would allow the consideration of the road crash history, adjacent land use (e.g. parks), and the presence of pedestrians. This is aligns with recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and others. 

Unfortunately that bill died in the House Ways and Means committee, but it has been re-introduced (HB 4014) and is before the House Transportation committee scheduled for Tuesday, February 16th at 10:30 AM. 

We’re working to bring more support to the table from local governments to local experts, especially since we expect the Michigan State Police will oppose the bill. Individuals can email their thoughts to the committee clerk, Dakota Soda

Other Updates

Rendering of proposed Rosa Parks Streetscape
  • The construction contract for the Rosa Parks Streetscape project has been delayed in response to comments at City Council. DPW has agreed to do additional community outreach. While a few residents spoke against the proposed bike lanes, there were more concerns shared about a tree nursery project which was unrelated to this contract.  There was also uncertainty about whether the construction would repair the sidewalks — it would. If you live near Rosa Parks (between the Boulevard and Clairmount) and want to learn how to get involved, please email us
  • The City of Detroit is updating their Parks and Recreaton Strategic Plan. They are hosting a virtual public meeting about this on Monday, February 15th at 5pm. Attend via Zoom or call in at 312-626-6799 (webinar ID: 363 140 9738).
  • Don’t forget! I-375 Environmental Assessment comments are due on Friday, February 19th.
  • America Walks is seeking 30 Walking College fellows who want “to be part of bringing about transformative change to their neighborhoods.” Applications are open through February 28th.
  • MoGo is hiring! They recently received a grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership to understand certain barriers to bike and bus transit and develop solutions to improve the connections between them. MoGo is also seeking an executive director after founder Lisa Nuszkowski announced she’s stepping down. Lisa’s done an amazing job taking the idea of bike share and making it a reality in Detroit and Southeast Oakland County. We especially appreciate system’s equity and accessibility aspects which are a model for other bike share systems around the country. We’re sad to see her leave but look forward to see where she lands.
  • Speaking of bike-transit connections, Amtrak and MDOT are improving the bike carrying options for the the Wolverine route out of Detroit. They are testing new passenger coach class cars, each of which include three bike racks conveniently located across from the luggage storage area. We can’t wait to see (and use) them in the near future.

Additional Reading

Greenways In the Media Newsletter

News from the Trail – November 2019

Detroit Bike Life

One feature that makes Detroit so unique is its bike club culture, collectively referred to as Bike Life. We’ve yet to find another U.S. city — or any city — with the same number of bike clubs. If you’re in one of the clubs or just ride with them at events like Slow Roll, you know how unique they are from their vests to their bikes. They’re more than clubs. They’re family and they are one of the main reasons why more Detroiters are biking now.

We’ve made it a priority to help them share their story with a worldwide audience and inspire others. We’ve connected them with media such as the Guardian, NBC News, and now, DetroitIsIt. The latter made this great video highlighting the Lanebangerz Westside Wednesday ride. It talks about how it’s not just about the bike. It’s about being apart of something bigger and giving back to the community.

Photo by Damon GarrettMost all of the clubs give back. Many volunteer for the Free Bikes 4 Kidz program, Gleaner’s Community Food Bank, soup kitchens, and more. The North End Bandits just donated 55 winter coats. Grown Men on Bikes (GMOB) and Grown Women on Wheels (GLOW) have partnered with the George Washington Carver Academy in Highland Park for numerous giveaways and fundraisers.

As much as we highlight the latest infrastructure investments, it’s the bike club investments in other Detroiters and especially the youth that are such a critical part of Detroit’s revitalization.

DetroitIsIt also created this related article, Ready to Ride Detroit? Get Moving With Detroit Greenways Coalition.

I-375 Alternatives

The bridges over I-375 are at the end of their lifespan. As a result, MDOT took this opportunity to determine if I-375 should be rebuilt as is or convert it to a more typical city boulevard. After a series of public meetings and evaluation, the latter is the preferred alternative.

We’re on the Local Advisory Committee since this is a chance to improve bikability and walkability both along the current I-375 corridor and across it. A summary of the most recent committee meeting is now online and it includes some preliminary designs. One design shown here includes a new east-west road that would connect Ford Field to Eastern Market. We really like this so long as it’s also designed for those on foot and bikes.

All alternatives include sidewalks and a two-way separated cycletrack from Gratiot to the RiverWalk.

Stay tuned for public meetings where you can provide feedback on some further refined designs.

Henry Ford Hospital Campus

Have you seen the new bike lanes under construction south of the main hospital on W. Grand Boulevard? These really are a step up from what we typically see on road retrofits. The streetscaping looks great. Some of the road re-alignments should also improve mobility.

We’ve recently participated in some streetscape design work for Holden. W. Grand Boulevard should also see some improvements in the near future. We’ve been pushing to get some of these features included in the I-94 Modernization project, too.

All of these changes will make it easier to use healthier transportation options in this area.

Quick Updates

  • The Joe Louis Greenway was 26 miles. With the new routing, it’s over 39 miles. This includes the connection on Livernois up to Ferndale. The City expects to host another round of Framework Planning public meetings next month.
  • We were just in NYC as guests of the High Line Network. The High Line is an amazing greenway but we also loved the Hudson River Greenway. It’s a separated two-way cycletrack that seems to be a good model for the high-priority onroad segments of the Joe Louis and other greenways
  • Clear Water: Detroit’s River Revivial documentary has an exclusive showing at the Redford Theatre on November 14th. Buy your tickets now!
  • Please keep supporting the local businesses on Livernois (Avenue of Fashion), Grand River (Grandmont-Rosedale), and Bagley (Mexicantown.) The associated road construction projects are causing a decline in sales.

Also In the News

For the most recent news, follow us on Twitter and Facebook


In the Media

Detroit Bike Life

Originally published by

Detroit’s bike scene has been covered around the world. Bikes have been photographed for British Newspapers, flown into Berlin art galleries, and brought to nationwide bike gatherings in Las Vegas, Nevada – one in particular called “One Big Club.” It’s captivated people beyond the City of Detroit with lights, streetwise style and strong community elements that are all proof the bike scene is here to stay in the revitalization of Detroit.

Read the entire article

Don’t miss this story, Ready to Ride Detroit? Get Moving With Detroit Greenways Coalition.


Complete Streets History In the Media

Say hello to the Mobility City

Recently there have been prominent editorials and comments about the loss of “our culture” because of changes in road safety and accessibility. In a recent Op-Ed, Keith Crain of Crain’s Detroit Business said that bicyclists “must have a powerful lobby.” We agree.

The Detroit Greenways Coalition and its coalition member organizations and the city have been honing their skills for well over fifteen years. Our organization has garnered significant support from the public to support the State of Michigan efforts to build Complete Streets that balance the needs for everyone who uses and pays for our public roads. It is important to note that these efforts do not diminish vehicle access but improve them for everyone’s use, to save lives and spur neighborhood growth and economic development. Our organization does not derive our support and lobby power from big bucks, we get it from the thousands of grassroots voices that say we can make our public roadways work better for everyone.

To the assertion that we should say “good-bye to the Motor City”, that’s just not true. Even Ford Motor Company accepts the fact that transportation is changing and every type of choice made by a Detroit resident is important. To further dispel what made Detroit transportation hub is that in 1868 the first person rode a bicycle in Detroit on East Jefferson – nearly 28 years before the first motorized vehicle.

Now 150 years later, the city of Detroit is making East Jefferson safer for everyone, bicyclists, pedestrians as well as motorists. The goal is to make it a neighborhood road where driving the speed limit feels right, where pedestrians can safely cross the road and where bicycling is a viable option for residents to shop, visit neighbors, shop and eat Downtown, picnic on Belle Isle, enjoy the RiverWalk and live the urban lifestyle of everyone strives for.   Jefferson can no longer be a “speedway” designed only to accommodate and encourage high-speed automobile traffic. Studies show that changes like this are important and impactful to revitalizing commercial corridors – something East Jefferson can certainly benefit from.

Over the past decades, the approach to East Jefferson and the neighborhoods along its route has not changed. And admittedly any change can be difficult to adjust to. Unfortunately it is even harder for those that think their time “behind the wheel” and their hurry to get to their next destination is more important that quality of life, safety or the economics of the neighborhood corridors through which they speed by.

The following are common refrains and misconceptions, along with the clarifications needed to educate those unwilling to recognize the importance of these changes or even to have the patience to accept the improvements that come over time.

“Bike lanes came without notice.”

Detroit started its citywide bicycle planning in 2005 with a non-motorized transportation master plan. There have been hundreds of public meetings since then for bike lane projects. Public feedback at these meetings has helped shape what the city is installing. East Jefferson in particular has seen significant non-motorized planning and meetings, including the “2012 Visions of Greenways” plan, the Detroit East Riverfront Framework Plan, and countless neighborhood and business meetings along the corridor.

“No one bikes in Detroit.”

This has not been true for over 150 years. While no city has exact numbers on bicyclists, we do know that there are at least 68 bike clubs in Detroit, each with many members who regularly ride throughout the city.  Slow Roll is the largest weekly bike ride in the United States with many rides topping well over a thousand participants. On an average day over 1,200 people use the Dequindre Cut, both pedestrian and bicyclists. The very popular MoGo bike share program hit its annual 100,000 trip goal in under 5 months and has shown non-motorized transportation is needed by both residents and visitors. Few cities in the country can make similar boasts.

“Bicyclists don’t pay their fair share.”

There is an unfortunately universal misconception that State and Federal taxes on motorist fuel and vehicle registrations fees cover Michigan’s road costs. They don’t. In 2014, those collected fees only covered 62.1% of the state road costs. The balance comes from the general fund and property taxes, which every Michigander pays, those with or without motor vehicles. The cost of bicycle and pedestrian facilities are just a fraction of the transportation costs in this state. If anything, bicyclists and pedestrians subsidize motorists.

“Bicyclists don’t follow the rules.”

Nationwide studies show this is not true.  It is simply that motorists notice others breaking the law more than they notice themselves. There is more severe and permanent danger to pedestrians and bicyclists from motor vehicles than the other way around.

It is worth remembering that the rules of the road were birthed by the auto industry to gain a competitive mobility advantage over other modes of transportation, be it bike, horse, cart or tram. The speed limit on East Jefferson used to be 12 MPH and everyone using it had to yield at every intersection. The industry pushed for higher speeds, stop signs, traffic lights, one way streets and later freeways so the convenience of motor cars over other modes would help sales. They coined the term “jaywalking” and restricted the pedestrian rights to the roadways. Cities nationwide are re-evaluating these archaic rules to bring more balance to the public rights-of-way. Having rules that make sense for pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles will lead to greater safety in our neighborhoods.

Even on East Jefferson.


Complete Streets In the Media Safety & Education

Why the Cass Avenue bike lanes?

Mini-Festivus poles separate the bike lane

WDET held its annual Festivus Airing of Grievances show and perhaps surprisingly the Cass Avenue bike lanes rose to the top.

Show panelist Candice Fortman said, “The problem is that they put these bike lanes in, so now you’ve got the bike lanes and you’ve got the parking in the middle of the street, and then you’ve got one lane of traffic, and buses and cars and snow, and it’s too much.” Panelist Matt Marsden said he doesn’t see people on it but flashed his behind-the-windshield bias by saying he wasn’t a biker, “I’m a commuter” apparently unaware that bicyclists commute, too.

These grievances are not news to us, but think many are missing the larger picture.

We did appreciate the WDET commenter “Jennifer” who correctly noted that Cass Avenue got bike lanes in exchange for MDOT making Woodward much less safe for biking.

MDOT knowingly made Woodward significantly less safe for bicyclists by allowing the streetcar to operate at the curbs. Since the rails have been installed, we know of bicyclists breaking collar bones, hips, and loosing front teeth due to crashes. Though not a bicyclist, in August 2016 a Detroit senior crashed his moped and later died due to the rails according to the Detroit Police Department report. And because everyone knew these types of events would occur ahead of time, the Federal Transit Authority required an improved parallel route for bicyclists. That’s Cass Avenue.

Any discussion about the discomfort motorists have with the new Cass should be weighed against the sacrifices bicyclists made (and continue to make) on Woodward. While every road user group has made compromises with the redesign of Cass and Woodward, bicyclists crashes and injuries from the streetcar rails are atop the list.

But let’s also address the other Cass bike lane grievances.

There’s no one using them

Clearly that’s untrue. Back in September 2015 we took bicycle counts on Cass and recorded 300 in 24 hours on a Wednesday. There were probably another 100 we missed that rode on the sidewalk. That’s comparable to the bike counts we see on the Dequindre Cut at Gratiot.

With the new Cass Avenue bike lanes, we expect this counts to be much higher. Automated bike counters are being installed along Cass and we should have real data this summer.

A lane was taken away for motorists

Some segments of Cass south of I-75 did lose a lane but traffic counts showed they were not necessary to handle the traffic volumes. Most of Cass was and still is a two-lane road. The lanes used to be wider and people would drive in the parking lanes. That option has been removed. The expected result is more motorists will drive the speed limit and there will be fewer sideswipes from cars passing other cars on the right. Lower speeds bring a significantly safer environment for all modes, but especially pedestrians and bicyclists. Lower travel speeds have also been shown to improve sales for local businesses along the streets, too.

Pedestrians also benefit from these narrower lanes as there is now a much shorter crossing distance.

Motorists now open their doors into traffic

This is not new. However, before motorists could swing open their doors without looking and not get hit by another car due to the over-sized vehicle lanes. The newer narrower lanes make it more important to look before opening ones door into traffic. Opening a door into oncoming cars and bicyclists is illegal. We recommend learning the Dutch Reach.

Ideally there would have been more room for parking so people would be more comfortable exiting their cars, but there wasn’t enough room. This was one compromise among many.

There’s no education on bike lanes

This is an underlying problem in Michigan. There isn’t a mechanism for informing drivers about new road designs. There’s no longer testing for driver’s license renewals. MDOT has bike lane brochure for motorists, but it’s not been widely printed or distributed. The Detroit Greenways Coalition, City of Detroit, Jefferson East Inc., MoGo Bike Share, SEMCOG and others are working to develop and share information. While there is funding at the state level for education on these laws, we’re finding it very difficult to use effectively.

Change is hard but especially when there is not a good existing process for education. As we often tell people, bike lanes are the new roundabouts. Everyone will eventually figure this out. We’ll all work together to try make that happen sooner than later.

Photo by L. Demchak

Grievances from Bicyclists

We’ve also heard complaints from bicyclists, mostly about the maintenance of the new lanes with respect to debris and snow. The Detroit Department of Public Works is responsible for their maintenance and have told us the recent snow storm has been a major learning lesson for their staff. Certainly there is a learning curve to maintaining this new style of bike lane and Detroit will eventually get past this as other cities have.

Motorists are parking and sometimes driving in bike lanes. From what we’ve seen, there’s not been much enforcement. There has been a grace period to allow time for motorists to learn how to drive and park legally, but that won’t last forever.

Lastly, we’ve heard from fast cyclists saying they don’t feel safe in the protected bike lanes — and that’s totally understandable. The new lanes are designed for slower, less confident bicyclists. MoGo riders, too. Under Michigan law, bicyclists can ride in the vehicle travel lanes and are not required to use the bike lanes. As far as we know there are no plans to change the traditional bike lanes on parallel routes along Second and Third Avenue.

If there are design deficiencies at specific locations along the route (e.g. bad sight lines), the city has shown interest in tweaking the design to make it better.

And it will get better. It’s part of our mission to make certain.

UPDATE: We were reminded by Alice on Twitter that left turns at many intersections are now more challenging for bicyclists using the bike lanes. It’s more difficult to get to the vehicle lane and make the left. This is certainly a trade off of having protected bike lanes. At some intersections, a two-stage turn can help especially those with green bike boxes.