Categories
Policy

Repealing Detroit’s Restrictive Youth Bicycling Ordinances

A public hearing to repeal these youth biking ordinances was held on Monday, October 26th at 10:30AM at Detroit City Council. The repeal was successfully voted out of committee and is on the Tuesday Council agenda for an expected final vote.


 

Last May, Detroit made a massive overhaul of its traffic ordinances. City Council repealed most of Detroit’s traffic ordinances and adopted the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code and Uniform Traffic Code in their place.

We supported this change as it makes Detroit’s traffic ordinances more consistent with other Michigan cities.

It also meant bicycles no longer required bells. We’re not anti-bike bell, we think they’re a great idea. We just don’t think bicyclists should get a ticket for not having one.

Three ordinances that didn’t get removed involved youth bicycling.

Sec. 55-4-11. – Operation of bicycles—Persons under twelve years of age.
No person under the age of 12 years shall operate a bicycle upon any street, highway or alley of the City, provided, that such person under twelve 12 years of age may operate a bicycle on the sidewalks of the city. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

Sec. 55-4-12. – Same—Persons twelve to seventeen years of age.
Any person over the age of 12 years and under the age of 17 years may operate a bicycle upon the streets, highways, and alleys of the City, provided, that such person has in his possession the written consent of the parent or guardian to do so. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

Sec. 55-4-13. – Same—Police to notify parents of violations.
If there is any violation of section 55-4-21 or section 55-4-22 of this Code, the Police Department shall notify the parent or guardian of the violation, giving the details of the violation, and shall recommend the confiscation of the bicycle by the parent or guardian for a period of not more than six months. (Ord. No. 09-14, § 1, 5-19-14)

These ordinances are archaic and unduly restrictive. To the best of our knowledge, they are not enforced.

We asked members of the Association for Pedestrian and Bicycle Planners if they were aware of another U.S. city with similar restrictions. The answer was “no”.

Repealing 55-4-11 does not mean all Detroit youth are prepared to ride safely in the streets, but certainly some are. Many youth under age 12 ride in the streets with their parents/guardians or with organized groups such as the Back Alley Bikes Youth Rides and the Safe Routes to School program. This happens safely across the city and should not be prohibited.

Also, Council adopted the Michigan Uniform Traffic Code by reference in May 2014. That includes a rule that holds parents/guardians responsible for their children:

R 28.1201 Rule 201. Required obedience to traffic ordinances; parental responsibility; violation as civil infraction. (1) It is a violation of this code for any person to do any act that is forbidden, or to fail to perform any act that is required, by the act or this code. (2) The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit this child or ward to violate any of the provisions of the act or this code. (3) Unless otherwise specified, violation of any rule of this code is a civil infraction.

We met with Council member Scott Benson this summer to discuss their repeal. The repeal amendment went before the City Council Public Health and Safety Committee today and was moved to tomorrow’s City Council of Whole.

 

Categories
Greenways Policy

Updates on Belle Isle’s streets and sidewalks

20150416_113940Last Friday the DNR called a meeting to address the concerns we’d outlined in a previous post about the construction and conditions on Belle Isle related to the Grand Prix. The meeting also included MDOT representatives, State Representative Stephanie Chang, and Michele Hodges from both the Belle Isle Conservancy and Belle Isle Advisory Committee.

This meeting was mostly about information gathering. The DNR is hiring a planner soon and will host public listening sessions this summer to discuss these issues further with a much wider audience. We’ll let everyone know when those listening sessions are scheduled.

Three MDOT issues seemed to rise to the top.

  • MDOT took a small portion of the $4 million road funding for project management. The remainder went to the Grand Prix, who designed and built the Belle Isle roads. There were no public meetings and MDOT thought that listening to the DNR was sufficient stakeholder input. We don’t believe this follows their Context Sensitive Solutions or Complete Streets policies.
  • On portions of the new road, they will paint a pedestrian lane. This is not a sidewalk, but a pedestrian lane next to the curb and in the street. A bike lane will be next to this walking lane. An on-street walking lane does not follow AASHTO guidelines even though that was a design requirement. Also per AASHTO, “sidewalks, provided on both sides of a street, are the preferred pedestrian facility.” We learned that the initial Grand Prix design removed more sidewalks, so perhaps this was a compromise. We are waiting to see the road design cross sections from MDOT. However we do know these designs were not reviewed by MDOT’s bike and pedestrian coordinator.
  • On some new sections of road, no sidewalks were installed despite the MDOT Complete Streets policy. MDOT ‘s explanation was that they typically assume local governments will add them,  or in this case, the DNR. While local governments can be asked to contribute to adding sidewalks, MDOT cannot assume others will keep them compliant with their own Complete Streets policy.

One frustrating point that others made was that the sidewalk was in poor condition and that this somehow justified it being removed. However there was no evidence of its poor condition in Google Streetview. We passed around photos showing that. Besides, under this logic, the road was in poor condition. Why wasn’t it removed? That logic has no place under a Complete Streets policy.

Grand Prix impact on other park users

The other major concern discussed was the impact of this year’s Grand Prix event set up on other park users. The DNR inherited this event permit from the city of Detroit and we were told there are some gray areas within in. Seemingly unbeknownst to those at the meeting, the Grand Prix had a different interpretation of the permit requirements and set up earlier than expected.

The DNR will discuss this with the Grand Prix to make improvements for 2016. They plan to update the permit when it expires after next year’s event.

As a means for overseeing all this activity, Michele Hodges will add this entire topic as a standing agenda item to the Belle Isle Advisory Committee meetings.

We look forward to addressing all these issues and keeping Belle Isle as a great place to bike and walk.

Categories
Policy Safety & Education

Detroit’s updated bicycle ordinances

300px-The_Spirit_of_DetroitLong ago, most Michigan municipalities eschewed their local traffic ordinances and adopted the state’s Motor Vehicle Code and Uniform Traffic Codes, both of which are fairly up to date with national guidelines.

Last May Detroit did the same.

For such a sweeping change, it was surprising that the Coalition was the only one providing public comment before City Council. We spoke in support of the change (with one “minor” exception) since it meant:

  • Bicyclists would no longer be required to have a bell. We’re not anti-bell. We just don’t think you should get a ticket for not having one.
  • Stores buying used bicycles had to make weekly reports to the police with the sellers’ names and addresses. Stores selling new or used bicycles had to file weekly reports with the purchasers’ information to the police as well. Failing to do either was a misdemeanor. We suspect no one was following this. Both were removed.
  • Vehicles turning through crosswalks must yield to bicyclists as well as pedestrians.
  • Bike lanes are defined and it’s more clear that vehicles are not allowed to drive or park in them. Both are misdemeanors.

Council passed the ordinance and it went into effect on June 1st.

With these changes in place, the Coalition is now working on educational materials and communications for cyclists, motorists, and law enforcement to roll out this Spring.

As for that “minor” exception? Stay tuned.

Categories
Policy

Making Progress: Designing Detroit for All Users

Written by Myra M. Tetteh. Originally published on the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative web site.

Click the above image for a copy of our Detroit Complete Streets brochure
Click the above image for a copy of our Detroit Complete Streets brochure

In May of 2010 the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion received a complete streets grant from the State of Michigan with three components to complete within one year!  The tasks to 1) form a coalition; 2) educate the community on complete streets; and 3) pass a local ordinance, seemed relatively simplistic at the time.  We had no idea that it would take so much more energy, time, and priority shifting.

Unlike other communities in Michigan that received the same grant, we had many other pressing concerns in the community, namely lighting and blight.  Community residents rightfully educated us by stating: what is the use of a bike lane or new sidewalk if the streetlights are not working or I feel unsafe because of the abandoned building I have to pass.  Though the city still faces many challenges, we have made sure to be involved in advocacy efforts that are repairing our community – the work is progressing, the city is moving forward.

We have worked diligently since 2010 to get complete streets as part of the framework for the city moving forward.  Still, we are not where we would like to be, but we are at the table!  Many iterations of the ordinance have been developed over the years and it is our hope that we are finally close to the finish line of an ordinance that intentionally plans for the incorporation of complete streets in road projects.

In the meantime, we have not stopped our momentum to do the work making the city safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers regardless of physical ability or age.  To date, the city has 158 miles of bike lanes, 35 miles of complete streets infrastructure, and 17 miles of greenways.  Next year, these numbers will increase as plans are being funded to do more work.   In five years, we hope to see miles of bike lanes, complete streets infrastructure, and greenways more than double.

Our progress in Detroit is gaining national attention.  Recently, we were invited to the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting to present on how our work is improving the health and wellness of our residents.  Even Apple filmed a commercial showing the Slow Roll bicycle rides taking over the City of Detroit.

While our progress is impressive, the work of Detroit is in large part contingent on what happens at the Federal level.  Currently, we are operating under an eight month extension that keeps the status quo for funding, including non-motorized funding.  But time is running out, the Federal Transportation Bill is once again set to expire on May 31, 2015.  Then the funding will dry up.  Our elected officials have a propensity for last minute saves, the 2013 shutdown notwithstanding.  The current bill being discussed will only cover roads and not include non-motorized financing, including nixing Safe Routes to School.  This would be a big step backward for our work and progress.  As the new Congress takes office in 2015, we will see if our officials are committed to moving us forward toward safer throughways for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers regardless of physical ability or age.