Categories
Safety & Education

Right Turns and Bike Lanes

There’s been some misinformation being shared on social media from bicyclists saying that motorists should be “adjacent to the curb, and sometimes that means entering what’s been striped as the ‘bike lane'”.

That’s not correct.

The cite Michigan Motor Vehicle Code, which says:

(1) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:

    (a) Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

MCL – Section 257.647

The law says the curb or the “edge of the roadway.” The Vehicle Code defines the “roadway” as that portion of a street that’s “improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.” Bikes are not vehicles in Michigan, therefore bike lanes are not part of the roadway. Neither are parking lanes, shoulders or striped buffer areas.

MDOT’s “What Every Michigan Drive Should Know About Bicycle Lanes” provides this clear graphic showing how to properly make a legal right turn at the edge of the roadway.

In fact, driving in the bike lane to make a turn is a misdemeanor under the Michigan State Police’s Uniform Traffic Code Rule 322, which most Michigan cities, townships, villages, and counties adopt as local ordinances.

(1) A person shall not operate a vehicle on or across a bicycle lane, except to enter or leave adjacent property.
(2) A person shall not park a vehicle on a bicycle lane, except where parking is permitted by official signs.
(3) A person who violates this rule is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Uniform Traffic Code Rule 322

The big takeaways are don’t drive in the bike lane and don’t believe everything you read on social media.

Categories
Complete Streets Policy Safety & Education

Four Big Wins

Update: Shortly after this post was published, the Governor signed HB 4012.

We’re involved in many different challenges at the city, state, and federal levels. We’ve been on a hot streak since late last year and we wanted to share the highlights of what we helped accomplish.

Restoring Bike Lanes ✅

We had heard that General Motors wanted the bike lanes removed on East Grand Boulevard primarily between their Factory Zero plant and I-75. There were concerns about truck traffic around bicyclists, though if that was correct, we would prefer seeing them advocate for separated infrastructure. People are going to bike on East Grand regardless and bike lanes are a proven safety countermeasure.

The City was planning a public meeting to discuss options before anything happened. However, we got an email from a bicyclist in January that the bike lanes had been removed early.

We brought this issue up with Council member Scott Benson. When former Council President Brenda Jones had introduced an ordinance to require communtiy engagement before bike lanes went in, Benson got wording included so that engagement would be also required when they were removed. This was largely driven by the bike lanes inexplictably being removed from East Grand between I-75 and Woodward.

Fortunately, former City of Detroit CFO David Massaron started as GM’s chief economic development and real estate officer in January. Benson setup a meeting with him, DPW, and us. The result is the bike lanes will be reinstalled as soon as the weather allows.

This is a safety win for everyone, including the truck drivers. Long term, we’re advocating for the city to create safe bike infrastructure along all of East and West Grand Boulevard, connecting both ends of the RiverWalk, and creating a loop within the Joe Louis Greenway.

Keeping Downtown Sidewalks ✅

It’s not uncommon for residents and corporations to request that city vacate part of the public right-of-way. Engineering analyzes the impact on utilities and sends the petition to city council.

In late Novemeber we reviewed a request from the Detroit Athletic Club to vacate 60 feet of John R between Adams and Madison. Our concern was this included losing the sidewalk – a bad precedent, but especially in Downtown. We contacted Council member Gabriela Santiago-Romero’s office since she chairs the Public Health and Safety Committee where this request flowed through. We stated our opposition to the city “giving sidewalks to a private landowner and reducing walkability, especially within the Downtown.” We reached out to our disability advocates who shared our concern.

We met with the DAC and the Council member Santiago-Romero about the vacation, and to their credit, the DAC came up with an alternative that keeps the sidewalks on both sides of John R. The road itself will go from three lanes to two. We support this.

The biggest issue remains: Council received this vacation request without any information regarding the sidewalk removal, only the impacts on utilities within the right-of-way. We are looking at changing the city ordinance to require Engineering to analyze the impacts these requests have on non-motorized transportation.

Maintaining Residential Speed Limits ✅

Michigan law allows cities to use default speed limits in specific situations. They don’t require speed limit signs since motorists should know the defaults. For most residential streets in Detroit, the default is 25 MPH.

That default was set to expire on January 1, 2024. Why? The expiration had been added to gain the support of the Michigan State Police for some other legislation. MSP wanted to study whether they could raise this default. Apparently the effects of this on Detroit neighborhoods and many older suburbs wasn’t considered. We alerted the Michigan Municipal League of this issue.

Last year, House Bill 4126 was introduced to keep the 25 MPH default. Unfortunately it got “stuck” in the House throughout the summer. We reached out to House Speaker Joe Tate to help get the bill moving — and it did. From the House to the Senate, we worked with committee leaders to keep this bill progressing along. It was signed by the Governor Gretchen Whitmer in late November.

Setting Lower Speed Limits ✅

We’ve worked with State Representative Bradley Slagh for three sessions, but it seems we’ve finally helped push his speed limit bill onto the Governor’s desk.

Speed limits are commonly set based on the 85th fastest motorist when they aren’t using the default speed limits mentioned above. However, if the 85th fastest motorist was at 43 MPH, current law requires the limit to be rounded up to 45 MPH. Rep. Slaugh first introduced a bill to give road agencies the ability to round down to 40 MPH. However, it also unintentionally removed the ability of counties to set speed limits based on an engineering study, so we got involved.

We helped improved the text to clarify that all speed limits can be set based on engineering studies. We also got a resolution of support from city council thanks to Council member Benson.

The bill, House Bill 4012, also got slowed up and Speaker Tate got it moving to the Senate. We gave testimony in Lansing at the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The example we shared was of MDOT/MSP raising the speed limit by 10 MPH on Fort Street in Detroit despite it being between a neighborhood and Kemeny Rec Center/Park. After the change, a young boy was killed walking to the park. That was in Senator Stephanie Chang’s district, but after redistricting, was now in Senator Erika Geiss’, both of whom were on the committee with Geiss as chair.

The bill was unanimously moved to the Senate floor with a recommendation for approval. It’s now on the Governor’s desk.

Categories
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Safety & Education

News from the Trail – December 2023

Our December newsletter is now online with updates on greenways, Complete Streets, safety funding, and much more.

Categories
Complete Streets Greenways Safety & Education

2023 in Review

This was a seriously good year for making biking, walking, and rolling better in the City of Detroit. Here are some of the highlights.

Greenway Openings

  • Southwest Greenway – This 0.6-mile rail-trail sibling of the Dequindre Cut opened in May and provides a very convenient connection between Corktown and the RiverWalk. This also includes the 15th Street pedestrian/bicycle connection to renovated Michigan Central and Roosevelt Park.
  • RiverWalk Uniroyal Site – The long anticipated segment between the Mt. Elliott and Gabriel Richard Parks opened in October. Thousands of people came out for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy‘s celebration. This closed the biggest gap on the East RiverWalk.
  • Joe Louis Greenway – The City of Detroit officially opened the Warren Gateway trailhead on Halloween. Calling it a trailhead doesn’t do it justice. It’s a great community gathering and play space. It’ll be a major destination along the JLG. The Meade Cut-Thru north of Hamtramck opened this year as well and provides another neighborhood connection to the greenway.

Complete Streets

  • East Warren saw some of its separated bike lanes upgraded with concrete curbs, landscaping, and much more from 3 Mile Drive to Cadieux. We’re advocating for extending the East Warren separated bike lanes west of St. Jean to the (future) Joe Louis Greenway, WSU, Woodbridge and more — especially since we expect this to be part of the Iron Belle Trail route.
  • Rosa Parks streetscape is a newly opened cycletrack from West Grand Boulevard (near the Motown Museum) to Gordon Park (near the Congregration). This project also removed a couple unnecessary vehicle lanes, which reduces stormwater runoff and nearly doubles the size of the adjacent MLK Jr. Memorial Park.
Map of Detroit showing streets that would get safety improvements by either rapid implementation or enhanced protection

Road Safety

  • Safe Streets for All funding – In February, the City of Detroit received $24.8 million in federal funding to improve its most unsafe streets. The city reapplied for additional funding from the same program and received another $24.8 million grant to address 56 high-crash intersections served by DDOT. This latter grant will also “conduct a Level of Traffic Stress analysis to address gaps in bicyclist/pedestrian networks, update the City’s Comprehensive Safety Action Plan, and pilot training for DDOT bus operators to ensure safe operations around people walking and biking.” This funding will lead to some community meetings and major street improvements in 2024.
  • Under state law, nearly all residential streets in Detroit have a default 25 MPH speed limit. No speed limit signs are required. During an earlier state legislative session, changes were made to this section of state law that would remove this default on January 1st, 2024. We supported a bill to keep the current residential speed limits, and when it got held up in the House, we worked to get it unstuck. It passed the Senate and was signed by the Governor.
Closed Spruce Street pedestrian bridge over the Lodge

(Dis)connecting Communities

  • Pedestrian Bridges – Freeways divide Detroit neighborhoods, so when they were first constructed, pedestrian bridges were added to help reduce this disconnection. Through the years, MDOT has not maintained these bridges and many of them are now closed. We’re involved at the local, state, and federal levels to address the lack of maintenance, non-compliant ADA designs, and their outright closures, most recently with the Canfield Bridge. We are expect to have more updates in 2024 as we stay on top of this.
  • I-375 Reconnecting Communities – We are pleasantly surprised that there’s been more vocal opposition to the overbuilt replacement boulevard than the freeway removal itself this year. This continued pressure along with new post-COVID traffic counts could lead to a tighter boulevard design that’s better for bicyclists and pedestrians. It’s much less expensive to do a road diet before you build it. Stay tuned for updates and more public meetings in 2024.
Miles of Bike Infrastructure (Centerline)New for 2023Total
Trails1.324.8
Bike Routes (sharrows)042.4
Bike Lanes (includes 0.25 miles removed on 14th Street in Corktown)2.593.2
Detroit Greenways Coalition infrastructure database
Categories
Complete Streets Safety & Education

More Safe Streets for All Funding

Back in February, the City of Detroit received a $24.8 million road safety grant from the US DOT’s Safe Streets for All program (SS4A).

Apparently lightning does strike twice.

The US DOT just awarded the City another $24.8 million SS4A grant. While the first focused on infrastructure improvements to streets with the highest crash rates, this grants focuses more on high-crash intersection near transit stops.

The City of Detroit, Michigan, is awarded funds to improve safety and bus stop accessibility at 56 high-crash intersections served by the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus service. Improvements will support safer transfers between different routes and active/shared modes and include bus bulbs/transit islands; sidewalk widening and ADA curb ramp updates; highvisibility crosswalks; intersection lighting; and signal timing improvements. The City will also conduct a Level of Traffic Stress analysis to address gaps in bicyclist/pedestrian networks, update the City’s Comprehensive Safety Action Plan, and pilot training for DDOT bus operators to ensure safe operations around people walking and biking. The City of Detroit has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the country.

Safe Streets and Roads for All Fiscal Year 2023 Implementation Grant Awards, USDOT

We wrote a letter of support for this project because we believe it “will substantially reduce the risk of countless vulnerable roadway users being killed or injured at intersections in Detroit and it will help realize the region’s vision for improved transit.”

City of Dearborn

A major streetscape of Warren Avenue in Dearborn (near the Joe Louis Greenway) was also awarded $24.9 million.

The City of Dearborn, Michigan, is awarded funds for a road diet that focuses on a dual lane reduction on Warren Avenue. This 2-mile stretch of road currently hosts five lanes of traveling traffic and is a thoroughfare used to get to Detroit, Canada, and the Detroit Metro Airport. This project includes three primary objectives. First, the narrowing of Warren Avenue to calm traffic through the district. Second, infrastructural updates to the streetscape to incorporate a new demarcated bike lane and plant buffer to mitigate flood waters as well as beautify the grey urban area. Finally, this project will reimagine the streetscape with new LED lighting, which will lower the carbon footprint in the area, improve safety, and enhance visibility for pedestrians and motorists alike.

Safe Streets and Roads for All Fiscal Year 2023 Implementation Grant Awards, USDOT

SEMCOG

SEMCOG received $10 million for their “Safe Streets Now: Making Southeast Michigan roads safer for people of all ages and abilities” project.

This award will be used by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) to complete demonstration activities focused on vulnerable road users. Demonstration activities will be located in equity emphasis areas, the High Injury Network, and/or Bicycle and Pedestrian Demand Areas. Examples of demonstration countermeasures that will be installed include bike lanes, cycle tracks, bulb outs, speed humps, pedestrian refuge islands, gateway treatments, and enhanced crosswalk pavement markings using temporary materials such as paint, bollards, planter boxes, and rubber curbs to separate users in space and time, and reduce impact forces through reducing speeds.

US DOT Notice of Award

Our letter of support stated that is “is a great opportunity to reduce traffic violence through a Safe Systems Approach – and we fully support that.”

SEMCOG confirmed to us that the City of Detroit would be eligible for this funding as well.

Action Planning

Other SS4A grants were awarded to nearby cities for developing new action plans, including Dearborn Heights “Safe Streets 4 Dearborn Heights” which received $396,700.

Other Metro Detroit cities also receiving this funding include Canton, Garden City, Inkster, Mount Clemens, Novi, Pontiac, Wayne and Westland.

Wayne County received $1 million to develop a “Comprehensive Safety Action Plan” as well.


Note: While these funding announcements are certainly positive, Metro Detroit received these competitive grants due to our region’s unsafe roads. If we had safer roads and had reached Vision Zero, we wouldn’t be receiving this much help from the US DOT.

Categories
Complete Streets Events Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – November 2023

Our newsletter is now online with updates on the Joe Louis Greenway, RiverWalk, Complete Streets, MDOT projects, and much more.

UPDATE: Note that the newsletter says MoGo-A-GoGo is on a Tuesday. November 9th is a Thursday.