The following document was sent to M-DOT on August 10th, 2023. On September 14th we had a productive meeting with MDOT and the City of Detroit to review these concerns and suggestions:
While we generally support a planned alternative to I-375, the design alternative (April 2023) has significant safety and connectivity concerns for bicyclists and pedestrians. Except for the cycletracks and some new sidewalks, this project does not reconnect the community as currently designed. The boulevard and intersections prioritize vehicle mobility similar to other major MDOT roads like Telegraph — a road that disconnects the communtiy.
The boulevard with its wide roadways, sweeping curves, and overly-large intersections isn’t designed as an urban arterial. We believe this will encourage motorists exiting I-75 to maintain high travel speeds, especially north of Gratiot. Higher speeds result in more bicycle/pedestrian crashes with increased severity.
There also seems that reductions in vehicle commuting to Downtown post-COVID presents an opportunity to downsize and narrow roadways and intersections.
With today’s I-375, bicyclists and pedestrians avoid conflict with the below-grade vehicle traffic. Bringing this traffic to grade increases pedestrian and bicyclist conflicts with vehicles. The additional ad-grade vehicle traffic also leads to wider crosswalks and more pedestrian/bicyclist delay, both of which negatively impact connectivity and walkability.
We’ve outlined specific concerns and suggested solutions below.
The intersection design is not safe for bicyclists or pedestrians given its slip lanes and high-volume conflict areas. It’s not appropriate for an urban setting. We are especially concerned for bicyclists and pedestrians using the cycletrack and sidewalks when traveling north and south across Gratiot.
We expect the WB Gratiot to NB boulevard slip lanes will become an uncontrolled turning movement even with a No Turn on Red. If vehicles stop, they will likely not be looking for southbound cycletrack/sidewalk traffic. Having two lanes creates a highly unsafe multi-threat situation. Large vehicles in one lane can block sight lines for seeing vehicles in adjacent lanes. There is also a high likelihood that vehicles will block the cycletrack/crosswalk.
To address these concerns:
- We want a non-motorized underpass for the cycletrack and sidewalk under Gratiot. This grade separation would not only improve safety, it would decrease delay for all road users and provide an opportunity for artwork within the underpass.
- The dual slip lanes from WB Gratiot to NB boulevard should be removed. If this cannot be achieved, the at-grade crossing of a single slip lane should have a raised crosswalk/cycletrack and be No Turn on Red. Additional turning traffic could be accommodated beyond the slip lane.
E. Lafayette/Larned and Boulevard Intersections
The dual right turn lanes from WB E. Lafayette to the NB boulevard are a major concern for reasons similar to those mentioned above: vehicles will not stop, motorists will not look for southbound traffic, the cycletrack and crosswalk will get blocked, and the multi-threat concerns. In addition, very few bicyclists will find it safe traveling with two lanes away from the curb and with no physical separation from vehicles on both sides.
Also, we see no need for E. Lafayette to grow from its existing 4 lanes east of the boulevard to 7 lanes. This makes the intersection notably larger and less safe for those crossing it on foot or by bike. Larned suffers from the same design bloat.
- To address these concerns either the dual lanes should become a single turn lane or move the bicyclists to a cycletrack on the southside of E. Lafayette.
- Reduce the two dedicated turns lanes to WB Larned to NB boulevard to one lane.
It is imperative that every intersection is designed to prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist safety. To address this:
- Bicyclists must have bike signal heads at every intersection with traffic signals. These are allowed under FHWA Interim Approval since they would “augment the design of a segregated counter-flow bicycle facility” and “Provide an increased level of safety by facilitating unusual or unexpected arrangements of the bicycle movement through complex intersections, conflict areas, or signal control.” These accepted uses also align with NACTO guidance. Bicyclists cannot be expected to use pedestrian signals, which have no application for cycletracks under Michigan law. Having a cycletrack travel through an intersection without any traffic control is clearly unsafe.
- Cycletrack users should not be required to press actuation buttons to receive green bike signals.
- Pedestrian delay should be minimized by employing “Rest in WALK” signaling. Pedestrian actuation should only be used when necessary, perhaps only used during peak vehicle travel.
- While traffic signals might be optimized for vehicle movements during peak hours, they should be minimized for local users, including bicyclists and pedestrians outside of those time periods.
- No Turn on Red and Leading Pedestrian Intervals should be used to reduce turning conflicts.
- R10-15C signs should be used at intersections where vehicles turn across a cycletrack.
- Crosswalks and cycletracks should be raised whenever possible to increase motorist yield compliance.
- All intersections designed to minimize crosswalk distances through bumps outs and lane reductions.
- Intersection curb radii should be minimized to reduce turning speeds and should follow NACTO best practices for urban streets.
- Dual turn lanes should be downsized to a single lane to eliminate the multi-threat safety issue.
We appreciate seeing sidewalks added along all non-freeway streets. However, the sidewalk within the median north of Gratiot could be a very unpleasant place to walk.
- We want to see extra landscaping that could provide some buffering from the NB and SB travel lanes.
- There especially needs to be hardened protection for pedestrians where the three I-75 exit lanes turn south on the boulevard. Vehicles will undoubtedly lose control by taking this turn too quickly and drive into the median.
The boulevard and Montcalm cycletracks should mimic the Hudson River Greenway design in NYC.
- There should be increased greenspace between the vehicle lanes and the cycletracks.
- The cycletrack widths should be 12 feet, which is the NACTO desired width.
- The cycletracks should be designed to prevent road debris from accumulating in them and to require less maintenance.
- No additional access should be granted across the cycletracks to minimize conflict points.
- The cycletrack should be extended south to the RiveWalk.
One operational concern we have with the Montcalm cycletrack is on its west end. This area around the stadiums is often closed or restricted for bicycle use. We would like to see a city policy that keeps this bicycling connection open while also addressing any stadium safety issues.
Other Bike Lanes
This is an opportunity to add and improve other bike lanes within the project footprint..
- The Wilkins bike lanes over I-75 should be made sidewalk-level and separated from the vehicle lanes.
- Separated bike lanes should be added to the entire length of Gratiot Avenue.
- The E. Jefferson bike lanes should continue west of the boulevard. The current design shows the removal of existing bike lanes on the EB side from St. Antoine to the boulevard.
- Bike lanes or a cycletrack should be installed along Atwater.
Green Stormwater Management
The design appears to free up significant land between Eastern Market, Brush, and Crain’s. We would like to see this become green space that can manage stormwater from these surrounding properties. A walking/biking trail through this area (with access off of Montcalm) would be an ideal addition.
Additional clusters of trees (and not simply street trees) should be planted throughout the project to not only address stormwater, but reduce noise and air pollution for the surrounding community.
We made the I-375 replacement part of our successful pitch to get the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals Conference in 2024. This project will certainly be on the agenda and we want to make sure we can talk about it in a positive way. By incorporating the changes we’re proposing, it can be