We are committed to bringing greater safety to everyone who uses Detroit streets and trails, including bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. We believe this is best achieved by a Vision Zero approach to safety with a data-driven focus on designing better roads (and trails) using Proven Safety Countermeasures and a Safe Systems Approach. When done correctly, a road can be self-enforcing, intuitive to use, and forgiving in the event of a user mistake. This makes education and enforcement less important.
So why are education and enforcement overvalued in safety approaches? It’s easier and less expensive for government agencies to tell people what to do than to correct flawed road designs. This often leads to victim blaming, especially for vulnerable users likes pedestrians and bicyclists. Besides, there’s no lack of education on speed limits yet a majority of motorists don’t heed them. A 2020 study found that motorists “perceive distracted, aggressive and impaired driving as dangerous. Yet many of them admit to engaging in at least one of these exact behaviors in the 30 days before the survey.”
Similarly, many to think that changing laws or increasing penalties should be a priority approach to improving safety. The safety culture in Michigan already embraces a lax enforcement laws for motorists. We’re not going to celebrate new laws that will rarely be enforced. New laws and higher penalties are even less effective when a significant percentage of all serious bicyclist and pedestrian crashes are hit-and-run. Of course law enforcement can’t be everywhere to prevent crashes, not to mention the legacy with the inequitable enforcement the law.
Well-designed streets work 24 hours a day to reduce speeding, reduce crashes, and reduce crash severity. This is why we advocate for a Vision Zero approach.
Our Education Efforts
We have helped educate Detroiters on the new street designs in the city. Most motorists have not had any formal training on these designs and the State no longer retests drivers. We believe burden of driver education lies with the State of Michigan, but until they step up, we’ve taken these steps:
- Creating, printing, and distributing over 12,000 copies of our map brochure which includes the laws pertaining to motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
- Putting all of the brochure’s safety information on our website.
- Assisting MDOT in an update of their What every Michigan driver should know about bicycle lanes brochure and distributing them across the city.
- Partnering with the City of Detroit on their Detroit Rides safety outreach program now through the Health Department.
- Speaking and sharing information at block clubs meetings, AARP events, and more since 2008.
What every Michigan driver should know about bicycle lanes
As more bike lanes are added to Detroit streets, we hear more questions from motorists about how to drive around them correctly. These same questions are happening across the state, so MDOT has created this brochure. We also have some printed copies available. Contact us if you would like some.
One key point for motorists: the law requires you to drive within a single lane [MCL 257.642]. In other words, motorists should not drive on a solid white line. You can cross over most solid white lines or turn through them, but you shouldn’t be driving down the road on top of one. So, when bike lanes have a solid white line, motorists shouldn’t drive in the bike lane or risk getting a ticket.
Sometimes the bike lanes are dashed, mainly at bus stops. Motorists can drive on dashed lines.
This same logic applies to turning. The above graphic is from the MDOT brochure and shows how to make a legal right turn around a bike lane. If the bike lane lines become dashed at the intersection, you can begin your right turn from the curb.
Like most cities in Michigan, Detroit has adopted the Michigan Uniform Traffic Code which also prohibits driving or parking in bike lanes.
R 28.1322 Rule 322. Bicycle lanes; vehicles prohibited; parking permitted under certain conditions; violation as misdemeanor.
(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.
Additional Educational Materials
- Laws pertaining to motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and more
- Bicycle Safer Journey – Skills for Safe bicycling for ages 5 to 18
- What every Michigan bicyclists must know, MDOT
- US Traffic Safety Is Getting Worse, While Other Countries Improve, Bloomberg CityLab, November 2022
- Redesigning Public Safety: Traffic Safety, Center for Policing Equity, September 2022
- Pedestrian deaths are rising on Michigan roads, the reason is up for debate, Bridge Michigan, August 2022
- Why Isn’t There a Canadian Traffic Safety Crisis?, Bloomberg CityLab, July 2022
- Traffic Safety Ads Are Better at Making Puns Than Saving Lives, Slate, June 2022
- Michigan’s rising pedestrian fatalities prompts calls for safer roads, WXYZ, May 2022
- National Roadway Safety Strategy, US DOT, January 2022
- Most e-scooter rider injuries happen on sidewalk, study finds, IIHS, October 2020