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

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Looking Back at 2018

We made quite a bit of progress towards our vision for a citywide network of safe, convenient, and fun bike pathways, Complete Streets, and trails. We also took some heat as these changes stirred up some “bikelash” from both motorists and bicyclists.

Here are some of the top projects and issues we were a part of in 2018.

East Jefferson

The East Jefferson bike lane project certainly caused the most outcry as it was rolled out rather haphazardly while limiting motorists ability to speed. It led to Mayor Mike Duggan pressing pause on new bike lanes and requiring more community input up front. That happened at a meeting we hosted as well as at the Mayor’s District 4 meeting.

E. Jefferson got it’s bike lanes, the longest separated bike lane project of its kind in the U.S. We measured their use and counted 154 bicyclists per day near Conner Avenue and 373 per day just west of the E. Grand Boulevard. These counts were taken just days after the bike lanes opened.

These lanes are still preliminary and a transportation study is underway for the final road design.

One highlight of the summer was using these lanes for group rides such as the Nifty 50 miler. They’re wide enough to allow side-by-side riding. We’ve heard near unanimous support from bicyclists, scooter users, and even those using motorized wheelchairs.

Bike Lane Maintenance

Detroit’s separated bike lanes were rolled out more quickly than the maintenance plan for sweeping and snow removal. This led to many complaints from bicyclists, some who felt the city shouldn’t build bike lanes if they could not maintain them.

At our E. Jefferson meeting in April, Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Ron Brundidge heard this firsthand and made the commitment to do a better job.

It apparently worked. The city implemented a regular sweeping schedule, and while certainly not perfect (especially in areas near construction) it was an improvement.

The city has also done a better job with parking enforcement for vehicles in bike lanes. The ImproveDetroit app was updated so bicyclists could report all of these issues.

City Staff Changes

There were a couple major changes within the city structure that will affect bike and trail work moving forward.

First, Caitlin Marcon is now the Deputy DPW for Complete Streets. She formerly led mobility planning with the Planning and Development Department (PDD.) She’s now in position to better oversee the city’s $80 million commercial corridor Complete Streets program. We’ve come quite a ways from 10 years ago when we started our push for Complete Streets.

The other big change is greenways planning was moved from PDD to the General Services Department (GSD), home of parks planning. Planner Christina Peltier now works in GSD and oversees the Joe Louis Greenway project.


The seemingly overnight arrival of motorized scooters really disrupted the transportation status quo. They were very well received by users based on how many trips they took. But at the same time, they caused consternation as scooters blocked sidewalks and inexperienced users operated too quickly among pedestrians.

Unlike most of U.S. cities, scooter use was legal since they appeared to be covered by Michigan’s electric skateboard laws. Those laws were recently updated to more clearly reference scooters.

The city has convened a motorized scooter committee, which we’re a part of. There may be local ordinances introduced to address some conflicts in 2019. At the same time, the scooter technology is changing and that may lead to different solutions (e.g. automatically reduced scooter speeds in high-pedestrian areas.)

The city of Detroit is fairly open to this new transportation mode but they also want to make sure it’s available in areas outside of the Greater Downtown. Each operator is required to place some scooters in the neighborhoods if they wish to expand beyond the current 300 scooter limit.

Streetlights saving lives

We noticed a major drop in Detroit pedestrian deaths starting in 2016 and wanted to know why. We noticed that the drop largely occurred in areas that were “dark and unlighted.”

We requested the 2017 crash data from the Michigan State Police, wrote software to translate it into a usable format, and found the trend continuing. That trend was not occurring in nearby cities like Hamtramck or in the state of Michigan.

We published our analysis and shared it with the media. It was apparent that the city’s new streetlights were saving dozens of lives each year. Detroit no longer had the highest pedestrian fatality rate among U.S. cities. We thought this was big news, but most others didn’t. We’ll pull in the 2018 numbers soon and see what they look like.

Bike Club News

Detroit’s bike club culture continues to grow. It’s now growing beyond Detroit as the clubs set up sister clubs in cities around the U.S. (and Belgium!) Our list of clubs passed 70 this year, thought admittedly this includes some less active clubs.

We also brought some bike club leadership to Lansing to help us get a Senate Resolution passed in support of the Joe Louis Greenway. That was very successful and the resolution passed unanimously!

The sad news is we lost a number of club leaders in 2018, including DeAngelo “Dee” Smith Sr. (D-West Riderz), Jerome “Jigga” Caldwell (Hood 2 Hood Riderz), and Reggie Spratling (313 Metro Cyclones & Metro Detroit Cycling Club.) These losses were not due to bicycle crashes, though Detroit had a couple of those in 2018.

2019 should be a pretty amazing year to be a bicyclist or trail user in Detroit. Our next post will highlight some of the major stories that will get you excited for all that is coming!