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Complete Streets Policy Safety & Education

Every Month is Pedestrian Safety Month

October is Pedestrian Safety Month where safety groups roll out tepid safety messaging and do a modest amount of short-term traffic enforcement in a handful of Michigan cities. This approach certainly hasn’t led to reduced pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries, which have actually increased over the past decade

What is much more effective than education or enforcement? It’s engineering — building Complete Streets that can self-regulate motorists and reduce speeding 24 hours a day. This is critical since vehicle speed largely determines the degree of injury suffered by pedestrians and bicyclists in crashes. (Vehicle design is a significant determinant as well.)

If there is any doubt that Detroit has speeding problem, just consider Detroiters’ overwhelming demand for speed humps to slow motorists on residential streets. This demand has led Mayor Mike Duggan to shift $11.5 million in road funding to install significantly more speed humps in 2021 — perhaps more than any other major U.S. city.

I’m not sure there’s been any innovation in this city that has been received with more enthusiasm than the speed humps

Mayor Mike Duggan Press Conference, September 16, 2020
YearSpeed humps installedResident requests
201832
20195433,000
20201,2008,000
20214,500 (planned)

Of course speed humps only work on streets were speed limits are 25 MPH or less. Other streets require different Complete Street designs to reduce speeding, e.g. bike lanes, bumps outs, narrower travel lanes, street trees.

Reframing bike lanes as speed humps for bigger roads is invaluable. Bike lanes help reduce speeding and increase safety for everyone, not just bicyclists.

Speed Limits

Another issue we’re working on is how speed limits are set in Michigan.

One major reason the auto industry wrote the “Rules of the Road” in the 1920s was to have higher speed limits and restrict other users, predominantly pedestrians, from using these roads. Higher travel speeds gave motorist a clear advantage over other travel modes and helped sell more cars.

Michigan’s speed limit laws still reflect this history with minimums limits for speed limits and by having the 85th fastest motorist under ideal conditions determine the speed limit — not traffic experts or local governments. This leads to higher speed limits that don’t consider road design, crash history, local land use, and pedestrian and bicyclist use. What’s equally bad is that when roads are reconstructed, they are designed to accomodate the speed limit rather than what is appropriate and safe for the local community.

One local example of this is W. Fort Street near Schaefer. It used to have a 35 MPH speed limit. The Michigan State Police measured the 85th fastest motorist at a bit over 40 MPH, so they raised the speed limit to 45 MPH. They didn’t consider that the neighborhood to the south crossed the road to get to Kemeney Rec Center and park on the north. After the speed limit changed, 8-year-old Brandyn Starks was hit and killed while crossing the street to get to the park.

We’re part of a stakeholder group that’s helping shape current legislation (HB 4733) to provide a modest amount of flexibility in setting speed limits. This change is very much inline with recommendation from the NTSB and many other national organizations. We look forward to providing future updates on this bill.

What about 20 MPH speed limits?

There is a push in many cities around the world to reduce residential speed limits from 25 MPH to 20 MPH. This change is being promoted to help reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries. Recent studies show that lower speed limits do reduce motorist speeds.

However, Michigan law prohibits setting Detroit’s residential speed limits below 25 MPH through January 2024. The Michigan State Police will be doing motorist speed studies on these local roads across the state. We anticipate they will more likely want to raise this 25 MPH minimum rather than lower it by 2024.

Of course, if the legislature takes no action before that time, residential speed limits could be set based on the 85th fastest motorist…

Categories
Complete Streets Policy

Bike Lanes & Community Engagement

In our September 2020 newsletter, we mentioned that the bike lanes on E. Grand Boulevard were removed during a recent repaving. We were told the city had a new policy of removing non-separated bike lanes when roads were repaved. We submitted a formal request asking to rescind this policy. Cailtin Malloy-Marcon, Deputy Director of Complete Streets responded that there actually is no such formal policy. For E. Grand Boulevard, the bike lanes were converted to sharrows “due to concerns about the high level of parking and the door zone conflict.”

In that case, we don’t think this road requires six vehicle lanes. Four could more than adequately handle the traffic volume. By doing that, the bike lanes could look more like those on E. Jefferson, or better still, like the curb-separated ones planned for W. Grand Boulevard just west of Woodward. With its termini at Belle Isle and Riverside Park, we believe the entire Boulevard should have high-quality bike lanes.

And E. Lafayette?

We had also asked about the bike lanes on E. Lafayette, since that road was being repaved. We were assured that those bike lanes “are being reinstated and are being upgraded with new standards that have been implemented elsewhere in the city.” That’s great news.

Community Engagement Ordinance

A public hearing was held this week for Council President Brenda Jones’ Community Engagement Ordinance. The goal of the ordinance is to ensure community engagement is performed prior to certain projects being planned or constructed. Those projects include installing bike lanes and planning streetscapes.

Given the removal of the above bike lanes, we suggested the ordinance should require community engagement prior to the installation or removal of bike lanes. Council member Scott Benson made the same suggestion and motioned that ordinance language change at Council. It passed without dissent.

As for the ordinance, we’re not sure it changes much. It seems the city already meets most of the community engagement requirements spelled out in the ordinance. Still, we expect the ordinance to be adopted.

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Newsletter

News from the Trail – September 2020

Detroit Bike Tours

Last month we helped support Council members Scott Benson and Roy McCalister Jr. as they hosted three casual bike tours. The purpose of the rides was “to demonstrate to council members, other elected officials, and the city’s, and region’s transportation decision makers how bicycle lanes keep Detroiters safe.” These tours were also an opportunity to talk about traffic calming in the neighborhoods and green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). 

The rides began in Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion on Livernois, traveled north through Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and back to Detroit. A highlight was having Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana talk about how the bike lanes have helped attract new business to Livernois while providing a safe family-friendly travel option for residents to get those businesses. 

Other highlights:

  • The Alliance for the Great Lakes held a well-attended pre-tour event to discuss the new Livernois GSI and how stormwater will be managed in the bioswales. 
  • Representatives from Wayne County attended one of the tours and there was a initial discussion on improving Wayne County Roads for biking in Detroit, specifically E. Outer Drive. We are now looking at grant to help move this project forward.

More information on these tours (and more photos) are on our website and on Fox 2 Detroit.


Connecting the Rouge

Speaking of Wayne County, they are also working to extend the Rouge River Gateway Greenway. That trail currently connects Hines Drive to Michigan Avenue (near Andiamo’s). The long term plan is to extend that trail to the Detroit River. A new trail segment behind Greenfield Village is being designed now. 

How can you get involved? They have a short survey online to collect input on your trail use. There’s also a virtual community meeting planned for September 16th at 6pm. Information on how to join the meeting will be posted on the website prior to the 16th.

Meanwhile over in Rouge Park, the City of Detroit has added a two-way cycletrack along Spinozza Drive. They’ve also created this video to explain how it works. The design is very similar to the cycletrack in Palmer Park — which has apparently reduced speeding traffic. Vehicles used to regularly crash into the lightposts along this stretch of road, but none have done so since the cycletrack was installed. 

Also along the Rouge River, trail design work is underway at Rogell Park. The first community meeting is scheduled for September 23rd at 6:30pm. Watch for more forthcoming details on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.


Breaking News

All three of these issues are ongoing. This is what we know currently, so stay tuned for future updates.

  • Bike lane removals — Bike lanes on E. Grand Boulevard were removed during a recent repaving. After some research, we learned the city had a new policy of removing non-separated bike lanes when roads were repaved. This makes no sense to us as it makes roads less safe for all users to no ones benefit. Also, there was no community engagement on this in advance.  We’ve asked the Department of Public Works to rescind this policy. Council member Benson has also gotten involved.
  • Speed limit legislation — State Representative Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland/Holland) is sponsoring a bill (HB 4733) that would clarify the flexibility in setting speed limits. Rather than strictly set speed limits based on the 85th fasted motorist under ideal road conditions, road agencies could use best engineering/safety practices and take into account road design, land use (e.g. nearby parks), pedestrian and bicyclist activity, crash history, etc. Without this flexibility, many main roads in Detroit could see higher speed limits due to the prevalence of speeding. The original bill removed that flexibility on state and county roads. We opposed that and have proposed alternative language. 
  • I-375 replacement delayed — MDOT asked SEMCOG to pull construction funding from the I-375 Alternatives project and delay it to 2027. We oppose this delay as does the City of Detroit, who is having an ongoing discussion with the state on keeping this project moving forward as planned. It appears to us that the Michigan Avenue (in Corktown) reconstruction funding has jumped ahead of I-375. 

Other Updates

  • Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved $28 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grants. This included $2.7 million for the May Creek Greenway, $300,000 for a portion of a new 6-mile trail on Belle Isle, and $300,000 for a Perrien Park renovation (at Chene and E. Warren). 
  • We are also a member of the Vote Yes for MI Water, Wildlife & Parks Coalition. Together we are supporting a November ballot proposal that ensures continued grant funding from the MNRTF and strikes a better balance between funding development and acquisition projects. Currently 75% of the grant funding is only for land acquisition (which Detroit typically doesn’t need to do.) If the proposal passes, a minimum of 25% would go towards acquisition and a minimum of 25% for development. 
  • We are also a supporting organization for the national Greenway Stimulus campaign, a call for a $10 billion federal infrastructure investment in regional trails and greenways to spur strong economic recovery and a healthy, equitable future.
  • The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law last month, providing $900 million in permanent and dedicated annual funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding to address the backlog of maintenance projects in our national parks and public lands. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says, this bill is “considered by many to be the most impactful legislation for parks and the outdoors in decades.” The City of Detroit has a long history of using LWCF grant funding to improve its parks.
  • Speaking of grants, the City of Detroit received a Streets for Pandemic Response & Recovery grant from NACTO. This grant is to help “temporarily close streets near neighborhood schools and parks in Springwells, Warrendale, and northwest Detroit to create outdoor community hubs for young people and other residents. These partners will each program their own spaces tailored to the needs of the specific community where they are based, focusing on creating outdoor learning space, providing childcare, hosting enrichment activities, and creating street art.”
  • A new warehouse could replace the former Cadillac Stamping Plant along the Conner Creek Greenway/Iron Belle Trail, just south of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport. We’re involved because we don’t want truck traffic negatively impacting the trail. We also see this as an opportunity to replace an unused parking lot (circled in red) along the greenway with GSI and green buffering. While greenways are often viewed from a recreational standpoint, this trail could be a great option for local employees who chose to bike or walk to work.
  • The City of Detroit’s Joseph Campau resurfacing project includes a two-way cycletrack as part of the Joe Louis Greenway. It originally ran from the City of Hamtramck to the Davison Freeway, but that’s now been extended to McNichols. This project should be completed this year.

Additional Reading & Listening

Categories
Complete Streets

Council member Benson hosts bike tours for cohorts

We are excited to be a part of this effort to bring greater awareness of the value in building bike lanes, traffic calming, and green stormwater infrastructure in Detroit.

[Update: Fox 2 Detroit coverage of the initial tour]

Press Release from the Office of Councilmember Scott Benson

Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson hosts a series of bike rides in August to promote the City’s bicycle lane safety  

Several elected officials plan to ride along 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson is teaming up with Councilmember Roy McCalister Jr. to host a series of bike rides in August. The goal is to demonstrate to council members, other elected officials, and the city’s, and region’s transportation decision makers how bicycle lanes keep Detroiters safe. 

The Councilmen have invited their Detroit council colleagues, Wayne County and Police Commissioners, and local judges to join the ride.  

While Detroit is on track to become one of the nation’s best cities for bicyclists with more than 240 miles of lanes and trails crisscrossing the city, including paths on Belle Isle and the Dequindre Cut, the bike lanes have sparked controversy and created confusion for bicyclists and motorists. Some residents and their representatives simply do not support them. 

Benson, an avid bicyclist, wants to help people understand how bicycle lanes promote Detroiters’ health, provide a safe, inexpensive transportation mode, especially for the one third of Detroiters who do not have access to vehicles, prevent injuries, and save lives.  

The average Detroit cyclist likely is either age 12 or 45, and studies show that Detroit has the highest bicycle fatality rate in Michigan, higher than the cities of Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Warren combined. In recent years, data shows that most accidents involved children ages 11-13 and adults ages 44-46, and an estimated 88% of victims are African American. 

“This bike ride is an opportunity to allow elected officials and transportation decision makers to experience bike lanes, traffic calming installations and streetscape design from the perspective of a bicyclist,” Councilmember Scott Benson said.  

“It’s important that we see non-motorized transit as a viable option for all of our residents and people should see what the region is doing to improve the quality of life for our residents. All Detroiters, especially those without cars, deserve access to safe streets.” 

The first bike ride will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, August 7 and will begin at the MoGo Detroit bicycle station on Livernois at East Outer Drive. The slow-roll ride will cross 7 Mile Road, head north of 9 Mile Road in Ferndale, and ends with lunch at Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, 19345 Livernois, Detroit. Face masks will be provided. 

MoGo is offering complimentary bike rentals, but participants are welcome to ride their own bicycles. Other rides in the series will run from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, August 21, 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, August 25, with a rain date scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, August 28. 

This ride is being supported by MOGO, Tour de Troit, SEMCOG, the City of Ferndale, City of Pleasant Ridge, Olympia Development, Detroit Geenways Coalition and Alliance for the Great Lakes. 

### 

Scott Benson represents Detroit’s Third District on the Detroit City Council. 

Categories
Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail — May 2020

Staying Healthy, Events Cancelled

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these challenging times. Our thoughts go out all that have lost friends, family, and club members during this pandemic.

We have been updating our COVID-19 page based on information from federal, state and local government agencies. They advise everyone riding, walking, and running to social distance from others, and to wear a mask in places that make social distancing difficult to maintain, eg. RiverWalk.

There are reports of more motorists speeding given fewer motor vehicles on the roads. Please be extra vigilant and walk/ride/run defensively. 

As for events, we obviously could not hold Bike to Work Day this year. We may consider doing something this fall, but it’s too early to make any commitment. We have cancelled our Joe Louis Greenway fundraiser ride scheduled for next month.


New Website

The Stay-at-Home order has provided a good opportunity to completely overhaul our website, which we rolled out this week. All of the web pages have been brought up to date. We’ve also taken the information from our printed bike/trail map and safety brochure and put it on the site. This includes


UMSI Crash Analysis

Also on the new website is a bicycle and pedestrian crash analysis — a report, slidedeck, and interactive mapping. This was just produced by a team from the University of Michigan School of Information. The team took state crash data, cleaned it up, and analyzed where the crashes were occuring. From the report:

Our data analysis led important discoveries around the existing safety issues per counsel district, specifically, how bikers are currently being impacted with districts. District 4, according to the data, had the most instances of biker injuries. It’s also worth noting that when a bike lane is present, accidents happen at a frequency a fraction of the time compared to instances of no bike lane with the point of contact being in the roadway.

Thanks to the team for this project and we look using this data to justify great investments that make Detroit streets safer for everyone. 


Other Updates

  • Please join us in welcoming two new board members: Beverly Kindle-Walker and Ryan Myers-Johnson. Beverly is the Executive Director for Friends of the Detroit City Airport CDC, a Legislative Assistance to County Commissioner Tim Killeen, and a board member for the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative. She’s done a great deal of work on the Eastside, including with the Conner Creek Greenway. Ryan is the Founder and Executive Director for Sidewalk Detroit.  You may have met her if you attended any of the Joe Louis Greenway Framework Planning meetings where she was a project consultant.  She’s also been involved in parks and planning in Northwest Detroit, including Eliza Howell Park. 
  • Detroit Council President Brenda Jones proposed an ordinance last year requiring all bike lane projects to have an additional vote by Council. That ordinance wasn’t feasible, so it was incorporated into an ordinance requiring Community Engagement for planning projects, including bike lanes and streetscapes. We strongly support effective Community Engagement! We’ll continue working with her office and suggesting improvements to the ordinance language so that it gets more Detroiters engaged in deciding how their streets look and who they serve.
  • MoGo Bike Share expansion is underway this week with stations being installed north of Eight Mile. We look forward to seeing those new stations automatically popup on our map. 
  • Make sure you complete your census! Michigan cities receive road funding based on their census populations. State road funding will already be lower in the near future with the reductions in fuel purchases. We don’t need to see it drop further.

Categories
Complete Streets Safety & Education

What are the requirements for a bicycle friendly road?

We received these questions from a Danish Landscape Architect. We thought we’d shared the answers here and get your thoughts as well.

I am working on a project in Detroit and I am interested in understanding how you have decided which roads are bicycle friendly roads and which are not? What are the requirements for a bicycle friendly road?

There are many ways to look at this, but let’s work through some different perspectives:

Infrastructure

The City of Detroit is designing and building roads that are comfortable to use for those from 8 years old to 80 — and for people of all abilities. Whereas initially the City built more traditional bike lanes and bike routes, now they’re looking at biking infrastructure with more separation from moving motor vehicles as a minimum design feature for major roads. This includes separated (or protected) bike lanes and off road trails.

However, Detroit hasn’t added much separation at intersections. We expect to see more of that in future projects.

Many cities are doing this across the U.S., so this answer is not unique. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) provides guidance on how to design streets for all users based on the type of road. Detroit is working on a strategic transportation master plan which we expect will incorporate similar principles.

We would add that some of the designs that accommodate slower, less confidant riders aren’t fully embraced by the faster, more confident riders. That’s a trade off in order to get more people riding. Still, the new infrastructure calms motor vehicle traffic, so riding in the roadway becomes a better option for higher speeds or group rides. State law gives bicyclists the right to use most roadways (freeways being an exception.)

Wide streets with little traffic

Detroit’s street network was built for nearly 2 million residents. It built out a freeway network that then pulled motor vehicles from the surface streets. Over a million residents (and countless businesses) left.

What they left behind were wide roads with very little motor vehicle traffic, especially outside of peak travel periods. These roads are very bike friendly to moderately skilled riders without any specific infrastructure treatments.  It’s these conditions that make large group rides like Slow Roll more doable.

The caveat is this doesn’t make the street safe for everyone.

Safety in Numbers

Some roads are bicycle friendly for those riding in a group but not necessarily for those riding solo. We hear this often, especially with female riders. Many feel safe riding busier roads if they’re with a group, but they wouldn’t ride them as individuals.

This reflects the feeling safety that these bike groups share. Everyone is looking out for each other. Everyone is more visible and it’s less likely anyone is going to “mess with” the group. This is likely one reason why Detroit has more bike clubs than any other U.S. city we know of.

What do you think makes a road bicycle friendly?