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.
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.
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!
- Bike lanes were removed from recent safety funding projects: Warren & Mack
- Downtown Bike Network implementation on hold due to downtown construction. Focusing on east-west connectors now.
- Equipment breakdowns have affected bike lane maintenance
- Caitlin Marcon is the Deputy DPW Director of Complete Streets
Detroit’s quarterly non-motorized facilities meeting was last week and there were many updates we want to pass along.
Grant funding is available in the federal transportation bill to redesign streets with high crash rates. Detroit has many high crash roads and has been successfully receiving this funding through MDOT. Traffic Engineering does Complete Streets designs on these high crash roads, which always includes better walking facilities (e.g. crosswalks, countdown Walk/Don’t Walk timers) and often bike facilities (e.g. bike lanes). These projects typically receive minimal community engagement — usually a public meeting.
In 2017, Warren Avenue from the city of Dearborn (near Central) to Dequindre received funding. The plan included protected bike lanes. Given Mayor Duggan’s concern about removing vehicle lanes to add bike lanes without more public discussion, these have been pulled from the project. The two-way conversion of Warren in Woodbridge was completed. We are advocating that the city does add quality bike lanes on Warren from Trumbull to Dequindre. They would be a great connection between Woodbridge, Wayne State, and Eastern Market.
In 2018, Mack Avenue from the Dequindre Cut to Alter was funded. Bike lanes were not included except for the bridge between St. Aubin and Conner Avenue.
Harper Avenue was selected for 2019. With more community engagement, bike lanes can and should be included in these projects as they are a key design element for building safer streets.
Downtown Bike Lane Network
Downtown has long lacked bike lanes. With MoGo and now motorized scooters, the need for a good bike network is greater than ever. The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) has been working on a plan, received funding from MDOT and the Erb Family Foundation, but didn’t have enough. With the added mobility staff in both the planning and public works departments, the city has taken a large role in the project.
We learned at the recent meeting that with all of the ongoing downtown construction, it wasn’t realistic to build the entire network now. What the DDP and City are looking to do is build two major east-west connectors through downtown. Those are Adams from Beacon Park to Brush and Michigan Avenue-to-E. Lafayette connector.
Bike Lane Maintenance
Recent equipment breakdowns have affected the city’s ability to sweep the bike lanes. They have been using blowers until they can get the sweepers repaired, or better still, get specialized bike lane maintenance equipment. The latter really is the best solution in the long run and we’re pushing city to make this happen.
Detroit’s Complete Streets Deputy Director
Caitlin Marcon had been leading mobility planning within the Planning and Development Department. She’s now a Deputy Director at the Public Works Department and in charge of Complete Streets. This is a big deal and should help build collaboration between the two city departments.
It’s a bit hard to believe this has happened. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we started pushing the city to consider building Complete Streets.