Detroit bike and trail progress is moving at a pace we never could have imagined when we started over a decade again. Back then we celebrated sharrows. Now Motown has leapfrogged other US cities to become a leader in building non-motorized infrastructure.
This doesn’t appear to be slowing down in 2019 and we’ve picked out a number of projects that illustrate this progress.
It’s exciting every time a new piece of the RiverWalk puzzle is completed and a gap is closed. Soon the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will have more construction ongoing that ever before.
Atwater Beach near Jos Campau is under construction now and is expected to be opened in September. This is going to be a very unique and popular gathering place along the Riverfront with its bridge and sandy beach (but no water access.)
The groundbreaking for the Uniroyal site should occur this year. This is the major gap between Mt. Elliott Park, Gabriel Richard Park, and the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.
The city of Detroit expects the Jos Campau Greenway will be under construction this year. This will provide access from the RiverWalk to E. Vernor along Jos Campau Avenue and on the existing public pathway. A pathway between Larned and E. Jefferson will be added as well.
On the West Riverfront, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park received $50 million in October, $40 million of which is for construction. While work continues on the park, it is not scheduled to be open until Fall 2022.
The Riverfront Connector between the Joe Louis Arena and Centennial Park was recommended for a $3 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. Additional funding is required to build this trail segment along the river.
Planning continues on the May Creek Greenway between Centennial park and Roosevelt Park. This should get quite interesting with Ford Motor Company renovating the train station and now owning some of the property required for the trail. Their community benefits agreement includes verbal support for the greenway.
Last but not least, the city of Detroit said they would be repaving W. Jefferson between Centennial Park and Riverside Park. This would be a major park connector. Currently the road appears war torn. This could be the most underrated project on this list.
Great news! The Detroit Economic Growth Association has released a Request for Proposals for the Joe Louis Greenway (JLG) Framework Plan. Proposals are due in November with public engagement starting in 2019.
From the RFP:
“The JLG is a 31.5 mile (estimated) family friendly, multi-use path of interwoven vehicle, transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities. The Greenway will connect to local and regional transportation systems, and link 186 miles of existing bike lanes and bike routes to complete a total of 243 miles of non-motorized routes across greater Detroit. This project will improve safety, economic competitiveness and quality of life, while leveraging millions of dollars in recent private and municipal investment. The Framework Plan will be comprised of the best pedestrian and bicycle design practices developed from extensive community engagement. Under the guidance of the Planning and Development Department, the chosen firm will review existing conditions, determine connections and access points, incorporate effective storm water management techniques and design a signature greenway connected to local arts culture and history.”
Eastside Bike Network
Separated (AKA protected) bike lanes were recently installed on E. Jefferson, Conner Avenue, and E. Warren. These make up the backbone for what the city is calling the Eastside Bike Network. These projects have made the road more welcoming to bicyclists and scooter users. We installed our mobile bike counters on E. Jefferson and saw daily averages of 152 bicyclists at Algonquin and 373 at Beaufait. The city recently released this brief video that explains the network. The city’s web site also has educational information on how to use them and drive around them safely.
Open Streets This Sunday
Open Streets Detroit returns to Michigan and W. Vernor Avenues this Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. We’ll be there near Roosevelt Park and the old train station. Joining us will be the University of Detroit Mercy Capstone Team whose project focuses on the proposed Rouge River Greenway.
Don’t have a bike? No worries. MoGo bikes are free during the event.
Slow Roll Mondays The rain has led to a number of cancellations so far this year, but this Monday’s forecast looks good. The ride leaves from Eastern Market at 6:30pm. Also, the city made this video about the Slow Roll that happened earlier this year in Council Member Benson’s District 3.
SW Ontario Bike Summit We’re looking forward to being the keynote speaker for the Southwest Ontario Bike Summit on October 28th. We’ve worked closely with the event host and our counterparts across the river, Bike Window Essex. We worked together in helping get bike and pedestrian access on the new Gordie Howe International Bridge, which has officially broken ground and will be open in late 2024 — and will connect with the Joe Louis Greenway.
Let’s start by saying it’s not easy picking only five — and that speaks well about all that is happening to make the city of Detroit a better place for biking and trails. But here we go in no specific order…
This multi-faceted $20 million non-motorized project will be completed by the summer. Yes, it was supposed to be completed by last November but construction was delayed with unexpected utility issues and a polar vortex.
What does this project involve?
Extending the Dequindre Cut from Gratiot to Mack Avenue with a additional connecting trail into Eastern Market along the north side of Wilkins.
Adding bike lanes from the end of the Cut to Hamtramck, mostly along St. Aubin. These are done.
Replacing three bridges over the Dequindre Cut. If you’ve ridden the pothole-ridden Wilkins bridge before then you know this is good news for bicyclists.
Improving Russell Street. This mostly focuses on pedestrian improvements, but it also include some very nice bike parking stations.
Adding bike lanes and a Midtown Loop path connection from Eastern Market to Midtown.
We thought it would be invaluable to count how many people are using this new section of the Dequindre Cut, so we got the DEGC (who’s managing the project) to add 3 automated bike and pedestrian counters. These will count 24/7 and the data will be part of the Coalition’s much larger city wide effort to count usage and document trends.
Inner Circle Greenway
Detroit city staff refer to this as the “mother of all non-motorized projects.” If you’ve not heard about it before, the Inner Circle Greenway is a 26-mile pathway that encircles the city of Detroit while passing through Hamtramck, Highland Park, and a little bit of Dearborn. It makes use of existing trails such as the Southwest Detroit Greenlink, RiverWalk, and Dequindre Cut, so roughly half of the pathway is complete. For all these reasons and more, it is a very high-priority project for our Coalition.
The largest gap is an 8.3 mile segment of abandoned railroad property. If all goes as planned, we expect Detroit will purchase the property this year using $4.5 million in grant funding the Coalition helped secure. We will be making another announcement soon about additional grant funding for planning. We will also work with the city on a substantial federal grant to build out the Greenway while also trying to get funding for more community engagement.
Lastly, we are finalizing some nice new maps of the trail. We’ll have those by the bike show in March.
Conner Creek Greenway
This Greenway begins at Maheras Gentry Park on the Detroit River and heads north roughly following Conner Avenue. It’s a mix of bike lanes, shared roadway, and off-road paths — and it’s nearly complete. This year it will get extended from Conner along E. Outer Drive to Van Dyke, crossing Eight Mile, and ending at Stephens Road (9.5 mile.) While this seems like a modest project for the top five, one should consider how many organizations were involved in making this happen: Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, Nortown CDC, Eight Mile Boulevard Association, the Detroit Greenways Coalition, City of Warren, City of Detroit, SEMCOG, Wayne County and two MDOT TSCs.
It also is significant since it crosses Eight Mile and is part of the Showcase Trail between Belle Isle and Wisconsin. Look for plenty of green bike lanes in Warren’s section.
E. Jefferson Bike Lanes
A very short segment of E. Jefferson will get bike lanes this year from Alter Road to Lakewood. Why is this a big deal? They’ll be the first separated (aka protected) bike lanes in Southeast Michigan. This is precedent setting and could serve as a model for all of Detroit’s major spoke roads.
East Jefferson Inc. is also working with other members of the GREEN Task Force and the city of Detroit to extend those bike lanes to the Belle Isle entrance at E. Grand Boulevard.
Cass Avenue Bike Lanes and Midtown Loop
M1-Rail is creating a major cycling safety hazard on Woodward by locating streetcar rails near the curbs where bicyclists ride. As a result, the FTA and MDOT agreed to make Cass Avenue a more attractive cycling option. This summer Cass will be getting bike lanes (some buffered) from W. Grand Boulevard to Lafayette. A mixture of bike lanes, sharrows, and off-road paths will connect Cass to the RiverWalk via Lafayette, Washington Boulevard, E. Jefferson, and Bates.
But that’s not all. Public bike repair stations and air pumps will be installed along with automated counters including two kiosks that display bike counts in real-time. Those counts will also be automatically uploaded and available on the web as well.
This project also completes the final leg of the Midtown Loop along Cass Avenue between Canfield and Kirby.
Honorable Project Mentions
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy should complete two new sections of the RiverWalk in 2015: Chene Park East and Chene Park West. A third project will begin later this year that connects the current dead end near Riverplace to Chene Park East.
The Downtown Detroit Partnership is becoming our non-motorized champion in the downtown area. They are currently developing a plan for sorely needed biking connections. They’re looking to take the best of what New York City, Chicago, Portland have done and bring it here, which couldn’t happen soon enough.
We really need to mention the amazing work of the Detroit Public Lighting Authority. Their ongoing installation of new LED street lights is making biking and walking much safer. Pardon the bad joke, but it’s like night and day.
Complete Streets ordinance
This is not really a project but a policy change that the Coalition, Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative and others have been working on for years. We expect it to go before a City Council vote this year and we’d be surprised if it didn’t pass. For more information, check out Detroit Complete Streets page.
No, we didn’t mention the public bike sharing or the Uniroyal Site. We need to save some projects for future years!