Our April Newsletter is now online!
Joe Louis Greenway Groundbreaking
The City of Detroit recently held a groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Joe Louis Greenway — a key milestone showing this trail vision is becoming a reality. This historic event took place on a former Conrail railroad property that was highlighted over 18 years ago in a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy study funded by the Greenways Initiative.
It was great to see so many elected officials and community members at the event and voicing their support, as well as Joe Louis’ family. For those who don’t already know, Joe Louis was much more than a world champion boxer. He was a leader in civil rights and an American hero — themes that will undoubtedly be told along the future greenway.
- Detroit breaks ground on 27-mile Joe Louis Greenway, Fox 2 Detroit
In conjunction with the groundbreaking, the City put the greenway framework plan online, which truly is an amazing vision for the greenway.
So, now that this nearly 3-mile segment is under construction, when will the next six phases get completed? The answer comes largely down to funding. There is not enough funding in hand for all the future phases, but that could change.
The City of Detroit is receiving $826 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. Mayor Mike Duggan has initially proposed that $50 million of that go towards parks, paths, and the Joe Louis Greenway. (He’s also proposed another $20 million for streetscapes and $30 million for recreation centers.)
Another option might be the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act that was mentioned in last month’s newsletter. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works just included this act within the next transportation bill. If it remains there, this could be a new federal grant opportunity for major trails like the Joe Louis Greenway.
And, federal earmarks are back…
While Mayor Duggan stuck with a 10-year completion timelines, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said let’s try getting it done in five.
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy also broke ground on a highly anticipated segment of the East RiverWalk along the UniRoyal Site. This segment runs between the Mt. EIlliott and Gabriel Richard Parks, and would connect with the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.
It’s expected to be open by the fall of 2022.
If you missed the live coverage of the groundbreaking, there is a 3-minute video on the project.
“The Michigan Department of Transportation is responsible for building and maintaining roads, bridges and freeways, and we have also assisted with building trail systems throughout the state as well,” said Robert A. Davis, senior advisor for MDOT [and DGC board member.] “It’s exciting to work with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to help transform the riverfront into a trail system that pedestrians can enjoy. It’s a legacy project for us.”
Bike to “Work” Day
Detroit Bike to Work Day looked much different this year given the pandemic and fewer people commuting to work and school. This year we encouraged everyone to ride to participating local coffee shops and bakeries. Nearly 200 people registered for the event and were able to pick up free custom Detroit Bike Challenge socks at those local businesses.
The weather was great and it seemed like a welcomed change from the previous event format.
Thanks to everyone that participated, especially our local businesses.
Our event was part of the Detroit Bike Challenge, which you can still register for. It’s free and you can record your rides to win prizes. This is a City of Detroit program that’s encouraging more people to ride bikes in the city, but especially to work. The Challenge runs from May through October.
Streets for People
We are encouraging all Detroiters to participate in the Streets for People project. In short, the City of Detroit is “developing Streets for People, a transportation plan with a singular focus — to make it easier and safer for all Detroiters to move around the city.”
You can participate by adding your transportation needs and challenges to this Streets for People map which includes a brief introductory survey.
While this map focuses on transportation, we encourage residents to provide feedback on transportation issues related to the environment and public health, such as the need for:
- More green space and tree canopies along our roads and trails, which can also reduce urban heat island effects
- Increased green stormwater infrastructure that can reduce residential and street flooding
- Greater connection between residential communities, recreation, green space, commercial areas, jobs, transit, and more
- Reduced impacts from truck traffic on residents’ health and mobility options
Events for Saturday May 29th
- GMOB/GLOW Coupe Day – While there are activities planned for the entire weekend (see the flyer below), you don’t want to miss the big gathering on Saturday afternoon at Cass Park. It’s one of the most amazing displays of custom bikes and Detroit bike culture. We’ll have a table there and will be a judge in the bike custom competitions.
- Occupy the Corner Bike Giveaway – Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield is hosting this event at the Coleman Young Playfield, Chene at Bradby from 1pm to 5pm. Supplies are limited!
- Bailey Park Moves — This bike safety event is from 2pm to 5pm at 2617 Joseph Campau. There will be a bike raffle, helmet fitting, and more. Please register in advance. It’s free.
- Metro Detroit’s bike infrastructure is growing. Here’s how., Model D
- On bicycle clubs and the social fabric of Detroit life, Model D
- ‘Not too fast, not too slow’: Todd Scott explores the city on two wheels, Model D
- If You Build It, They Will Bike: Pop-Up Lanes Increased Cycling During Pandemic, New York Times
Happy Earth Day!
Updates from around the Joe
The pandemic has halted many things, but not the construction of new trails, especially those that are part of the Joe Louis Greenway.
Phase 1 construction hasn’t officially broken ground, but the City of Detroit has been busy clearing the land in preparation for it. The City has also been transferring land parcels from the Detroit Land Bank Authority to the project to help create neighborhood connections and more.
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is continuing to make progress on the Southwest Greenway (formerly called the May Creek Greenway.) According to their Spring 2021 newsletter, “With the final easements in place and the design stage nearing completion, the Conservancy will break ground this summer.”
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has selected a design for the greenspace between the U.S. Port of Entry plaza and West Jefferson near Historic Fort Wayne. This segment will include a shared-use path. They also have this video that describes the project’s design in more detail.
Much discussion has been happening at the city and federal level about additional funding for these projects. There’s talk of a federal infrastructure bill, a renewal of the federal transportation bill, and more. Detroit Is It published this article about the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act that we’ve been supporting. We’re optimistic these discussions will eventually result in dollars.
There’s also been a number of news article about these projects:
- Joe Louis Greenway groundbreaking planned for mid-spring 2021, Detroit to release framework plan, Model D
- Joe Louis, Southwest Greenways to start construction soon, Urbanize Detroit
- Detroit greenway projects blaze trails for recreation, tourism, Detroit News ($)
Great Lakes Way
If the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has its way, southeast Michigan will soon have a regional trail of national significance called the Great Lakes Way…
The Community Foundation together with regional partners developed a vision map for the Great Lakes Way – an interconnected set of 156 miles of blueways or water trails and 160 miles of greenways stretching from southern Lake Huron through western Lake Erie. The vision is that all residents and visitors of southeast Michigan are connected to and benefit from world-class freshwater, wildlife, recreation, and heritage right in our backyard through the Great Lakes Way.
An emphasis will be placed on ensuring that all residents and visitors – people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and interests – feel welcomed and share in its benefits. This Great Lakes Way will improve close-to-home outdoor recreation, enhance regional competitive advantage, help attract and retain employees for businesses, and celebrate, protect and capitalize on our region’s defining natural resources.
SEMCOG has also created an interactive project map with additional details.
From our perspective, this is another tool for encouraging communities to build Complete Streets that don’t have a history of doing so. We also asked that the Great Lakes Way infrastructure works for people of all ages and abilities. We don’t want to see a community install some sharrows and think the job is done.
- Sign up now for the free Detroit Bike Challenge. We are helping the City of Detroit with this program that encourages more people to ride bikes in the city, but especially to work. The Challenge runs from May through October. You record your rides, earn points, and get the chance to win prizes. There are also monthly mini-challenges as well. Detroit riders will also be competing with other cities across the country. There is no cost to you, so register now and start earning points.
- Detroit Bike to Work Day is May 21st. We’ll have more information available soon.
- Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the MI Healthy Climate Plan to make the state carbon-neutral by 2050. We’re on the Transportation and Mobility Working Group and supporting policies that promote more trips by walking and biking — two great carbon neutral transportation options. There are two public listening sessions planned: April 22nd at 10:30am and May 5th at 6pm. Please consider joining one of those two sessions.
- House Bill 4014 that allows cities to post safer speed limits has now passed the House and is in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. We worked with Council member Scott Benson who got a City Council resolution in support of the bill.
- Have you seen the work the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is doing on the new RiverWalk section between Mt. Elliott Park and Gabriel Richard Park? From their newsletter: “Crews are currently on site at the Uniroyal property clearing land and placing rip rap along the water’s edge. This stone barrier will help to prevent erosion, and will serve as a base for the Riverwalk and a habitat for fish species.”
- Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge are making progress on a long-sought Woodward Avenue road diet. This project would add bike lanes, shorten pedestrian crosswalks, and improve safety on this segment of Woodward. While not in Detroit, we’ve been very supportive since the project touches the border at Eight Mile. Those bike lanes could eventually be extended into Detroit.
- Lastly, we’re taking over Model D’s social media for the week of April 26th. Watch out!
People making moves
There has been a large number of moves and retirements announced recently of people involved in greenways. We want to recognize them and offer our appreciation for their continued commitment to making Detroit a better, greener place to walk, roll, bike, and paddle.
- Mariam Noland, the longtime leader of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan announced her upcoming retirement. The Community Foundation has been the major catalyst for greenways in Detroit and across Southeast Michigan. It’s doubtful there would be a Dequindre Cut without the Foundation and Mariam’s leadership.
- Paul Yauk, the State Trails Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has retired. We worked with Paul for many years and he developed a great enthusiasm for what was happening in Detroit. We’ll never forget when major rain storm rolled in on us during our Iron Belle bike tour, a ride we would have cancelled if not for Paul’s optimism. “We can do this!”
- Jodee Raines, our former program officer at the Erb Family Foundation is now the COO at New Detroit, Inc. We’ll be working again with Melissa Damaschke who was named Vice President of Programs. Both Jodee and Melissa are strong supporters of our work to get green stormwater infrastructure routinely incorporated into all our greenway and streetscape projects.
- Julie Edwards, an MDOT Metro Region planner has retired. We’ve known Julie for many years as she has helped bring a multi-modal perspective to MDOT’s role in regional transportation. We’ve promised her a bike tour after the I-375 project is finished.
- Meagan Elliott, the City of Detroit’s Chief Parks Planner is now the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Development & Grants. Meagan has played a major role in the Joe Louis Greenway’s planning. She’s also helped incorporate greenways into the city’s park plans. In her new role, she’ll be leading city efforts to find funding to get these projects (and others) built. Congratulations, Meagan, and we’re glad your still involved.
- Council member Raquel Castañeda-López just announced she will not be pursuing a third term. Raquel has been one of our biggest supporters at Council. She was part of a study tour that visited European cities and learned how they were designed for better bicycling. She also has participated in Bike to Work Day on her very cool folding bike!
- This Detroit Running Group is Transforming Lives in the Community, Two Miles at a Time, Runner’s World
- High Gear: A preference for American-made products and simpler lifestyles has shifted Detroit Bikes’ fortunes to another level, dBusiness
- Great parks don’t just have rec space. They create jobs, Fast Company
Support the Detroit Greenways Coalition by making a donation today
Joe Louis Greenway
The City of Detroit held its second public design meeting for Phase 1 contruction of the Joe Louis Greenway. If you missed it, the city’s presentation is online. This second meeting was similar to the first but did provide additional updates and details — including this timeline.
There is also an online survey which is open through Monday, November 16th.
While Phase 1 contruction is on a former railroad corridor, other parts of the greenway will be on-road. This include Jos Campau. A mile two-way cycletrack was just completed between McNichols and Carpenter (the border with Hamtramck). This segment connects to the railroad corridor near McNichols and will eventually get extended south through Hamtramck.
A similar but shorter on-road design was recently built on Bagley in Corktown.
The Joe Louis Greenway uses segments of the RiverWalk as well and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy continues to make progress. The RiverWalk has been extended slightly west of the former Joe Louis Arena site. While the boardwalk in front of the Riverfront Towers is nearly complete, it won’t be opened until the connection to West Riverfront/Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park is completed. That connection will be under construction in the spring as will be the nearby May Creek Greenway. You can read more about these updates, including the new UniRoyal Promenade in the Conservancy’s Fall 2020 newsletter.
MOTION Coalition Mini-Summit
We are members of many advisory committees and task forces, but one that we’ve got much more involved in over the past few years has been the MOTION Coalition at Authority Health. This Coalition focuses on improving public policy to improve health outcomes. Our role has been to promote improvements to the built environment (e.g. Complete Streets, greenways) to increase physical activity and better health.
The Coalition has an annual summit, which is this Tuesday, November 17th starting at 10AM. It’s online and free.
We are moderating the 11:35AM Physical Activity Panel. The panelist include Meagan Elliott PhD, Chief Parks Planner for the City of Detroit, Erika Bocknek, PhD – Wayne State University Family Resilience Lab, and Damon Porter, Detroit Public Schools Community District. We’ll be talking about Detroit parks, greenways, and schools during COVID-19.
Email Dr. Carolyn Custer if you are interested in attending.
- We co-chair the Detroit City Council Green Task Force committee on Green Transportation and Mobility. We host online monthly meetings to discuss projects and policy related green transportation. Email us if you want to be invited to these meetings. The next one is Tuesday, November 17th at 4pm.
- State Ballot Proposal 1 passed overwhelmingly earlier this month. Among other things, this removes the budget cap on park/trail development grants and ensures future state gas and mining revenues go towards land conservation and park development.
- The Ride the Vote event with Council member Scott Benson was a big success. Despite the chilly gray weather, many people came out — and some cast their votes during the ride, too. We had elected officials ride with us, free MoGo bikes, and numerous bike clubs in support. We were on the local news as well. Thanks to all who participated and helped make this event happen. We look forward to doing it again for the next elections, though perhaps during the primaries when the weather is better.
- We highly recommend that everyone sign up to receive updates for the city’s Streets for People transportation planning effort. That plan’s focus is to “make it easier and safer for all Detroiters to move around the city.” If you want to see changes in the streets near you, this is a great opportunity to begin that discussion.
- We also recommend taking this quick survey for the city’s new parks and recreation plan. One interesting change with this new plan is it includes greenways!
- Ford is hosting an online event on Tuesday, November 17th at 6PM to share their vision for Michigan Central, work they’re doing in the community, and their thoughts on what future of mobility might look like. We wouldn’t be surprised if they talked about their connection to the nearby May Creek Greenway. Event Registration
- Talking Greenways in Detroit and What the Future Holds for Them, DetroitIsIt
- An Update on the Joe Louis Greenway Project, DetroitIsIt
- Cleanup work set to begin on next phase of the Joe Louis Greenway on city’s west side, Model D
- Connecting Detroiters with the Joe Louis Greenway, Model D
- Making parks and green spaces easier to access for Detroiters, Model D
Well that’s not how we expected spring to start! With the weather starting to warm up, we’re all making plans for group rides, runs, and races. The Coronavirus has put the season on hold. Of course the top priority is for everyone to remain physically and mentally healthy — and that still includes riding, walking, and running while practicing safe social distancing.
The City of Detroit has issued this update on their parks:
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the City of Detroit has closed all of its recreation centers through April 5, 2020. Park facilities such as clubhouses, community centers, and public restrooms will also remain closed during this time.
Recent evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus can live for several days on surfaces such as playgrounds and other “high touch” areas in public spaces. For this reason, please refrain from using playgrounds or other park amenities, and instead focus on taking long walks or bike rides, practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet from other individuals.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also announced the motor vehicles can now access Belle Isle and other state parks without a Recreation Passport during the COVID-19 situation. Note that restroom buildings will are closed. The DNR notes:
We know there’s been a steady stream of “closure” information and messaging about self-isolating to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s true, we are in uncharted territory, and such steps are critical in protecting Michigan residents from coronavirus risk. Safeguarding mental health is just as important, and spending time outdoors – whether in your backyard, on your balcony or in big, open spaces – can boost mind, body and spirit.
Cancelled and postponed events
The Green Task Force Earth Day Celebration scheduled for April 18th has been cancelled. On a related note, we are taking a larger role in the Detroit City Council’s Green Task Force. We are now co-chairing a new Transportation and Mobility Subcommittee that meets the third Tuesday of each month at 4 PM. Everyone is welcomed to attend.
Our Detroit Bike to Work Day will be pushed back to June. We’re also taking this opportunity to modify the event and broaden its scope to be more than just about getting to work. It’ll be more about biking for transportation, for health, and for sustainability. We look forward to sharing more event updates soon.
We are still planning our Joe Louis Greenway Fundraiser Ride for June 21st. The starting location and route will be updated this year to take advantage of the city’s new greenway routing. Save the date and we’ll let everyone know when the registration opens.
The Association of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Planners (APBP) offers monthly webinars on a variety of topics. We find them an invaluable resource for staying on top of the rapidly changing bike/pedestrian environment. Individuals can pay for individual webinar access through the APBP website ($50 members & $85 non-members).
Now, thanks to APBP and the Michigan Chapter, there is a free option. The Detroit Greenways Coalition and SEMCOG are co-hosting the webinars in Detroit at the SEMCOG offices (1001 Woodward Avenue, Suite 1400.
Webinars are from 3 pm to 4 pm. More information on each webinar is available on this APBP webpage.
APBP has applied to the AICP for 1.0 Certification Maintenance credits for these webinars.
Thanks, Ashok Patel!
There are many City of Detroit staff that are making this city a better place to bike, walk, and run. One of those staff members recently retired: Ashok Patel, who led the Traffic Engineering Division of the Department of Public Works. We first worked with Mr. Patel to help get the Corktown bike lanes approved. He worked with us and MDOT to bring a road design workshop to the city which led to another citywide investment in bike lanes. His contribution to this progress has been significant!
A Detroit City Council Testimonial Resolution also mentions that he “encourages all of the employees in the Traffic Engineering Division to bike.” This has been helpful because it has given the engineers a wider perspective on how road design affects all users.
Congratulations on your retirement, Mr. Patel, and we’ll look forward to seeing you out on the bike.
- The City of Detroit is planting 10,000 trees across the city. If you want one planted in front of your home between the sidewalk and street, call 313 224-6391 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you know street trees are one way to reduce speeding vehicles on residential streets? They also help reduce stormwater runoff.
- The RiverWalk between Cullen Plaza and GM Plaza has reopened. You may recall an errant boat was driven into the RiverWalk last year and caused major damage to the railing. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has completed the repair.
- The Conservancy is also seeking seasonal and trull time support for park operations. The application deadline is March 25th.
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.