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Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter Policy

News from the Trail – May 2022

Link to our May 2022 newsletter

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Complete Streets Greenways In the Media Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail — June 2021

Underground Railroad Self-Guided Bike Tour 

For Juneteenth 2021, the Detroit Greenways Coalition has created a free self-guided bike tour of Detroit’s historic Underground Railroad sites. The 14.3 mile tour includes 25 stops that help tell the story of those seeking freedom from slavery as well as those that supported abolition. 

Highlights along the tour include the Gateway to Freedom International Monument, the site of the Blackburn uprising, the Ulysses Grant house, and Elmwood Cemetery. 

Detroit had a significant role supporting the Underground Railroad as well as shaping the politics of abolition during the 1800s. The city’s smaller footprint during that era has made the historic sites relatively close and easily biked to. 

The bike tour is available through the Ride with GPS program. The phone app provides turn-by-turn navigation and includes the points of interest along the way — some with photos and links for those seeking additional information. 

We’ve also updated our Underground Railroad webpage with information on this bike tour and much more. Additional self-guided tours are also being planned.


Federal Funding Updates

The process to develop the next federal INVEST in America transportation bill continues — and so far, so good. The current House and Senate bills both would double the amount of dedicated funding for active transportation. The Transportation Alternatives program, which funds many local Complete Streets projects, would see a 75% increase. The Recreational Trails Program, which the DNR uses exclusively for its trails, would also increased by 75%.

Both bills also include the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System or CAATS. This new program would provide grant funding for major non-motorized projects such as the Joe Louis Greenway. CAATS would provide $1 billion in funding over 5 years with a mininum 30% for building out networks within communities and 30% for building spines between communities. The minimun construction grant would be $15 million. We’ve been assisting the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy on this. 

Included in the House bill are Member Designated Projects, formerly known as earmarks. Our local House members included funding for trail projects and two from Representative Lawrence have made the cut:

  • $1.8 million for the Detroit RiverWalk to connect the Riverfront Towers and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park. 
  • $3.9 million for the Joe Louis Greenway to connect a future Dequindre Cut extension to Joseph Campau in Hamtramck (see conceptual rendering below).

There are additional positives aspects within the bill as they includes goals for climate change, safety policy (especially for bicyclists and pedestrians), accessibility, and equity — all of which could lead to more Complete Streets being built without the need for dedicated non-motorized funding.

Both the House and Senate bills include funding for freeway removal, which could help with MDOT’s I-375 project, This project has been in the news more lately and was just featured on NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Click4Detroit, and Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Of course neither bill has been signed into law yet, but it is positive that unlike prior multi-year federal transportation bills, there was little opposition to non-motorized priorities. Given the policy changes the bill includes, INVEST will require some level of bipartisan support. 

You may have also heard about the American Jobs Act, an infrastructure stimulus bill. President Joe Biden has said he wants that bill to be separate from INVEST and provide additional funding. It’s too early to know what that bill will include.


American Rescue Plan

Federal funding has also been distributed to cities, counties, and states through the federal American Rescue Plan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is proposing $250 million of this funding to be allocated to state park and state trails to help address the backlog of maintenance projects — many of which are on Belle Isle. Her funding proposal would need to be approved by the legislature.

The City of Detroit is receiving $826 million in American Rescue Plan funding. Mayor Mike Duggan has proposed how that funding should be spent, which includes setting aside $400 million to fund the city’s workforce and prevent layoffs. 

Of the remaining $426 million, the Mayor has proposed $50 million for parks, walking paths, and the Joe Louis Greenway as part of a larger $100 million investment in parks, recreation, and cultural facilities.

This seems like a wise investment given that residents used greenways much more during the pandemic. (Dequindre Cut usage was up over 40%!) Biking and walking not only improves community health and resiliency to COVID-19, it also increases the effectiveness of vaccines

The Mayor has been collecting feedback from Detroit residents at meetings throughout June. There’s a survey available as well. 


Other Updates

  • Detroit DPW has announced a Paint the Streets program for residents and community groups interested in adding “artistically painted streets and crosswalks.” The program has developed guidelines for what’s allowed and where this artwork can be located.
  • Detroit ranks 61st in latest The Trust for Public Land ParkScore. The bright spot is 80% of residents are within a 10-minute walk of park,” well above the 55% national average.
  • We will be joining the SmithGroup and others for a Rails-to-Trail Conservancy webinar on June 23rd at 1pm called, “Creating Inclusive & Equitable Trail Development: Case Studies in Detroit and Milwaukee”. Detroit and the Joe Louis Greenway will be a major focus of the webinar. Registration is free.
  • Did you know the Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) has Instagram and TikTok pages where they’ve posted some brief, introductory, and fun videos about Complete Streets, biking, and more. We especially like the ones on Grand River and Bagley.
  • WeRun313 also posted this city-made video that features them and talks about the Joe Louis Greenway and more. This is a much watch!
  • Have you signed up for the Detroit Bike Challenge yet? This free City of Detroit program that’s encouraging more people to ride bikes continues through October. Your rides help you earn points and get the chance to win prizes. The city has released this brief video to help promote it. There’s also a Juneteenth ride planned at 11am from the Heilmann Recreation Center on the Eastside.

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Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – May 2021

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.

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.


RiverWalk Groundbreaking

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.”

Detroit Riverfront Conservancy press release


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. 

DGC Board Member Gloria Mitchell at the Motor CIty Java House in Old Redford

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.
GMOB/GLOW Coupe Day 2021

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Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – March 2021

Joe Louis Greenway

The Joe Louis Greenway is a collection of projects, which includes some rails-to-trails conversions, on-road separated bike lanes, and park pathways. Two of those parks, Romanowski and Patton are in Southwest Detroit. The City of Detroit is applying for a couple $300,000 state grants to revitalize these parks and build a portion of the greenway.

The City is encouraging the public to attend a virtual meeting on this for Thursday, March 18th at 6pm via Zoom or phone, 312-626-6799 (Meeting ID 86979810611#)

While this funding definitely helps, the entire greenway project needs significantly more. One new funding source could be the proposed Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act.

The Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act… provides $2.5 billion in direct funding over five years to help communities and regions across the country to build connected active transportation systems that ensure people can get where they want to go safely by foot, bike or wheelchair—all while reducing carbon emissions and creating new jobs.

We’ve been working with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, City of Detroit, and others to encourage Congress to include this Act in the next federal transportation bill. It could be an ideal and critical grant funding source for completing the Joe Louis Greenway.


Vehicle Speeds

Detroit City Council is in the midst of their budget hearings. During the Department of Public Works (DPW) session, most of Council’s questions involved speed humps and streetscapes/bike lanes.

Speed humps remain top priority for residents as DPW reported 15,000 residents requests for them. The DPW budget contains funding to install signficantly more speed cushions and asphalt humps as shown on this city map. However, these traffic calming features are limited to residential streets.

More major streets require other traffic calming such as road diets, bike lanes, streetscapes, and other features of Complete Streets+.

This is especially important during the pandemic as road traffic has decreased and motorist speeds have increased. Recent data shows Detroit’s vehicle speeds in urban business districts have soared by 60%, more than the other U.S. cities. 

Higher vehicle speeds lead to higher traffic fatality rates. The National Safety Council estimates found a 24% spike in roadway death rates for 2020, which is the highest increase in 96 years!

What does this have to do with our work? Bicyclists and pedestrians are our most vulnerable road users and vehicle speed is the major factor in determining injury severity in crashes. Over the past decade, a third of all road fatalities in Detroit were pedestrians and bicyclists.

The bottom line is we are tired of reading about Detroiters getting killed while crossing a street or riding a bike. We need to reduce speeding on all Detroit roads.

Putting the brakes on higher speed limits

Posted speed limits do affect the overall speed of motorists. As we’ve mentioned last month, Michigan House Bill 4014 would allow road agencies to set speed limits on factors (e.g. adjacent land uses, pedestrian activity) other than just the 85th fastest motorist on the road. This is especially important with the increased vehicle speeds since those could lead to new, higher speed limits. The good news is the bill passed out of the Transportation committee and is awaiting a vote on the House floor. We’ll let you know if we need your help keeping this bill moving forward.


Other Updates

  • The next public meeting for the city’s Streets for People Plan is Wednesday, March 31st, 7-8pm. You can join by Google Meet or by phone +1 650 466 0753. The city is also asking people to place their transportation concerns (e.g. speeding, bad sidewalks, transit issues, unsafe biking conditions) on this map. That input will help inform the Streets for People plan. 
  • Further north, the City of Ferndale has released their draft mobility plan. They are also partnering with Pleasant Ridge and MDOT to make Woodward a Complete Street with improved sidewalks and separated cycle tracks. This would be a major safety improvement and also setting the stage for continued this Woodward biking infrastructure south of Eight Mile Road. 
  • Congratulations to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and the Downtown Detroit Partnership! The RiverWalk was named best in the U.S. while Campus Martius was named the county’s fifth best public space by USA Today.
  • Great news! Midtown Detroit’s DLectricity event will be back in September and it will include another Light Bike Parade. (Photo credit: Midtown Detroit Inc.)

Additional Reading

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Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – January 2021

Replacing I-375 

There’s an international movement to reevaluate the impacts and needs for urban freeways. They negatively affect walkability, bikeability, and take up a lot of valuable land for a low-density use in high-density downtowns.  For many years, I-375 has been a candidate for a partial or full conversion to an urban boulevard, especially as its bridges approach the end of their lifespan. 

Now it’s more than just a discussion. MDOT has completed a draft Environmental Assessment for what could replace I-375. 

The proposed design converts the current freeway to a boulevard with fewer lanes overall. It removes the short freeway stub south of Eastern Market while restoring some of the original street grid. Bicycle cycletracks would be added that connect the RiverWalk, stadium area, Greektown, and Eastern Market. More sidewalks are included, too. Overall there’s less impervious surface and opportunities to add green stormwater infrastructure. Nearly 32 acres of land would potentially become available for other uses.

Is it perfect? No, but it’s certainly an improvement. 

MDOT is now collecting public comment on this proposal. They will host a virtual event on January 27th and an in-person hearing on the 28th (Registration). Comments can also be emailed (MDOT-I-375Corridor@Michigan.gov) or submitted through this on-line form.

You may have read about the construction funding for this project being delayed until 2027 against the City of Detroit’s wishes. It is possible that new federal funding could fund this project and make it a reality much sooner.


Changes in Washington DC

Changes in leadership at the Whitehouse and Senate will likely result in changes to transportation policy and funding, but it’s too soon to have a full view of what those will be. 

One certain change is a renewed focus on combating climate change through investment in clean transportation.

Communities across the country are experiencing a growing need for alternative and cleaner transportation options, including transit, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfares, and first- and last-mile connections. The Biden Administration will transform the way we fund local transportation, giving state and local governments, with input from community stakeholders, more flexibility to use any new transportation funds to build safer, cleaner, and more accessible transportation ecosystem.

Biden Plan for Clean Energy Resolution and Environmental Justice

John Kerry, an active bicyclist, is now a Climate Czar for the administration. 

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the nominee for Transportation Secretary. He’s been saying some positive words that would support our work.

There are so many ways that people get around, and I think often we’ve had an auto-centric view that has forgotten, historically, about all of the other different modes. We want to make sure anytime we’re doing a street design that it enables cars, and bicycles, and pedestrians and any other modes — and businesses — to co-exist in a positive way, and we should be putting funding behind that.

Pete Buttigieg Senate Confirmation hearing, January 2021

Another potential change is the inclusion of infrastructure funding within an economic stimulus bill. That’s been long promised and it’s not yet clear that this time it’ll happen.


Other Updates

  • East Jefferson bike lane use. We counted bikes using E. Jefferson in Jefferson-Chalmers before the protected bike lanes were installed. We counted them again last year during the same month of September and saw 108 per day. This was a 48% increase from 2015. That’s quite good given that fewer people are commuting to work. 
  • Thanks Strava. For those that don’t know, Strava is an app primarily used to collect and track bicycling and running workouts. We now have access to Strava’s generalized riding and run data. It shows which streets are more used than others and could be a helpful tool for justifying infrastructure improvements. The caveat is that Strava users are typically recreational and are not a representative sample of all Detroit bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Cadillac Stamping and the Conner Creek Greenway.  Recent news about the redevelopment of the former Cadillac Stamping Plant didn’t include an important update for those who use the Conner Creek Greenway/Iron Belle Trail along Conner. The new development is adjacent to the greenway and had plans for its busy truck traffic to cross the greenway. We strongly felt that greenway users shouldn’t have to deal with this truck conflict, so we discussed this with Council member Scott Benson. He worked with the developer and city staff to re-route the truck access point so it doesn’t cut across the greenway. As a bonus, the developer is honoring our request to remove an unsightly, unused parking lot along the greenway.
  • Brodhead Armory Redevelopment. There are two public outreach meetings scheduled at 5:30pm on January 26th and February 16th. These meetings will review The Parade Company’s plans for Brohead Armory east of Gabriel Richard Park. The plans include a short RiverWalk extension. These meetings are focusing primarily on nearby residents.

Additional Reading

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Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – November 2020

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.


Other Updates

  • 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

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