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

Additional Reading

Greenways Newsletter Safety & Education

News from the Trail – March 2020

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.

APBP Michigan Webinar Series

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.

We have a list of the 2020 webinars on our website and APBP has more details on theirs.

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!

Bike to Work Day 2018 - Ashok Patel, Prasad Nannapaneni, Janet AttarianThere 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.

Other updates

  • 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 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.
Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter

Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway – November 2019

Framework Plan Public Meetings

The City of Detroit is hosting two sessions titled “Joe Louis Greenway – Cocoa and Conversation”:

  • Wednesday, December 4th from 6-8pm at the Lexus Velodrome, 601 Mack Avenue (near I-75). Doors open at 5:30pm. The indoor walking track will be open and you can watch bicyclists riding on the track, too.
  • Tuesday, December 10th from 6-8pm at the Unity Baptist Church, 7500 Tireman Street. Doors open at 5:30pm.

It is expected that a updated draft of the Joe Louis Greenway Framework Plan will be presented.

This will be the third and final set of community input sessions the City of Detroit and its design team are organizing.  During the first and second set of community input sessions participants discussed and voted on greenway design elements such as surface, buffers, landscaping, fencing and special features.  The Framework Planning will be completed by February 2020.

The planned Joe Louis Greenway is 32 miles and will be constructed in phases. Here is the City of Detroit’s most recent routing plan.

What’s Under Construction

The Joe Louis Greenway includes other trail and streetscape projects. Three of those are currently under construction.

  • Livernois Streetscape — There is a offshoot of the Greenway that heads north along Livernois and connects to Ferndale. Livernois between Margareta and Eight Mile is being completely reconstucted. Wider sidewalks and sidewalk-level bike lanes are included. Most of the construction will be completed this year. The Livernois businesses have suffered a bit during construction, so we’re encouraging everyone to patronize them whenever possible.
  • Bagley Streetscape — This is a short segment of the proposed Greenway route between I-75 and 24th Street in Mexicantown. The reconstruction is making this street look and feel more like a pedestrian plaza (that happens to be lined with great Mexican food!) Depending on the weather, this project should be completed this year.
  • Riverfront Extension — This is a portion of the RiverWalk that connects the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park (formerly West Riverfront Park) with the RiverWalk near the former Joe Louis Arena site. Concrete has been poured on portions of this segment. We expect this to be open sometime next year.
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – September 2019

I-94 Project

Riding with MDOT and Planning Director Maurice Cox on a tour of the I-94 project to discuss its impacts on walking and bikingWhy is the Greenways Coalition involved in a freeway project? Freeways in Detroit have disconnected neighborhoods across the city for those on foot or bike. They disconnect them for motor vehicles, too, which funnels all traffic to use high-stress bridges (e.g. Forest and Warren over the Lodge or Mt. Elliott and Conner over I-94.) While Detroit freeways have pedestrian bridges, they are often poorly maintained and have ramps that dump you onto the service drive with speeding motorists.

The I-94 project in Detroit is one attempt to make improvements. We didn’t like the early designs and starting raising issues a decade ago. With the city’s actions, MDOT has proposed major design changes. Key bridges we bike and walk over will no longer be permanently removed — and they’ll be improved. Those pedestrian bridges will be converted to Complete Streets with wide sidewalks, bike lanes, and no ramps. They’re will be fewer new service drives.

One major highlight is the new Iron Belle Trail/Conner Creek Greenway trail segment and bridge over I-94. This provides a safer alternative to the busy (and getting busier thanks to FCA) Conner Avenue.

We’ve written more about this update on our web site with links to MDOT’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement or DSEIS.

Public comments on the DSEIS can be submitted through October 28th. MDOT is hosting two public meetings on October 10th in Midtown and on the Eastside. The email address for comments is

Though not part of the DSEIS, the Second Avenue bridge over I-94 is getting rebuilt next year and it will be a major improvement for non-motorized users. The Cass bridge will be replaced in 2021. The entire project won’t be done until about 2036, so stay healthy in order to be around for the grand opening.

Joe Louis Greenway

Discussion of affordable housing & economic development on the Joe Louis GreenwayThe City of Detroit has wrapped up a second round of public meetings for the greenway. This time the conversations dove into more details regarding design, affordable housing,  economic development, and more.

One of the biggest changes has been the greenway’s routing in Southwest Detroit. We had originally proposed that the greenway follow W. Vernor since it already had bike lanes and was part of the Southwest Detroit Greenlink. However, the current bike lanes are not ideal and certainly not family friendly. The road is not wide enough for other designs that would preserve the well-used vehicle parking. So, the city is routing the greenway further south and using W. Jefferson. This change connects more points of interest, including the recently renovated Riverside Park, Fort Wayne, the Gordie Howe International Bridge, Woodmere, and Patton Park.

The Framework Plan is expected to be completed by February.

History of Greenways in Detroit

We worked with Gwen Gell from the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan who created this amazing report: The Legacy of Bicycles in Detroit Michigan: A look at greenways through time.

Detroit’s automotive heritage casts a heavy shadow over its trails and bicycling history. This report helps shine a light on the latter.

As summary of it with the graphic timeline is now on our web site. There’s also a link to the full PDF version.

Other News

  • Atwater Beach/Valade Park construction continues on the RiverWalk. There’s no announced opening date as of yet but we expect it to be in late October.
  • Spirit Plaza is under construction as it receive an $800,000 upgrade after Council voted to make it permanent.
  • The city’s numerous Complete Streets projects are under construction as well, including Jos Campau (part of the Jos Campau greenway), Bagley Street (part of the Iron Belle Trail), and Livernois (part of the Joe Louis Greenway.) These are major reconstruction projects that are affecting local businesses along them. Please consider supporting these businesses.
  • We recently biked over to Windsor (using the Tunnel Bus bike racks!) to present at the Trans-Canada Trail – Ontario annual meeting. They were very interested in learning what is happening with Detroit and Michigan trails now that we will eventually  be connected via the Gordie Howe International Bridge. There is a great deal of interest in how we promote trail tourism on both sides of the border.
  • We were recently featured on the Beaumont Housecall podcast with Dr. Asha Shajahan. We talked about biking, trails, health and much more.
  • We continue to be involved in the electric scooter discussion, including this recent Bridge article, E-scooters are fast, unregulated and all over Detroit. What could go wrong? We think scooters are another good reason to have a protected bike lane network in Detroit.

Upcoming October Events

  • Conant Streetscape Project community meeting, October 2nd 5:30pm at the Lasky Recreational Center, 13200 Fenelon Street. More details
  • Free Bikes 4 Kidz is looking for donated used bikes for Detroit youth. The big donation day is Saturday, October 5th from 9am to 2pm at 22 Henry Ford Health System locations across Metro Detroit. They are also seeking volunteers. Please help make this program even more successful than last year’s.
  • There isn’t an Open Streets in Detroit this year, but Dearborn is hosting their first! It’s Sunday, October 6th from 11am to 3pm. More details
  • Two community workshops are planned for Corktown on October 9th and 10th. They are focused on transportation, including parking, streetscapes, circulation (e.g. 1 & 2-way traffic), and mobility. These workshops are also in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) who is kicking off a Michigan Avenue Planning & Environmental Linkages Study. This 16-month MDOT study will “formalize a future” for Michigan Ave., from Campus Martius to I-96/75 interchange.
  • Lastly, the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is having their Annual Meeting on October 19th at Belle Isle. It’s a free event but you must register. As part of the event, we are leading a short bike tour at 10am, but there’s also a paddle trip and history walk.

For the most recent news, follow us on Twitter and Facebook


FCA Expansion and the nearby greenways and trails

  • The FCA Expansion at Jefferson North will have major impacts on the surrounding greenways and trails.
  • Vacating St. Jean Street removes a critical segment of the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail. Fortunately both can be re-routed.
  • Improved greenways and trails, green space, green stormwater infrastructure, and public access to the riverfront should all be included as part of this expansion.

Below is our letter to city officials, the neighborhood advisory council, and FCA that details the impacts and proposed solutions to the FCA Expansion impacts.

The Detroit Greenways Coalition (DGC) supports the City’s effort to bring more manufacturing jobs to Detroit through the proposed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Mack Avenue Assembly Complex on the city’s east side.  Our organizations focus is to encourage and protect a network of greenways, green spaces for non-motorized transportation for community use. As this plan is further developed we are concerned about losing the existing non-motorized infrastructure around the proposed plant, including portions of the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail.

We would like to see that the development plans are aware of these existing features and that they be either protected or reconfigured to meet community needs.  We also see this project as an opportunity to replace the lost “green spaces” and add even more “green” to the area through additional trees and appropriate green storm water infrastructure (GSI).

Mitigating the loss of St. Jean

Currently both the Conner Creek Greenway (CCG) and Iron Belle Trail (IBT) use the existing bike lanes and bike sharrows on St. Jean from Kercheval to Warren. The CCG master plan used both St. Jean and Conner Street. It made St. Jean the primary route due to it having less truck traffic, fewer curb cuts, and more greenery compared with Conner St. The CCG has less flexibility in using other routes since it follows the historic route of the Conner Creek, must cross I-94 at Conner Avenue, and terminates at Maheras-Gentry Park.

Any changes to the CCG should be discussed with the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative (DECC), the CDC that developed and implemented this greenway.

The IBT joins the CCG at Kercheval and heads north with it beyond Eight Mile Road. We believe the IBT could be routed differently to avoid St. Jean. However, bringing the IBT to the plant would be a great opportunity to highlight Detroit’s automotive heritage.

DGC Recommendations

FCA and the City of Detroit should:

  1. Work with the DGC and DECC to move the CCG primary routing from St. Jean (and a portion of Shoemaker) to Conner. This would also require the city make improvements to existing protected bike lanes so that they are continuous on both sides of the E. Warren intersection. It would also require updates to existing CCG wayfinding.
  2. Improve the existing Conner bike lanes by replacing the posts with curbs and GSI infrastructure. Improve access management along the corridor to consolidate curb cuts.
  3. Work with the DGC to propose routing of the IBT preferably along a new shared-use path along the western boundary of the FCA footprint. This could be a good opportunity to highlight the Dodge Brothers history with bicycle design, racing, and manufacturing.
  4. Support ongoing efforts with the E. Jefferson streetscape project.
  5. Maintain and/or improve the existing buffered bike lanes on the Mack Avenue Bridge.
  6. Plan and implement a non-motorized route around the boundaries of the FCA footprint. Such a route would be approximately 5K (3.2 miles) when Mack is used and could be incorporated into future FCA wellness and community programing.
  7. Incorporate more trees and GSI into all of the above recommendations. An Alliance for the Great Lakes/DGC study has already identified potential green storm water infrastructure site along this corridor and should be used.
  8. Preserve green space and public access to the river at the location of the DTE Conner Creek Power Plant. The 2012 Visions of Greenways plan for the Greater Riverfront East District called for an extension of the RiverWalk adjacent to, if not through these parcels. The DTE-FCA land transfer should not jeopardize that vision for a publicly accessible non-motorized greenway along the riverfront.
  9. Coordinate all infrastructure efforts with Great Lakes Water Authority’s plans for a new water line from Waterworks Park to their Northeast Water Treatment Plant.
  10. Manage truck traffic through street design to ensure it remains on the designated truck routes and minimizes conflicts with bicyclists and pedestrians.
  11. Provide funding and support for educational materials letting motorists and bicyclists how to drive or ride safely around the neighboring streets.


Complete Streets Greenways

Our thoughts: Milliken State Park Master Planning

One preliminary concept rendering

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is creating a master plan for the Milliken State Park and Harbor. Besides being a key piece of the RiverWalk, it also includes the lower end of the Dequindre Cut. Both of these trails are part of the Joe Louis Greenway as well.

Below are our comments that have a major focus on improvements to Atwater for bicyclists and scooterists, as well as the Dequindre Cut connection to the RiverWalk.