Categories
Complete Streets

NoMo-vember: Detroit Bike & Trail Project updates

  • 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.

Safety Projects

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

An earlier revision of the Downtown Bike Network Plan

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.

Congratulations, Caitlin.

Categories
Greenways

Detroit’s TIGER strikes out… for now

The City of Detroit submitted an $18.285 million TIGER grant request last year to construct the Joe Louis Greenway (formerly known as the Inner Circle Greenway.) This $500 million US Department of Transportation grant program is super-competitive but we had high hopes given the value and scope of this great trail project.

However, we learned last Friday that Detroit’s grant wasn’t chosen.

Was this the end of TIGER funding? No one knows. These transportation grants began as part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. They’ve been quite popular with Congress.

In many ways TIGER grants are a more transparent and competitive replacement for the old High Priority Projects (HPP). These project funds would get included in transportation bills in order to get votes in Congress. The Detroit RiverWalk got funding through this, but then so did the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.

We certainly do hope that TIGER grants continue for the reason we gave in this recent People for Bikes article: “…there just aren’t very many funding opportunities unless you want to take a really long time to construct it over multiple grants.”

Regardless, progress on the Joe Louis Greenway continues. The city is doing its due diligence (e.g. environmental testing) of the Conrail railroad property. If all goes as expected, they should be purchasing the property this summer.

Once purchased, a Framework Plan will be created for the entire trail, including the portion within Highland Park. This will be a great opportunity for the community to provide their input on the trail’s design and operation.

It’s also a time to look at adjacent land uses and how those might complement the trail. Adding green stormwater infrastructure is a no brainer, as is affordable housing — a tool for mitigating residential displacement from rising property values.

Lastly, our new Joe Louis Greenway map is at the printers now and should be available by spring. A PDF of the map is available now. Thanks to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Doppelt Family Fund for making this possible.

Categories
Policy

Proposed Detroit streetcar ordinances affects biking

There is a public hearing on Monday, May 8th at 10:06AM for new Detroit ordinances relating to the QLine. They mostly relate to streetcar operations but some affect bicycling on Woodward Avenue.

The initial ordinance language raised a couple primary concerns for Woodward bicyclists.

  • Though not intended as such, 58-10-18 appeared to prohibit bicyclists from riding near or across streetcar tracks.
  • Both 58-10-11 and 58-10-51 prohibit bicyclists riding “in a manner calculated” to delay the streetcar.

The ordinance specified these as misdemeanors with up to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

We met with MDOT, M1 Rail, and Council member Scott Benson’s office to review the language and address these concerns. Council member Benson was able to get positive changes made to the ordinance language before Monday’s hearing.

For the first concern, the intention was to prohibit people from making devices that could ride specifically on the rail. The language has been clarified to better match this intent.

As for the second concern, the wording was changed from the “calculating” to the more common legal term “intentionally”. While still open to interpretation from enforcement, it’s an improvement. Besides this may not end up being too much of a concern as the QLine is rather slow and makes numerous stops. It’s more likely to impede bicyclists than vise versa.

Enforceable?

Although the ordinance is expected to pass City Council on the 9th, we still have questions of how enforceable these bicycle ordinances will be given the State’s Motor Vehicle Code (MVC). The MVC smartly tries to keep road regulations uniform across the state while requiring notice to users when they are different at the local level.

The MVC does allow local governments to regulate the operation of bicycles, but those regulations must be posted.

An ordinance or regulation … shall not be enforceable until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the highway or street or part of the highway or street affected, as may be most appropriate, and are sufficiently legible as to be seen by an ordinarily observant person.

There had not been any prior plans to post such signs.

Another question involves conflicts between this ordinance and the MVC. The latter gives bicyclists the right to ride on the right side of Woodward. The local ordinance (58-10-52) says bicyclists lose that right when the streetcar gives a signal. That seems to conflict with the MVC language on local regulations, but that’s unclear.

Be Safe!

None of this is to say you shouldn’t get out of the way of a heavy streetcar for your own safety. However, given the meandering rail alignment, safely getting of the way of anything is a challenge enough without adding the fear of a misdemeanor.

Other tips: Always try to cross the rails at a 90-degree angle and remember that wet rails are extra slippery.

Under many circumstances, Cass Avenue and John R will be the safer bike routes. As a result of these Woodward bicycle safety issues, MDOT is funding improvements on Cass Avenue. Protected bike lanes from Lafayette to W. Grand Boulevard will be built this summer after the road is repaved.

Above all, if you ride Woodward, be careful! We’ve already heard of far too many bicycle crashes due to the rails and that was before streetcars were added to the mix.

We don’t want to add your name to the list.