The below comments on the Belle Isle Mobility Plan draft were submitted to the DNR on July 24, 2023:
While we attended the video presentation (and have since rewatched it many times), we don’t feel we have enough information to fully weigh in on the changes proposed in the mobility study. We still have many design questions that prevent us from offering our full support at this time. However, there’s quite a bit that we do like and there are opportunities to make further improvements –
10-foot vehicle travel lanes – We would like the plan to consistently use 10’ travel lanes. This will reduce speeding without other negative safety impacts.
Cycletrack on MacArthur Bridge – We like this design as it provides separation from the vehicle traffic. We also ask that:
- This facility safely and efficiently connects with the West RiverWalk, East Jefferson, and East Grand Boulevard. We understand that the East Jefferson intersection is outside the scope of this plan, but it is absolutely critical that it is designed properly.
- More information is provided on how this cycletrack connects with the bike lane that encircles the island.
- The cycletrack is at least 12-feet wide, which can be accomplished with 10’ vehicle lanes. Per NACTO, “the desirable two-way cycle track width is 12 feet.”
- The buffer reduces road debris migrating from the vehicle lanes into the cycletrack.
- An automated, permanent bike counter and pedestrian counter is installed.
- A prominent sign be installed for travel lanes heading on to the island that clarifies bicyclists legal right to travel in the roadway. This can inform motorists and law enforcement on what to expect on the island and what is legal.
Outer roads – We support the one-way to two-way conversions to improve safety, but think there’s still some opportunity for improvement. We think this will reduce the Vehicles Miles Traveled on the island, which is a benefit to those walking and biking, as well as teh environment. We do support the separated bike lane traveling clockwise around the island.
- We like that Sunset Drive remains one-way. For larger, faster cycling groups traveling counterclockwise on the island, this is where the groups are at their widest and the design accommodates that. However, we’re not sure the two roundabouts are necessary and they could cause issues for the larger groups.
- We are concerned about the transition from the single-lane on the Strand and would like to see this design. We’re not sure there’s much benefit having two-way vehicle traffic between Fountain Drive and Picnic Way. We’d prefer keeping this one-way for the larger cycling groups to allow them to pass slower moving vehicles, which is common in this busier section of the park. It would be ideal for the larger groups if the one-way vehicle travel continued to Nashua Drive where the Strand gains a travel lane. Again, the roundabouts seem problematic for the faster cycling groups, so their need and design should be very intentional. Other traffic calming treatments might be preferred.
- For the constrained section of Lakeside Drive, a 10-foot clockwise travel lane will free up space for cycling groups traveling counterclockwise. We do have a concern about groups making unsafe passing decisions on this constrained segment.
- For Riverbank, we would like to see additional space for the larger groups traveling counterclockwise. Having 10-foot lanes would help, but they would also be traveling near angled parking, which would be less safe. As with the constrained portion of Lakeside, we are concerned that the cycling groups will make unsafe passing decisions.
Other roads – We generally find these roads to be less of a concern for bicyclists compared.
- We like the Central and Inselruhe Avenue promenades.
- We also like the shared use path along Loiter and Vista Drives but we’re not clear how this interfaces with the promenades, the forest pathways, and Iron Belle Trail loop.
- We support the reduction in curb radii as a means of traffic calming and shorting crosswalks.
- We have received multiple reports of motorists traveling in the Central Flatwoods bike lanes, so we really appreciate this road being converted to a walking and biking pathway. We don’t see the need for any one-way vehicle travel on this segment.
Bike lane maintenance – We want to see that the DNR and/or MDOT is committed to a maintenance plan for all of the bike lanes. Too often we’ve seen separated bike lanes suffer from a lack of maintenance, resulting in debris and stormwater collecting at the curb.
Stormwater Management – We support adding infrastructure and trees that naturally manage stormwater. We also find that removing pavement and other impervious surfaces is an even simpler solution that should be considered in all mobility designs. It seems that this plan adds to the island’s total impervious surface area, which is a concern.
Belle Isle’s Bicycle Heritage – There is a unique opportunity to celebrate the island’s bicycle heritage, especially with the Bicycle Pavillion. Bicyclists were riding on the island well before the first car was ever driven in Detroit. There were many prominent bicycle events on the island from major races in the 1890s to the Wolverine 200 ride. We would like to see how this connection between history and mobility could be included within the plan.