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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- A Resilient Model for Green Transportation: MoGo’s Solar Power Bike Stations (YouTube), Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice
- City of Detroit seeks community input as it develops ‘Streets for People’ transportation plan, Model D
- Separate but together: Detroit’s 2020 in pictures, Civic Commons
Many streetscape improvement projects will be under construction this year as part of Detroit’s $80 million Commercial Corridor Program. Per the City, “These streetscape improvements support the City’s neighborhood planning efforts to improve safety and quality of life for Detroit residents. Streetscape improvements might include a variety of amenities including expanded sidewalks, bicycle lanes, improved lighting, plantings, neighborhood branding, and more.” (More on Crain’s Detroit)
Prior emails have encouraged everyone to attend community meetings for Grand River. Those are ongoing with additional information on the city website. As a result of previous meetings and feedback, the preferred design is for a vastly improved pedestrian, bike, and transit experience along this state trunkline while retaining onstreet parking (see below). The city recognizes the need for motorist and bicyclist education with a 2-way cycletrack. Construction is scheduled to begin this year.
There is a community meeting on Tuesday, March 19th from 6-8pm for the Kercheval Avenue Street Design between E. Grand Boulevard and Parker Street. The meeting is at the Solanus Casey Center, 1780 Mt. Elliott Street. (flyer)
Also this month is the East Jefferson Corridor Improvements Community Meeting. It will be held Thursday, March 21st from 6-7:30pm at the Hope Community Church, 14456 E. Jefferson. (flyer)
This Crain’s Detroit Business article covers many of the other exciting projects.
FCA Community Benefits Agreement
The City of Detroit is moving quickly to try landing a new Fiat Chrysler plant near the the existing E. Jefferson plant. There are already bike lanes on all four sides of that facility, including the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail along the St. Jean. Mayor Mike Duggan has proposed vacating St. Jean to gain the needed acreage for the plant. An initial community benefits meeting is this Wednesday, March 13th from 6:30-8pm at the UAW, 2600 Conner Avenue. We’ll be there to ensure the bike lanes and trails remain and propose that they get improved.
Bike Lane Ordinance
Council President Brenda Jones has asked the Law Department to draft an ordinance that requires all new bike lanes to be approved by City Council. We strongly oppose this. As we said recently in public comment before Council, bike lanes are a safety design that improves mobility for bicyclists, pedestrians, scooter users, and those in motorized mobility devices. Current city ordinance gives the Department of Public Works the ability to design safe roads based on national standards. City Council has approved the non-motorized plan that calls for these bike lanes. As one might imagine, there is a wide variety of opinions among city council members as this video from a recent Public Health & Safety Committee meeting shows.
We will keep everyone updated on this proposal and how you can share your thoughts with City Council.
- April 20th (to be confirmed) – Detroit Greenways Coalition Fundraiser at the Lexus Velodrome
- May 7th at 7:30am to 12pm – MOTION Coalition Annual Meeting (free registration)
- May 17th – Bike to Work Day in Detroit (registration to open soon)
Additional Reading & Listening
- Time to Fix Michigan’s CMAQ Problem
Michigan is on the verge of having to send back nearly $86 million in federal transportation funding that could be spent on bicycle and trail projects.
- Our thoughts: Milliken State Park Master Planning
- Detroit ByCycle – Episode 3
We had a chance to talk about Detroit bicycling with the startup Detroit ByCycle.
- 4 projects to bring Detroit RiverWalk closer to its full vision, Detroit Free Press
- With new mobility options, Detroit goes multimodal, Driven
- Want a toll-free trip into Detroit? Ride your bike over the border, London Free Press
- MoGo Neighborhood Ambassador applications are due this Friday, March 15th
- The Detroit Health Department is hiring temporary Safe Routes Ambassadors “to work on safety education with school children and community groups with an emphasis on the recent and upcoming Complete Streets work and Safe Routes to School efforts.”
We made quite a bit of progress towards our vision for a citywide network of safe, convenient, and fun bike pathways, Complete Streets, and trails. We also took some heat as these changes stirred up some “bikelash” from both motorists and bicyclists.
Here are some of the top projects and issues we were a part of in 2018.
The East Jefferson bike lane project certainly caused the most outcry as it was rolled out rather haphazardly while limiting motorists ability to speed. It led to Mayor Mike Duggan pressing pause on new bike lanes and requiring more community input up front. That happened at a meeting we hosted as well as at the Mayor’s District 4 meeting.
E. Jefferson got it’s bike lanes, the longest separated bike lane project of its kind in the U.S. We measured their use and counted 154 bicyclists per day near Conner Avenue and 373 per day just west of the E. Grand Boulevard. These counts were taken just days after the bike lanes opened.
These lanes are still preliminary and a transportation study is underway for the final road design.
One highlight of the summer was using these lanes for group rides such as the Nifty 50 miler. They’re wide enough to allow side-by-side riding. We’ve heard near unanimous support from bicyclists, scooter users, and even those using motorized wheelchairs.
Bike Lane Maintenance
Detroit’s separated bike lanes were rolled out more quickly than the maintenance plan for sweeping and snow removal. This led to many complaints from bicyclists, some who felt the city shouldn’t build bike lanes if they could not maintain them.
At our E. Jefferson meeting in April, Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Ron Brundidge heard this firsthand and made the commitment to do a better job.
It apparently worked. The city implemented a regular sweeping schedule, and while certainly not perfect (especially in areas near construction) it was an improvement.
The city has also done a better job with parking enforcement for vehicles in bike lanes. The ImproveDetroit app was updated so bicyclists could report all of these issues.
City Staff Changes
There were a couple major changes within the city structure that will affect bike and trail work moving forward.
First, Caitlin Marcon is now the Deputy DPW for Complete Streets. She formerly led mobility planning with the Planning and Development Department (PDD.) She’s now in position to better oversee the city’s $80 million commercial corridor Complete Streets program. We’ve come quite a ways from 10 years ago when we started our push for Complete Streets.
The other big change is greenways planning was moved from PDD to the General Services Department (GSD), home of parks planning. Planner Christina Peltier now works in GSD and oversees the Joe Louis Greenway project.
The seemingly overnight arrival of motorized scooters really disrupted the transportation status quo. They were very well received by users based on how many trips they took. But at the same time, they caused consternation as scooters blocked sidewalks and inexperienced users operated too quickly among pedestrians.
Unlike most of U.S. cities, scooter use was legal since they appeared to be covered by Michigan’s electric skateboard laws. Those laws were recently updated to more clearly reference scooters.
The city has convened a motorized scooter committee, which we’re a part of. There may be local ordinances introduced to address some conflicts in 2019. At the same time, the scooter technology is changing and that may lead to different solutions (e.g. automatically reduced scooter speeds in high-pedestrian areas.)
The city of Detroit is fairly open to this new transportation mode but they also want to make sure it’s available in areas outside of the Greater Downtown. Each operator is required to place some scooters in the neighborhoods if they wish to expand beyond the current 300 scooter limit.
Streetlights saving lives
We noticed a major drop in Detroit pedestrian deaths starting in 2016 and wanted to know why. We noticed that the drop largely occurred in areas that were “dark and unlighted.”
We requested the 2017 crash data from the Michigan State Police, wrote software to translate it into a usable format, and found the trend continuing. That trend was not occurring in nearby cities like Hamtramck or in the state of Michigan.
We published our analysis and shared it with the media. It was apparent that the city’s new streetlights were saving dozens of lives each year. Detroit no longer had the highest pedestrian fatality rate among U.S. cities. We thought this was big news, but most others didn’t. We’ll pull in the 2018 numbers soon and see what they look like.
Bike Club News
Detroit’s bike club culture continues to grow. It’s now growing beyond Detroit as the clubs set up sister clubs in cities around the U.S. (and Belgium!) Our list of clubs passed 70 this year, thought admittedly this includes some less active clubs.
We also brought some bike club leadership to Lansing to help us get a Senate Resolution passed in support of the Joe Louis Greenway. That was very successful and the resolution passed unanimously!
The sad news is we lost a number of club leaders in 2018, including DeAngelo “Dee” Smith Sr. (D-West Riderz), Jerome “Jigga” Caldwell (Hood 2 Hood Riderz), and Reggie Spratling (313 Metro Cyclones & Metro Detroit Cycling Club.) These losses were not due to bicycle crashes, though Detroit had a couple of those in 2018.
2019 should be a pretty amazing year to be a bicyclist or trail user in Detroit. Our next post will highlight some of the major stories that will get you excited for all that is coming!
East Jefferson Meeting Postponed
The East Jefferson Improvements public meeting intially planned for this Wednesday, December 12th has been postponed. The City of Detroit is revising their plan and schedule for community outreach. We’ll let you know the new date as soon as it’s announced.
Joe Louis Greenway Senate Resolution
We worked with the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) on a Michigan Senate Resolution in support of Joe Louis, the Joe Louis Greenway and Detroit trails in general. Sponsored by Senator David Knezek, Senate Resolution 115 went before the Senate Committee on Outdoor Recreation and Tourism on November 28th. We thought this was a great opportunity to testify before state legislators and share all that is happening with trails and biking in Detroit.
We brought three Detroit bike club officers to testify with us. With their help, it went very well. The resolution passed unanimously. Additionally, it stirred interest in bringing legislators to Detroit next May for a bike event on Detroit’s trails. We’re working on that event now with MTGA.
We’ve written more about our trip to Lansing on our web site.
Grand River Road Diet Meeting
There is a public meeting at the Crowell Community Center (16630 Lahser Road) this Thusday, December 13th from 5:30pm to 7:30pm to discuss redesigning Grand River between the Southfield Freeway and Berg Road (just west of Lahser.) There will be a brief presentation at 6pm.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the City of Detroit will host an open house-style public meeting to provide an overview of the M-5 (Grand River Avenue) project that includes a road diet between M-39 (Southfield Freeway) and Berg Road, east of US-24 (Telegraph Road). This project will convert seven lanes to five lanes with defined on-street parking and possible bike lanes. There will be an opportunity for the community and residents to review project details and locations, provide comments and concerns, and ask questions.
We really want bike lanes incorporated. We’ve included Grand River bike lanes as part of our Detroit Greenways Network Vision. They would also fit with our Envision Detroit Project.
Grand River is a great bicycling connection between Northwest Detroit, Downtown, and everything in between. Also, MDOT has said that they are looking for additional funding to extend this road design between the Southfield and I-94. This would then include an intersection with the Joe Louis Greenway and lay the groundwork for a future U.S. Bicycle Route 30.
We hope to see you on Thursday!
Thanks to everyone who made a donation to help us launch our Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway. There’s still time to donate through our web site or our Facebook fundraiser page. We hope you agree that we’re helping make some significant progress towards Detroit becoming a great place to walk and bike.
Photos by Pattrick Yockey, Senate Majority Photographer
Trails like the Joe Louis Greenway are not on the ballot today, but the politicians making trail funding decisions are. We’re members of the Detroit Environmental Agenda and they have more voting information including Detroit Charter Revision Commissioners.
To make getting to the polls a bit easier, Lime scooters are offering free 30-minute rides today with the promo code LIME2VOTE2018.
Joe Louis Greenway
Framework Planning Proposals are due this week. With this being such a critical greenway planning process, we put together this brief article on what we think a winning proposal should include. First and foremost is community engagement. It’s a long trail and we want to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to participate in the design process. This is much more than just a trail project.
The city expects to review the proposals and award a contract by the end of the year.
$100 million for the RiverWalk and other Trails
You likely heard the great news that the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation pledged $100 million towards Detroit trails and the RiverWalk.
$40 million of that goes to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s West Riverfront Park project. As a result, the park was renamed to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park. An additional $10 million goes into an endowment to fund the park’s long-term sustainability.
Another $40 million is for building regional, connecting trails in Southeast Michigan, including the Iron Belle Trail. We imagine the Joe Louis Greenway could potentially receive some of this funding. The last $10 million is also an endowment to help operate and maintain the these trails.
At the announcement ceremony, we had the opportunity to personally thank Mary Wilson and share some stories on how trails and bicycling are benefitting Detroiters in the neighborhoods. It’s more profound than most realize and it’s our role to share these stories.
Bike lanes: Planning, Building, Maintaining
Detroit has approved $125 million in road bonds to revitalize commerical corridors. About $80 million of that targets major infrastructure improvements on key corridors, which includes Complete Streets and stormwater designs. The following should be under construction next year:
- Livernois (Puritan to Eight Mile Road). The last we heard the infamous median will be removed, the sidewalks widened, and bike lanes added.
- W. McNichols (Marygrove College to UDM). This includes both an sidepath trail segment and bike lanes. The Fitzgerald Greenway just south of McNichols will also be under construction next year.
E. Jefferson will also get this road funding. We recently attended the initial stakeholder planning meeting. A public meeting is tentatively planned for December 12th. We’ll share more information as we get it. In the meantime, the city is offering office hours at the Elmwood Park Public Library on Tuesdays from 5 to 7pm on Nov. 20th, Dec. 4th, and December 18th. if you would like to learn more.
Our Hamilton Avenue bike lane project in Highland Park continues to move forward. If all goes as planned, we are expect that project to be constructed next year.
MDOT has also started planning for a major streetscape project on Grand River Avenue from the Southfield freeway to Berg Road. At a recent community meeting, most of the resident and business concerns focused on speeding cars and pedestrian safety. Bike lanes are also being discussed and MDOT is trying to find additional funding to continue this design from the Southfield to I-94.
One would expect news to slow as the weather turns chilly, but that’s certainly not the case.