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Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – September 2021

Link to our September 2021 Newsletter

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Newsletter

News from the Trail – September 2020

Detroit Bike Tours

Last month we helped support Council members Scott Benson and Roy McCalister Jr. as they hosted three casual bike tours. The purpose of the rides was “to demonstrate to council members, other elected officials, and the city’s, and region’s transportation decision makers how bicycle lanes keep Detroiters safe.” These tours were also an opportunity to talk about traffic calming in the neighborhoods and green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). 

The rides began in Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion on Livernois, traveled north through Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and back to Detroit. A highlight was having Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana talk about how the bike lanes have helped attract new business to Livernois while providing a safe family-friendly travel option for residents to get those businesses. 

Other highlights:

  • The Alliance for the Great Lakes held a well-attended pre-tour event to discuss the new Livernois GSI and how stormwater will be managed in the bioswales. 
  • Representatives from Wayne County attended one of the tours and there was a initial discussion on improving Wayne County Roads for biking in Detroit, specifically E. Outer Drive. We are now looking at grant to help move this project forward.

More information on these tours (and more photos) are on our website and on Fox 2 Detroit.


Connecting the Rouge

Speaking of Wayne County, they are also working to extend the Rouge River Gateway Greenway. That trail currently connects Hines Drive to Michigan Avenue (near Andiamo’s). The long term plan is to extend that trail to the Detroit River. A new trail segment behind Greenfield Village is being designed now. 

How can you get involved? They have a short survey online to collect input on your trail use. There’s also a virtual community meeting planned for September 16th at 6pm. Information on how to join the meeting will be posted on the website prior to the 16th.

Meanwhile over in Rouge Park, the City of Detroit has added a two-way cycletrack along Spinozza Drive. They’ve also created this video to explain how it works. The design is very similar to the cycletrack in Palmer Park — which has apparently reduced speeding traffic. Vehicles used to regularly crash into the lightposts along this stretch of road, but none have done so since the cycletrack was installed. 

Also along the Rouge River, trail design work is underway at Rogell Park. The first community meeting is scheduled for September 23rd at 6:30pm. Watch for more forthcoming details on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.


Breaking News

All three of these issues are ongoing. This is what we know currently, so stay tuned for future updates.

  • Bike lane removals — Bike lanes on E. Grand Boulevard were removed during a recent repaving. After some research, we learned the city had a new policy of removing non-separated bike lanes when roads were repaved. This makes no sense to us as it makes roads less safe for all users to no ones benefit. Also, there was no community engagement on this in advance.  We’ve asked the Department of Public Works to rescind this policy. Council member Benson has also gotten involved.
  • Speed limit legislation — State Representative Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland/Holland) is sponsoring a bill (HB 4733) that would clarify the flexibility in setting speed limits. Rather than strictly set speed limits based on the 85th fasted motorist under ideal road conditions, road agencies could use best engineering/safety practices and take into account road design, land use (e.g. nearby parks), pedestrian and bicyclist activity, crash history, etc. Without this flexibility, many main roads in Detroit could see higher speed limits due to the prevalence of speeding. The original bill removed that flexibility on state and county roads. We opposed that and have proposed alternative language. 
  • I-375 replacement delayed — MDOT asked SEMCOG to pull construction funding from the I-375 Alternatives project and delay it to 2027. We oppose this delay as does the City of Detroit, who is having an ongoing discussion with the state on keeping this project moving forward as planned. It appears to us that the Michigan Avenue (in Corktown) reconstruction funding has jumped ahead of I-375. 

Other Updates

  • Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved $28 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grants. This included $2.7 million for the May Creek Greenway, $300,000 for a portion of a new 6-mile trail on Belle Isle, and $300,000 for a Perrien Park renovation (at Chene and E. Warren). 
  • We are also a member of the Vote Yes for MI Water, Wildlife & Parks Coalition. Together we are supporting a November ballot proposal that ensures continued grant funding from the MNRTF and strikes a better balance between funding development and acquisition projects. Currently 75% of the grant funding is only for land acquisition (which Detroit typically doesn’t need to do.) If the proposal passes, a minimum of 25% would go towards acquisition and a minimum of 25% for development. 
  • We are also a supporting organization for the national Greenway Stimulus campaign, a call for a $10 billion federal infrastructure investment in regional trails and greenways to spur strong economic recovery and a healthy, equitable future.
  • The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law last month, providing $900 million in permanent and dedicated annual funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding to address the backlog of maintenance projects in our national parks and public lands. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says, this bill is “considered by many to be the most impactful legislation for parks and the outdoors in decades.” The City of Detroit has a long history of using LWCF grant funding to improve its parks.
  • Speaking of grants, the City of Detroit received a Streets for Pandemic Response & Recovery grant from NACTO. This grant is to help “temporarily close streets near neighborhood schools and parks in Springwells, Warrendale, and northwest Detroit to create outdoor community hubs for young people and other residents. These partners will each program their own spaces tailored to the needs of the specific community where they are based, focusing on creating outdoor learning space, providing childcare, hosting enrichment activities, and creating street art.”
  • A new warehouse could replace the former Cadillac Stamping Plant along the Conner Creek Greenway/Iron Belle Trail, just south of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport. We’re involved because we don’t want truck traffic negatively impacting the trail. We also see this as an opportunity to replace an unused parking lot (circled in red) along the greenway with GSI and green buffering. While greenways are often viewed from a recreational standpoint, this trail could be a great option for local employees who chose to bike or walk to work.
  • The City of Detroit’s Joseph Campau resurfacing project includes a two-way cycletrack as part of the Joe Louis Greenway. It originally ran from the City of Hamtramck to the Davison Freeway, but that’s now been extended to McNichols. This project should be completed this year.

Additional Reading & Listening

Categories
Complete Streets

Council member Benson hosts bike tours for cohorts

We are excited to be a part of this effort to bring greater awareness of the value in building bike lanes, traffic calming, and green stormwater infrastructure in Detroit.

[Update: Fox 2 Detroit coverage of the initial tour]

Press Release from the Office of Councilmember Scott Benson

Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson hosts a series of bike rides in August to promote the City’s bicycle lane safety  

Several elected officials plan to ride along 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson is teaming up with Councilmember Roy McCalister Jr. to host a series of bike rides in August. The goal is to demonstrate to council members, other elected officials, and the city’s, and region’s transportation decision makers how bicycle lanes keep Detroiters safe. 

The Councilmen have invited their Detroit council colleagues, Wayne County and Police Commissioners, and local judges to join the ride.  

While Detroit is on track to become one of the nation’s best cities for bicyclists with more than 240 miles of lanes and trails crisscrossing the city, including paths on Belle Isle and the Dequindre Cut, the bike lanes have sparked controversy and created confusion for bicyclists and motorists. Some residents and their representatives simply do not support them. 

Benson, an avid bicyclist, wants to help people understand how bicycle lanes promote Detroiters’ health, provide a safe, inexpensive transportation mode, especially for the one third of Detroiters who do not have access to vehicles, prevent injuries, and save lives.  

The average Detroit cyclist likely is either age 12 or 45, and studies show that Detroit has the highest bicycle fatality rate in Michigan, higher than the cities of Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Warren combined. In recent years, data shows that most accidents involved children ages 11-13 and adults ages 44-46, and an estimated 88% of victims are African American. 

“This bike ride is an opportunity to allow elected officials and transportation decision makers to experience bike lanes, traffic calming installations and streetscape design from the perspective of a bicyclist,” Councilmember Scott Benson said.  

“It’s important that we see non-motorized transit as a viable option for all of our residents and people should see what the region is doing to improve the quality of life for our residents. All Detroiters, especially those without cars, deserve access to safe streets.” 

The first bike ride will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, August 7 and will begin at the MoGo Detroit bicycle station on Livernois at East Outer Drive. The slow-roll ride will cross 7 Mile Road, head north of 9 Mile Road in Ferndale, and ends with lunch at Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, 19345 Livernois, Detroit. Face masks will be provided. 

MoGo is offering complimentary bike rentals, but participants are welcome to ride their own bicycles. Other rides in the series will run from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, August 21, 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, August 25, with a rain date scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, August 28. 

This ride is being supported by MOGO, Tour de Troit, SEMCOG, the City of Ferndale, City of Pleasant Ridge, Olympia Development, Detroit Geenways Coalition and Alliance for the Great Lakes. 

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Scott Benson represents Detroit’s Third District on the Detroit City Council. 

Categories
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – December 2019

#GivingTuesday

Tuesday, December 5th is #GivingTuesday. We could use your support to help us continue our work into 2020. Any donation would be appreciated.

There are two ways to give:

  • We have a fundraiser on Facebook. Facebook is waiving all transaction fees. They are matching the first $7 million in all donations starting on #GivingTuesday at 8 AM.
  • We also have a donation page on our website with payments handled through PayPal.

Our vision is for a citywide network of safe, convenient, and fun pathways for biking and walking. We’re clearly not there yet despite all the progress made since we began in 2007. The Joe Louis Greenway — a project we helped mature and wrote grants for $4.5 million — is a big start, but there are others. We:

  • Proposed a greenway along the Rouge River and now the intial portions of that are being designed.
  • Advocated to upgrade existing projects, such as the Conner Creek Greenway and the Iron Belle Trail.
  • Helped start the Detroit Complete Streets push years ago and now there are Complete Streets staff at city working on projects across the Detroit.
  • Led advocacy efforts to get a biking and walking trail on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which will now be connected to the Joe Louis Greenway.
  • Partnered with Highland Park to ensure they are not forgotten in these improvements and wrote a couple grants to design and build their first Complete Street on Hamilton.
  • Have even been involved in freeway projects like I-94 and I-375 to ensure their new designs improve walking and biking in Detroit while reconnecting neighborhoods.

And since 2007, we’ve helped advocate and educate city staff, elected officials, and the public on the value in Complete Streets, bike lanes, parks, and green stormwater management. We need to continue this work and your donation helps. Thank you!


Joe Louis Greenway

The City of Detroit is hosting two public 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.

Here is the City of Detroit’s most recent routing plan.


Detroit Stormwater Hub

The Nature Conservancy and the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) led efforts to design, create, and launch the Detroit Stormwater Hub. We were part of the 25-member advisory team that helped shape, design, test, and market the final product.

What is the Stormwater Hub? It’s a website that shows Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) projects across Detroit — 172 projects as of now!

Greenways and green Complete Streets provide an excellent opportunity to manage stormwater through GSI. Doing this can reduce flooding, improve water quality, and create beautiful natural areas. We expect this website will spur greater interest in building more GSI while complementing our work on Complete Streets and greenways.


Upcoming Events

  • A Grant Parklet Community Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 3rd at 6pm at the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation (19800 Grand River). The new parklet will be located just across the street. As you may recall, Grand River is being reconstructed as a Complete Street with improved sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.
  • The first community meeting for the Gratiot/7 Mile Neighborhood Framework Plan is Thursday, December 12th. The meeting will be held at The Matrix Center, 13560 E. McNichols. Doors open at 5p. Dinner will be served at 5:30p. The program will begin promptly at 6p. All ages welcome!
  • Free Bikes 4 Kids is seeking volunteers for their bike giveaway days — Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th. This is when restored bicycles will be distributed to kids in the community. Visit their volunteer signup page to learn more.

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Complete Streets Greenways

Newly proposed I-94 design looks much improved

Riding with MDOT and Planning Director Maurice Cox on a tour of the I-94 project to discuss its impacts on walking and biking

MDOT is reconstructing nearly seven miles of I-94 through the heart of Detroit. The original approved design in 2004 removed many bridges that bicyclists and pedestrians rely on. It also called for new service drives to be added, widening the freeway’s footprint and making the urban environment less walkable and bikeable. The impacts were alarming.

Fortunately there are new design changes being proposed that address these issues — changes that have been supported by the City of Detroit, Detroit Greenways Coalition, and others.

Those changes are in MDOT’s recently released Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) for the I-94 project.

This DSEIS looks at:

  • Using existing city streets more effectively as local connections instead of building new, continuous service drives adjacent to the freeway
  • Modifying local access ramps to and from I-94, M-10 and I-75 to improve operations and safety
  • Using the “Complete Streets” approach to design bridges and service drives, making them user-friendly for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Reducing the overall Project footprint to avoid and minimize impacts

The DSEIS did not reevaluate the need for two additional freeway lanes.

Public comments on these design modifications 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 MDOT-I94comments@michigan.gov.

Our Initial Thoughts

What we like:

  • Iron Belle Trail/Conner Creek Greenway – The separated trail bridge just west of the Conner Avenue interchange is great. It separates trail users from the heavily trafficked road as well as the on- and off-ramp traffic. It adds some parkland, too. This is a major improvement.
  • John R, Canfield & Ferry bridges – These bridges provide key non-motorized connections and all remain in place with the new plan.
  • Complete Streets bridges versus pedestrian bridges – We don’t like narrow, elevated pedestrian bridges with long ramps as proposed in the original plan. All of the pedestrian bridges will now be narrow roads with bike lanes and wide sidewalks. They will provide the shortest travel distance with no climbing, awkward turns, or blind run-outs on to service drives.
  • Re-aligning bridges – The Holden bridge lines up with Holden! It’ll be a straight shot for all traffic and it helps complement a greenway and streetscape project in that area. Also, the Canfield bridge gets shifted south and will not longer terminate at the northbound service drive. Four Tops will connect to Calumet.
  • Reconnecting city grid – Yes, there are still some bridges lost, but there are many got added back in as well as new ones, e.g. Hastings and Harper.
  • Reducing service drive impacts – Many of the new service drives proposed in the original plan have been dropped. They ones that remain won’t be as wide and will have narrower travel lanes to help slow speeding. Some will be converted to two-way as well.

What we don’t like:

  • Losing the Third Street bridge – There’s no real way around this. What we continue to ask for is a better non-motorized connection from Third Street to Second along the north side of I-94. Ideally that connection would avoid the school vehicle traffic on Antoinette.

One area we want to further review is green stormwater management. It is mentioned, but it appears less specific than we would prefer. What’s quite specific is this project increase impervious surface area by 78.55 acres.

It’s also unclear how the new Harper Avenue extension would cross the proposed Joe Louis Greenway routing near the existing rail line west of St. Aubin. (The plan references the previous Greenway routing on St. Aubin.)

While not related to our work, it’s worth noting that the new plan  saves the United Sound Systems building by moving it one parcel north.

Categories
Greenways

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.