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Greenways Safety & Education

Getting Involved: Five Detroit Projects for 2023

Giving input given during project planning is the most effective way for the public to improve them for walking and biking. It gets much more difficult to make changes once a project is under construction.

Below is a list of five major Detroit projects that will have planning in 2023. The first two have surveys you can take now to provide your input. The other three should have meetings later this year. While we’ll do our best letting you know when those occur, you might consider subscribing to get email updates.

Belle Isle Mobility

We’ve been raising safety issues for bicyclists and pedestrians on the island for over a decade. Little has been done, but that could be changing. There is a currently a mobility plan underway that could lead to real safety improvements on the park roads as well as the MacArthur Bridge. The first step is to take the survey which is open through February 19th. There will be additional engagement throughout the year.

ACTION: Take the Multimodal Mobility survey

MDOT Pedestrian Bridges

Pedestrian bridges over the freeways provide safe, critical community connections. However, MDOT doesn’t want to maintain these pedestrian bridges, and when the bridges are no longer safe, they want to permanently remove them. One of the recent closures is the Spruce Bridge that safely connected North Corktown to Downtown. MDOT has a survey to collect feedback on how people use the bridge and while pitching the much less safe alternative crossing at Temple — a bridge that doesn’t provide east-west crossing for bicyclists.

ACTION: Take the MDOT Spruce Bridge Survey

Later this year MDOT will be evaluate all the Detroit pedestrian bridges to determine which other ones they can remove. We asked that MDOT also evaluate where pedestrian bridges need to be installed, though it remains to be seen if they will do that. We really need the community voice to back us up and tell MDOT they can no longer disinvest in their Detroit infrastructure and disconnect communities.

I-375 Replacement

MDOT will be replacing the current I-375 freeway with an surface-level boulevard. While the basic framework for this project is set, there are still opportunities to get involved and provide feedback. For example, we’re continuing push for safer biking and walking along and across the boulevard so that it really does reconnect communities. Per MDOT, “there will be many more opportunities for community input and participation” but especially as it relates to excess property this project creates.

ACTION: Subscribe for MDOT Updates

Gratiot Avenue

Gratiot Avenue in Detroit is likely the most dangerous road in Michigan. By our estimates, 1.5% of all Michigan road fatalities occur on this stretch of road. MDOT has now started a PEL study to “identify and evaluate safety, multimodal mobility, transit needs, and proposed improvements.” We expect there will be community engagement this year and hope there’s a strong collective voice that demands a safer, saner street for all users.

ACTION: Sign up for MDOT Updates

A PEL Study was completed for Michigan Avenue. That helped attract $25 million in federal funding to rebuild that state road. We want to see the same happen for Gratiot.

Joe Louis Greenway

Planning and construction is happening quickly for the 27.5 mile trail. The City of Detroit is trying to keep everyone updated on this project as well as the public engagement opportunities. The best way to get “in the loop” is to subscribe to their newsletter.

ACTION: Subscribe to the Detroit JLG newsletter

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Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – April 2022

Our April Newsletter is now online!

Categories
Complete Streets Greenways In the Media Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail — June 2021

Underground Railroad Self-Guided Bike Tour 

For Juneteenth 2021, the Detroit Greenways Coalition has created a free self-guided bike tour of Detroit’s historic Underground Railroad sites. The 14.3 mile tour includes 25 stops that help tell the story of those seeking freedom from slavery as well as those that supported abolition. 

Highlights along the tour include the Gateway to Freedom International Monument, the site of the Blackburn uprising, the Ulysses Grant house, and Elmwood Cemetery. 

Detroit had a significant role supporting the Underground Railroad as well as shaping the politics of abolition during the 1800s. The city’s smaller footprint during that era has made the historic sites relatively close and easily biked to. 

The bike tour is available through the Ride with GPS program. The phone app provides turn-by-turn navigation and includes the points of interest along the way — some with photos and links for those seeking additional information. 

We’ve also updated our Underground Railroad webpage with information on this bike tour and much more. Additional self-guided tours are also being planned.


Federal Funding Updates

The process to develop the next federal INVEST in America transportation bill continues — and so far, so good. The current House and Senate bills both would double the amount of dedicated funding for active transportation. The Transportation Alternatives program, which funds many local Complete Streets projects, would see a 75% increase. The Recreational Trails Program, which the DNR uses exclusively for its trails, would also increased by 75%.

Both bills also include the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System or CAATS. This new program would provide grant funding for major non-motorized projects such as the Joe Louis Greenway. CAATS would provide $1 billion in funding over 5 years with a mininum 30% for building out networks within communities and 30% for building spines between communities. The minimun construction grant would be $15 million. We’ve been assisting the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy on this. 

Included in the House bill are Member Designated Projects, formerly known as earmarks. Our local House members included funding for trail projects and two from Representative Lawrence have made the cut:

  • $1.8 million for the Detroit RiverWalk to connect the Riverfront Towers and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park. 
  • $3.9 million for the Joe Louis Greenway to connect a future Dequindre Cut extension to Joseph Campau in Hamtramck (see conceptual rendering below).

There are additional positives aspects within the bill as they includes goals for climate change, safety policy (especially for bicyclists and pedestrians), accessibility, and equity — all of which could lead to more Complete Streets being built without the need for dedicated non-motorized funding.

Both the House and Senate bills include funding for freeway removal, which could help with MDOT’s I-375 project, This project has been in the news more lately and was just featured on NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Click4Detroit, and Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Of course neither bill has been signed into law yet, but it is positive that unlike prior multi-year federal transportation bills, there was little opposition to non-motorized priorities. Given the policy changes the bill includes, INVEST will require some level of bipartisan support. 

You may have also heard about the American Jobs Act, an infrastructure stimulus bill. President Joe Biden has said he wants that bill to be separate from INVEST and provide additional funding. It’s too early to know what that bill will include.


American Rescue Plan

Federal funding has also been distributed to cities, counties, and states through the federal American Rescue Plan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is proposing $250 million of this funding to be allocated to state park and state trails to help address the backlog of maintenance projects — many of which are on Belle Isle. Her funding proposal would need to be approved by the legislature.

The City of Detroit is receiving $826 million in American Rescue Plan funding. Mayor Mike Duggan has proposed how that funding should be spent, which includes setting aside $400 million to fund the city’s workforce and prevent layoffs. 

Of the remaining $426 million, the Mayor has proposed $50 million for parks, walking paths, and the Joe Louis Greenway as part of a larger $100 million investment in parks, recreation, and cultural facilities.

This seems like a wise investment given that residents used greenways much more during the pandemic. (Dequindre Cut usage was up over 40%!) Biking and walking not only improves community health and resiliency to COVID-19, it also increases the effectiveness of vaccines

The Mayor has been collecting feedback from Detroit residents at meetings throughout June. There’s a survey available as well. 


Other Updates

  • Detroit DPW has announced a Paint the Streets program for residents and community groups interested in adding “artistically painted streets and crosswalks.” The program has developed guidelines for what’s allowed and where this artwork can be located.
  • Detroit ranks 61st in latest The Trust for Public Land ParkScore. The bright spot is 80% of residents are within a 10-minute walk of park,” well above the 55% national average.
  • We will be joining the SmithGroup and others for a Rails-to-Trail Conservancy webinar on June 23rd at 1pm called, “Creating Inclusive & Equitable Trail Development: Case Studies in Detroit and Milwaukee”. Detroit and the Joe Louis Greenway will be a major focus of the webinar. Registration is free.
  • Did you know the Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) has Instagram and TikTok pages where they’ve posted some brief, introductory, and fun videos about Complete Streets, biking, and more. We especially like the ones on Grand River and Bagley.
  • WeRun313 also posted this city-made video that features them and talks about the Joe Louis Greenway and more. This is a much watch!
  • Have you signed up for the Detroit Bike Challenge yet? This free City of Detroit program that’s encouraging more people to ride bikes continues through October. Your rides help you earn points and get the chance to win prizes. The city has released this brief video to help promote it. There’s also a Juneteenth ride planned at 11am from the Heilmann Recreation Center on the Eastside.

Additional Reading

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Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways In the Media Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – February 2021

Joe Louis Greenway

This is going to be a banner year for trail construction in Detroit — and here’s proof. There’s now an actual banner announcing the future of the Joe Louis Greenway. The banner is located on the north side of Grand River just east of Oakman Boulevard. 

The Phase 1 construction start is still pending some final environmental approvals. When those are complete, you can expect the City of Detroit to make an announcement. 

You may have read the recent Crain’s Detroit Business article ($) about a local company encroaching on the city’s trail property — and the resulting lawsuit. The land in question is along Dexter, north of Oakman. While this segment is not part of Phase 1, it is a critical trail connection. We are hopeful this lawsuit doesn’t delay future trail construction. 

Speaking of land, the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) is hosting a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, February 16th from 6-8 PM to discuss their Neighborhood Improvement Plan for land disposition.

The DLBA owns a significant number of properties across the city. Much of the land along the greenway route has been held to restrict outside speculators. Recently, some of this land was transferred to the city for Phase 1 greenway amenities, such as neighborhood connecting trails. Additional properties are available to neighbors along the greenway and this meeting will discuss those options. 

This land strategy is one method the city is using to mitigate gentrification — the displacement of local residents along the greenway. Other greenway developments around the country have shared their regrets of not addressing this issue before their trails were built. We’re glad to see the City of Detroit tackling this issue from the start. 

Planet Detroit recently published an article on this topic, Can Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway avoid gentrification? Second Wave Media also touches on this issue with this article, Connecting Detroiters with the Joe Louis Greenway. Both articles include a wealth of great photos, too.

Rail bridge over Woodward in Highland Park. A Planet Detroit photo by Doug Coombe


Speed Limits

Last year we supported state legislation that clarified the modest flexibility that local governments have when setting speed limits based on factors other than just the 85th fastest motorist traveling under ideal conditions. Among many safety factors, it would allow the consideration of the road crash history, adjacent land use (e.g. parks), and the presence of pedestrians. This is aligns with recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and others. 

Unfortunately that bill died in the House Ways and Means committee, but it has been re-introduced (HB 4014) and is before the House Transportation committee scheduled for Tuesday, February 16th at 10:30 AM. 

We’re working to bring more support to the table from local governments to local experts, especially since we expect the Michigan State Police will oppose the bill. Individuals can email their thoughts to the committee clerk, Dakota Soda


Other Updates

Rendering of proposed Rosa Parks Streetscape
  • The construction contract for the Rosa Parks Streetscape project has been delayed in response to comments at City Council. DPW has agreed to do additional community outreach. While a few residents spoke against the proposed bike lanes, there were more concerns shared about a tree nursery project which was unrelated to this contract.  There was also uncertainty about whether the construction would repair the sidewalks — it would. If you live near Rosa Parks (between the Boulevard and Clairmount) and want to learn how to get involved, please email us
  • The City of Detroit is updating their Parks and Recreaton Strategic Plan. They are hosting a virtual public meeting about this on Monday, February 15th at 5pm. Attend via Zoom or call in at 312-626-6799 (webinar ID: 363 140 9738).
  • Don’t forget! I-375 Environmental Assessment comments are due on Friday, February 19th.
  • America Walks is seeking 30 Walking College fellows who want “to be part of bringing about transformative change to their neighborhoods.” Applications are open through February 28th.
  • MoGo is hiring! They recently received a grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership to understand certain barriers to bike and bus transit and develop solutions to improve the connections between them. MoGo is also seeking an executive director after founder Lisa Nuszkowski announced she’s stepping down. Lisa’s done an amazing job taking the idea of bike share and making it a reality in Detroit and Southeast Oakland County. We especially appreciate system’s equity and accessibility aspects which are a model for other bike share systems around the country. We’re sad to see her leave but look forward to see where she lands.
  • Speaking of bike-transit connections, Amtrak and MDOT are improving the bike carrying options for the the Wolverine route out of Detroit. They are testing new passenger coach class cars, each of which include three bike racks conveniently located across from the luggage storage area. We can’t wait to see (and use) them in the near future.

Additional Reading

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Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – January 2021

Replacing I-375 

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.

Biden Plan for Clean Energy Resolution and Environmental Justice

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.

Pete Buttigieg Senate Confirmation hearing, January 2021

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.


Other Updates

  • 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.

Additional Reading

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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