Categories
Complete Streets Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – February 2022

Mayor Mike Duggan explains streetscape design options for Rosa Parks Boulevard

Our February Newsletter is now online!

Categories
Complete Streets Greenways Policy

Our Work: More important than ever

  • Climate change is making flooding events more severe and more common
  • Transportation in Michigan is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change
  • Investments in infrastructure that increase biking and walking are the most efficient way of decreasing transportation emissons

The pandemic prompted the question: What priority are greenways and Complete Streets+ in light of the health needs of Detroiters? While they’re certainly not an immediate priority like health care, they do have a role in building a healthier, safer city and residents.

We saw use on the Dequindre Cut rise 55% as people sought safe outdoor activities and transportation options. We learned that walking, biking, and other exercise improved immune system response, not only to COVID but the vaccine as well.

However, one negative pandemic outcome was a drastic increase in speeding, which led to a 67% increase in Detroit road fatalities in 2020. Pedestrian fatalities rose 46% while bicycling fatalities quadrupled. The need for Complete Streets (to deter speeding) and separated bike/walk facilities is apparent from a public safety perspective.

Now Flooding

Detroit’s recent flood events have brought the discussion of infrastructure priorities to the forefront. The discussion has mostly been about addressing critical short term impacts.

While that is critically important, we also need to look to the near future and the expectation for substantially worse flooding.

“What you would call a 100-year event of 5 inches of rain, our climate models are now projecting that 5 inches by 2050 could be anywhere from 5 inches to 14 inches of rain,” said Amy O’Leary, executive director of SEMCOG.

Close to ‘crisis mode’ — Here’s how much infrastructure improvements could cost, WXYZ

“Researchers warn that unless and until greenhouse gases are controlled, expect more of the same, only worse, in the years ahead.”

Floods in metro Detroit bear hallmarks of human-caused climate change, scientists say, Detroit Free Press ($)

It seems the crisis at hand is keeping us from discussing longer term issue of climate change, where transportation is the largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We just can’t keep building bigger sewer pipes.

Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than Governor Whitmer holding a press conference on a flooded I-94 where she said we must do “everything we can to address climate change.” Just to her east, MDOT will be adding travel lanes that add more impervious surface while inducing more vehicle travel and more carbon emissions. MDOT’s long term plan is more of the same.

We are encouraging everyone to comment on MDOT’s Michigan Mobility 2045 long range plan. The draft plan ignores the role Michigan’s transportation has in greenhouse gas emissions. They need to hear that this plan cannot ignore the significant impacts it will have on climate change. It cannot ignore the Governor’s carbon neutrality pledge.

Public meetings are being scheduled for August 3rd and 4th. Comments can also be submitted online.

Reaching Carbon Neutrality

Last September, Whitmer pledged to make Michigan carbon neutral by 2050. It’s a significant commitment that requires significant changes to our transportation system. It’s more than electrifying vehicles. It’s going to require major reductions in vehicle miles travelled (VMT).

That means the Michigan’s transportation funding should no longer be largely prioritized based on pavement surface quality. It needs to be prioritized for increased safety, reduced VMT, and additional green stormwater management. “Fix the damn roads” can’t focus on potholes. It needs to abruptly shift towards building a safe and sustainable state transportation network.

Greenways and Complete Streets encourage more biking and walking, perhaps the two most effective means for reducing VMT while adding green stormwater infrastructure. Improved clean public transportation is also a necessity.

This is why we’re on the Governor Whitmer’s Council for Climate Solutions Transportation and Mobility Workgroup. We making the ambitious push for real policy change along with Transportation Riders United (TRU) and others to ensure the carbon neutrality pledge becomes reality. (Comments can be submitted to the workgroup.)

Categories
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – July 2020

Joe Louis Greenway Updates

The City of Detroit announced the Phase 1 construction of the Joe Louis Greenway. This will mostly be on 3-mile section of the former Conrail property between Warren and Fullerton Avenues. Construction is expect to begin in the spring of 2021. The City adds, “Phase 1 will include separate paths for slow and fast users (such as walkers and cyclists) and will provide safe street crossings and neighborhood connections.” Awesome!

For those disappointed that only 3 miles are being built should remember that Phase 1 of the Dequindre Cut was less than a mile. Greenways that require environmental cleanup and are more than just a strip of asphalt or gravel are expensive. This is a fairly good start that will build momentum for further investment.

In the meantime, the City is asking everyone to take this very interesting survey to gather your thoughts and expected uses. The survey will close on August 21st.

The City is hosting an online public meeting on August 13th at 6pm. This meeting is primarily focused on residents in the 48210, 48238, and 48204 ZIP codes as well as Dearborn residents. The City “heard loud and clear” during the Framework meetings that local residents wanted a lead voice in the greenway’s design through their community.


I-94 Project Improvements

New trail bridge over I-94 near Conner AvenueFor more than a decade, we’ve highlighted our concerns about MDOT’s I-94 project through Detroit. When the City and other stakeholders joined in, MDOT listened. They’ve made nearly all of the changes we’d asked for, including fewer service drives, more connections over the freeway, and improved pedestrian crossings. Those changes were just approved by the Federal Highway Administration and are posted online.

MDOT is hosting two online public meetings on August 13th at 9:30AM and 5:30PM to discuss this milestone and provide additional information.

Rendering of new Second Avenue bridgeAs part of the project, MDOT has already removed the Second Avenue bridge over I-94. The new bridge should be open by the fall of 2021. The Cass Bridge will be replaced starting next year. While the Third Avenue bridge was to be removed next year (and not replaced), MDOT is now looking at repurposing this bridge to maintain access in the near term. 

The changes to the I-94 project also include a fully separated trail bridge for the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail. This bridge connects to the existing trail north of Harper Avenue as well as the new Chandler Park trail at Shoemaker. The path will continue south as a two-way cycletrack on Conner Avenue to E. Jefferson.

We brought forward many issues relating to the FCA Expansion and how it affected the Conner Creek Greenway. The Greenway was routed on portions of St. Jean which no longer exist. We were concerned the Conner Avenue bike lanes might go away as well. That is not the case as the State of Michigan recently awarded road funding to improve Conner Avenue near the plant and shift the bike lanes to the eastside of the road. 

“FCA appreciates the coordination of efforts between the City of Detroit and MDOT to secure funding for local road improvements that will support the addition of 5,000 new jobs at our Mack and Jefferson North Assembly plants,” said Marc Brazeau, head of Logistics – North America, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “We are equally pleased that these improvements will benefit local residents and businesses, as accommodations will be made for bicyclists and pedestrian access to local core services and recreational facilities.”    

Proposed cross section of Conner Avenue near the FCA plant

Complete Streets and COVID

Sidewalk-level bike lanes on Livernois are nearly completeThe Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) has been continuing their Complete Streets projects, working on a transportation master plan called “Streets for People”, and responding to the COVID pandemic. Caitlin Malloy-Marcon, Deputy Director of Complete Streets recently presented updates during a recent Green Task Force Transportation and Mobility committee. 

The Complete Streets projects will mostly be completed this year. This includes Grand River (and the Grand Parklet), Livernois, Riopelle (in Eastern Market), Jos Campau, Conant, Kercheval, W. McNichols, and Rosa Parks (from W. Grand Boulevard to Clairmont). East and West Warren are slated for 2021, but require additional community engagement. 

Complete Streets are more important than ever. With fewer vehicles on the roads, increased speeding has been reported. Detroit residents also continue to request speed humps to reduce speeding in residential areas. There are now 6,000 speed hump requests in the queue. This is far more than the city has funding for so they are prioritizing locations near schools and parks.

The “Streets for People” planning is underway though they are largely doing data collection at this time while trying to determine how to best enage the public during the pandemic. They have found that 40% of all reported collisions occur on just 3% of city streets. They have also developed educational materials. We’ll certainly share more information about this project as it progresses.

Streets for People plan

Lastly, DPW has been responding to the pandemic by making it easier for businesses to offer outdoor dining within public right-of-ways, i.e. sidewalks, alleys, and roads. They’ve streamlined the permitting processes, and where requested, closed some roads to vehicle traffic. It’s been a “great success” though most of the requests have been in the downtown area. They are also looking to pursue similar efforts that would open right-of-ways for outdoor retail as well as recreation near schools, especially since some gyms may be repurposed as classrooms. 


Robots on Sidewalks

FedEx delivery robotAmazon and FedEx want automated delivery devices as a last-mile solution for delivering packages. They have been working with legislators to change state law and allow autonomous half-ton, motorized vehicles on all Michigan sidewalks operating at 10 MPH — and grant them all the rights pedestrians.

What could possibly go wrong?

From the start, we’ve been leading on this issue, creating an analysis of how other states regulate these, and highlighting issues with the proposed language. We’ve focused on protecting existing pedestrian access (including those with disabilities), while keeping them out of bike lanes and trails. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve asked for local control so cities like Detroit have the flexibility to manage these new devices and preserve a walkable environment. Council member Scott Benson introduced a resolution (later passed by Council) that also asked for local control.

The legislation (SB 892) passed out of committee with Senator Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) opposed. It did include some of what we asked for, including a prohibition on trails. It doesn’t specifically allow them in bike lanes. The local control is extremely limited. It also allows any individual to operate these devices and for reasons other than delivery. On a positive note, it does include improved pedestrian crosswalk provisions which we strongly support.

We’ll continue working with others, including the Michigan Municipal League and Detroit City Council to try influencing legislators to pass a bill that doesn’t prioritize the delivery business over walkability.


Other Updates

  • Bike lane maintenance. Maintenance has been reduced during the pandemic, but it’s starting to improve. However, given expected cuts in future state road funding (from decreases in fuel sales), DPW is making adjustments. Their updated maintenance plan should be released soon. One bright spot: their new bike lane mini-sweepers are being tested and should make it much easier to sweep and vacuum the bike lanes.
  • Greenway maintenance. With grant funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, we’ve been able to contract the Greening of Detroit to do maintenance work and tree plantings along greenways. We’re also using this funding to make repairs and improve the automated bicyclist and pedestrian counters on both the Dequindre Cut and Cass Ave.
  • Michigan Trails Publication. You may have seen the high-quality printed magazine called Michigan Trails at your local bike shop. You may have noticed in recent issues that Detroit trails were excluded. We worked with the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance — a major sponsor of the publication — to get the Detroit trails re-added. The Michigan Trails website now links to our new Detroit trails page with a map, photos, and destination highlights aimed more at those unfamiliar with what’s happening in Detroit. 
  • I-375 Alternatives. We were concerned about MDOT’s proposal to delay construction funding for this project until 2027. The project would greatly improve walking and biking along the entire eastside of downtown, including connections into Eastern Market. It would also allow significant green stormwater management handling runoff the many large roads and paved parking lots in this area. This month the SEMCOG Transportation Coordinating Council rejected MDOT’s request. The local press has now picked up on the story. We’re continuing to advocate for this project happening sooner. We believe the full story has not yet been revealed.
  • Detroit Bikes. For its 125th anniversary, Schwinn is collaborating with Detroit Bikes on a limited-edition cruiser inspired by the 1965 Schwinn Collegiate Deluxe. Detroit Bikes is now producing upwards of 10,000 bike per year in the city.
  • Erb Family Foundation. We want to thank the Erb Family Foundation for their continued support of the Detroit Greenways Coalition and our efforts to get green stormwater infrastructure routinely included in all park, greenways, and Complete Streets projects. 
Categories
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – September 2019

I-94 Project

Riding with MDOT and Planning Director Maurice Cox on a tour of the I-94 project to discuss its impacts on walking and bikingWhy is the Greenways Coalition involved in a freeway project? Freeways in Detroit have disconnected neighborhoods across the city for those on foot or bike. They disconnect them for motor vehicles, too, which funnels all traffic to use high-stress bridges (e.g. Forest and Warren over the Lodge or Mt. Elliott and Conner over I-94.) While Detroit freeways have pedestrian bridges, they are often poorly maintained and have ramps that dump you onto the service drive with speeding motorists.

The I-94 project in Detroit is one attempt to make improvements. We didn’t like the early designs and starting raising issues a decade ago. With the city’s actions, MDOT has proposed major design changes. Key bridges we bike and walk over will no longer be permanently removed — and they’ll be improved. Those pedestrian bridges will be converted to Complete Streets with wide sidewalks, bike lanes, and no ramps. They’re will be fewer new service drives.

One major highlight is the new Iron Belle Trail/Conner Creek Greenway trail segment and bridge over I-94. This provides a safer alternative to the busy (and getting busier thanks to FCA) Conner Avenue.

We’ve written more about this update on our web site with links to MDOT’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement or DSEIS.

Public comments on the DSEIS 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.

Though not part of the DSEIS, the Second Avenue bridge over I-94 is getting rebuilt next year and it will be a major improvement for non-motorized users. The Cass bridge will be replaced in 2021. The entire project won’t be done until about 2036, so stay healthy in order to be around for the grand opening.


Joe Louis Greenway

Discussion of affordable housing & economic development on the Joe Louis GreenwayThe City of Detroit has wrapped up a second round of public meetings for the greenway. This time the conversations dove into more details regarding design, affordable housing,  economic development, and more.

One of the biggest changes has been the greenway’s routing in Southwest Detroit. We had originally proposed that the greenway follow W. Vernor since it already had bike lanes and was part of the Southwest Detroit Greenlink. However, the current bike lanes are not ideal and certainly not family friendly. The road is not wide enough for other designs that would preserve the well-used vehicle parking. So, the city is routing the greenway further south and using W. Jefferson. This change connects more points of interest, including the recently renovated Riverside Park, Fort Wayne, the Gordie Howe International Bridge, Woodmere, and Patton Park.

The Framework Plan is expected to be completed by February.


History of Greenways in Detroit

We worked with Gwen Gell from the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan who created this amazing report: The Legacy of Bicycles in Detroit Michigan: A look at greenways through time.

Detroit’s automotive heritage casts a heavy shadow over its trails and bicycling history. This report helps shine a light on the latter.

As summary of it with the graphic timeline is now on our web site. There’s also a link to the full PDF version.


Other News

  • Atwater Beach/Valade Park construction continues on the RiverWalk. There’s no announced opening date as of yet but we expect it to be in late October.
  • Spirit Plaza is under construction as it receive an $800,000 upgrade after Council voted to make it permanent.
  • The city’s numerous Complete Streets projects are under construction as well, including Jos Campau (part of the Jos Campau greenway), Bagley Street (part of the Iron Belle Trail), and Livernois (part of the Joe Louis Greenway.) These are major reconstruction projects that are affecting local businesses along them. Please consider supporting these businesses.
  • We recently biked over to Windsor (using the Tunnel Bus bike racks!) to present at the Trans-Canada Trail – Ontario annual meeting. They were very interested in learning what is happening with Detroit and Michigan trails now that we will eventually  be connected via the Gordie Howe International Bridge. There is a great deal of interest in how we promote trail tourism on both sides of the border.
  • We were recently featured on the Beaumont Housecall podcast with Dr. Asha Shajahan. We talked about biking, trails, health and much more.
  • We continue to be involved in the electric scooter discussion, including this recent Bridge article, E-scooters are fast, unregulated and all over Detroit. What could go wrong? We think scooters are another good reason to have a protected bike lane network in Detroit.

Upcoming October Events

  • Conant Streetscape Project community meeting, October 2nd 5:30pm at the Lasky Recreational Center, 13200 Fenelon Street. More details
  • Free Bikes 4 Kidz is looking for donated used bikes for Detroit youth. The big donation day is Saturday, October 5th from 9am to 2pm at 22 Henry Ford Health System locations across Metro Detroit. They are also seeking volunteers. Please help make this program even more successful than last year’s.
  • There isn’t an Open Streets in Detroit this year, but Dearborn is hosting their first! It’s Sunday, October 6th from 11am to 3pm. More details
  • Two community workshops are planned for Corktown on October 9th and 10th. They are focused on transportation, including parking, streetscapes, circulation (e.g. 1 & 2-way traffic), and mobility. These workshops are also in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) who is kicking off a Michigan Avenue Planning & Environmental Linkages Study. This 16-month MDOT study will “formalize a future” for Michigan Ave., from Campus Martius to I-96/75 interchange.
  • Lastly, the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is having their Annual Meeting on October 19th at Belle Isle. It’s a free event but you must register. As part of the event, we are leading a short bike tour at 10am, but there’s also a paddle trip and history walk.

For the most recent news, follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Categories
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
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – May 2018

Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 18th!

Register your pledge to ride to work and receive a free commemorative Bike to Work Day embroidered patch. It’s free.

Henry Ford LiveWellWe very excited to announce our 2018 title sponsor, Henry Ford LiveWell. Henry Ford LiveWell is Henry Ford Health System’s wellness center of excellence and aims to optimize the well-being of Henry Ford employees, patients and community members.

Other event sponsors include the office of Detroit Council member Scott BensonAECOM,  American Cycle and FitnessDetroit Future CityDowntown Detroit PartnershipGiffels-WebsterHNTBOHM AdvisorsMoGoSEMCOG, Tour de TroitWayne State University, and Wheelhouse Detroit.

As in prior years, we’ll have morning commuter convoys that converge Downtown.

Since not everyone works downtown, there are two additional pit stops. All three gathering spots are open from 7am to 9am (except Midtown/WSU is open to 10am).

  • Spirit Plaza on Woodward between Jefferson and Larned. Free bike parking is provided by Wheelhouse Detroit from 7am to 6pm. Mayor Mike Duggan will address participants between 8am and 8:30am. PLEASE ATTEND TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR BETTER BIKE COMMUTING OPTIONS IN DETROIT.
  • Midtown/WSU Cass and Puntam. Hosted by Wayne State University.
  • New Center Park at Second and W. Grand Boulevard hosted by Henry Ford Health System

There will be free snacks, coffee, vendors, local discounts and giveaways at these locations for those participating.

Don’t forget to register and if you can, try to be at Spirit Plaza next Friday morning when the Mayor speaks between 8am and 8:30am.

D Brief Podcast

We dropped by the D Brief studios last week and talked about all the recent Detroit bike- and trail-related activities. It’s all captured on a podcast and available online. Give a listen.

Other Meetings this Month

  • There will be a public meeting on the West Riverfront Park on Monday, May 21, 6 to 8pm at the Roberto Clemente Recreation Center, 2621 Bagley, Detroit. There will be a project overview and a conversation with bothe the Community Advisory Team and the deisgn team.
  • An I-94 Resident Roundtable community meeting for District 5 is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22 from 6 to 8 pm at Next Energy, 461 Burroughs Street, Detroit. The I-94 project is being changed to improve biking and walking compared with the initial plans. Come to meeting to get the latest updates.
  • West Vernor Corridor Framework Community Meeting is Tuesday, May 22, 2018 from 6pm to 8pm at the Plaza Del Norte at the Mexicantown Latino Cultural Center, 2835 Bagley Avenue, Detroit. The City will be presenting on near-term projects for this neighborhood and wants to collect your feedback.
  • Jos Campau Greenway community meeting and public input session is Wednesday, May 23 at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, 2751 Robert Brady Drive, Detroit from 5:30 to 7pm. The City will be investing in improvements to the existing recreation path, including new play equipment, landscaping, and security measures. They are interested to hear what features will improve the path for your household. They will also discuss on street improvements to Jos Campau south of E Jefferson to the RiverWalk.