Detroit’s TIGER strikes out… for now

The City of Detroit submitted an $18.285 million TIGER grant request last year to construct the Joe Louis Greenway (formerly known as the Inner Circle Greenway.) This $500 million US Department of Transportation grant program is super-competitive but we had high hopes given the value and scope of this great trail project.

However, we learned last Friday that Detroit’s grant wasn’t chosen.

Was this the end of TIGER funding? No one knows. These transportation grants began as part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. They’ve been quite popular with Congress.

In many ways TIGER grants are a more transparent and competitive replacement for the old High Priority Projects (HPP). These project funds would get included in transportation bills in order to get votes in Congress. The Detroit RiverWalk got funding through this, but then so did the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.

We certainly do hope that TIGER grants continue for the reason we gave in this recent People for Bikes article: “…there just aren’t very many funding opportunities unless you want to take a really long time to construct it over multiple grants.”

Regardless, progress on the Joe Louis Greenway continues. The city is doing its due diligence (e.g. environmental testing) of the Conrail railroad property. If all goes as expected, they should be purchasing the property this summer.

Once purchased, a Framework Plan will be created for the entire trail, including the portion within Highland Park. This will be a great opportunity for the community to provide their input on the trail’s design and operation.

It’s also a time to look at adjacent land uses and how those might complement the trail. Adding green stormwater infrastructure is a no brainer, as is affordable housing — a tool for mitigating residential displacement from rising property values.

Lastly, our new Joe Louis Greenway map is at the printers now and should be available by spring. A PDF of the map is available now. Thanks to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Doppelt Family Fund for making this possible.

Greenways History In the Media

Goodbye, Inner Circle Greenway. Hello, Joe Louis Greenway.

Joe Louis Greenway MapThe 26-mile greenway that wraps around the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park has a new name.

Back in February 2017, Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley asked, “When Joe Louis Arena is gone, how do we honor Detroit legend?” Legend isn’t used lightly with Louis. He was so much more than a world champion boxer. From breaking color barriers to fighting fascism, Louis was an inspirational both inside and outside of the ring.

So when Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan proposed naming the Inner Circle Greenway in his honor, it also lifted the greenway. A conceptual asphalt trail around the city in 2008 was now being named after the city’s most impactful athlete. Riley’s followup column wrote, “Detroit cements honor for Joe Louis with a giant greenway around the city.”

Louis’s family approved of the naming. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise as his son is a bicyclist and is a board member for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

“I am delighted that the (greenway) will be named after my father Joe Louis,” said Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. son of the famous boxer. “It is a fitting tribute to a person who had a positive impact on so many people.”

Mayor Duggan added, “It will unite neighborhoods from all corners of this city in a dedicated area for walking and jogging and biking.”

Before this announcement, we contacted retired city attorney Jim Edwards. Jim was an early champion of the trail and coined the original name. He was very supportive of the renaming.

One interesting coincidence with the original name was the this caricature of P.N. Jacobsen standing in an “inner circle”. Jacobsen led the creation of the Detroit Terminal Railroad — which makes up about 8 miles of the greenway — and was an active Detroit cyclist during the 1880s and 1890s.

He wrote an article called The Detroit Wheelmen for the Outing Magazine in 1891. It noted that a result of the city putting on asphalt on the streets, “Wheeling has attained a height of popularity in Detroit heretofore unknown.”

Of course this was years before Detroit was Motor City — and we’re not advocating relinquishing that title. We just suggest adding a new one.

Detroit, world heavyweight greenway champion.

More information on the Joe Louis Greenway

Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – July 2017

Summer’s rolling by fast and so are the updates…

Inner Circle Greenway

This 26-mile trail around the city continues to move forward. After many years of discussion and negotiation, the city of Detroit has agreed to terms for the purchase of 7.5 miles of abandoned Conrail railroad property. They will be able to use $4.3 million in grant funding that we helped them get.

The city also got a $2 million dollar grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation which will be used to develop a framework plan and construction documents. Expect there to be meetings later this year as the framework plan is developed. The city has announced that the trail would be completed by 2019.

We’re also lending our support to add 1.75 miles to one of the most popular trails in Detroit and Michigan. Expect to hear more about that in future updates.

Gordie Howe International Bridge

We’ve already mentioned that the new bridge will accomodate both bike and pedestrians, but the good news doesn’t stop there. As part of the community benefits agreement, the Delrayt area around the Detroit bridge plaza will receive millions in street improvements and new trails. E. Jefferson and Fort Street will get protected bike lanes. Campbell and Green Streets will have greenways. The key non-motorized connection at Junction over I-75 will also be improved.

There’s potentially more good news coming that could come our way.

Additional Updates

  • The DNR received a $750,000 grant to help build a 6-mile shared-use path around Belle Isle. This might help get some pedestrians out of the bike lanes and reduce conflicts. MDOT is repaving the MacArthur Bridge and we’ve asked them to widen and improve the bike lanes while they’re at it.
  • The Detroit RIverfront Conservancy received $50,000 in grant funding for Atwater Beach just east of Chene Park. If they can successfully raise the additional funding, they will break ground next spring.
  • The Detroit Planning and Development Department now has a Transportation and Mobility office with Lead Planner Caitlin Malloy-Marcon. We now have another supporter in the city.
  • Wayne State University is hiring a student for a part-time position as Transportation Ambassador. More information
  • SEMCOG wants your feedback on regional transportation issues in Southeast Michigan. Their on-line survey doesn’t take all that long.

Upcoming Events

Handlebars for the Homeless
Sunday, August 6th

Early registration discount through July 28th
Event Registration

Saturday, September 23rd
This fun, free 4-mile night ride is back! There are prizes for the best bike light displays
Event Details &  Registration

Bike Trails and Cocktails
September TBD
Our fundraising event returns. More details to follow

We rely on donations from people like you to help continue this work. We now have a monthly giving option if that is a more convenient way to contribute. Thanks!

Have you seen the new Cass Avenue bike lanes being installed? We advocated for these as an alternative to the less safe riding conditions along Woodward due to the streetcar rails.
Photo by Mark Hall


St. Aubin gets a makeover!

Thanks to the volunteers that helped clean St. Aubin Street on Saturday between Canfield and .

The street looks fantastic… The clean up makes the neighborhood more welcoming for bikes, walking, and street traffic. Great Job, please pass on our thanks to all the volunteers. — St. Albertus

Thanks again for cleaning up Saint Aubin! It looks great, and it’ll ride even better. — Tim, a local resident

The City of Detroit played a major role as well. They came through first with a skid steer to removed the heavy sedimentation and vegetation. It was so bad that you often couldn’t see the bike lane. They followed up with their street sweepers.

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We also want to thank GFL (Green for Life) (provided tools, gloves, safety vests and more), Meijer (provided snacks and water), and the Polish American Historic Site Association.


Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – April 2017


Volunteer Cleanup Event

The bike lanes and sidewalks along St. Aubin Street near Eastern Market need some TLC. This route, also known as the Hamtramck Connector, is part of the planned Inner Circle Greenway, too.

On Saturday, April 8th from 9am to noon, we’re going to give St. Aubin a makeover in partnership with the City of Detroit and with help from GFL (Green for Life)Meijer, and the Polish American Historic Site Association.

We need volunteers to help us remove debris and vegetation from the bike lanes and sidewalks. Please register if you can attend.

Volunteer sign in is at the St. Albertus parking lot on the northwest corner of Canfield and St. Aubin.

Greater Downtown Area Bicycle Network Plan

The City of Detroit is hosting a couple meetings this month regarding updates its non-motorized plan from 2005. The goal is to bring a world-class bicycle network for Detroit’s greater downtown area. These public meetings are a chance for you to preview their work, ask questions, and provide feedback.

  • April 12th, 5:30 am to 7:30 pm
  • April 13th, 9:00 am to 11:00 am

Both meetings are at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201

The official flyer for the event is on our shared drive.

Quick Survey on Biking in Detroit

People for Bikes is conducting a national survey that only takes less than 10 minutes. The feedback will help determine city rankings in a new PlacesForBikes rating system. They expect to “identify the best places for bicycling today and recognize those that are improving the fastest.”

Take the survey

Typically, national organizations do a poor job evaluating cities like Detroit for bicycle friendliness due to the data they use. This may be an opportunity to get a more accurate review. We’ll find out when the city ratings are released in fall 2017.

Upcoming Events
Volunteer Cleanup
April 8th, 9am to noon
Let’s give St Aubin a makeover — part of the Inner Circle Greenway

Greater Downtown Bicycle Plan
April 12th & 13th
See and hear updates on trails and biking in Detroit
Event Flyer

MDOT Training Wheels
May 10th in Warren
Educational course on the planning and design of on-road bicycle facilities
Event Flyer

Bike to Work Day
May 19th
Mark your calendars. Details to come!



Detroit’s all in for greenways and protected bike lanes

Protected bike lanesIf you watched Mayor Mike Duggan’s Keynote at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference — and you bike, walk or just love trails — you probably weren’t disappointed.

While the Mayor spoke across a wealth of topics, he did highlight existing and planned greenways and protected bike lanes as tools to “build a vibrant Detroit with opportunity for everyone.”

First, he touted the RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut, and how both are “jammed” with people walking and biking. These are competitive advantages that Detroit has which the suburbs do not. The Mayor recognizes the need to capitalize on these advantages.

Pedestrian greenwayNext he introduced the idea of a 20-minute neighborhood where every non-work trip can be made with a 20-minute bike ride or walk. That makes sense for many reasons. Cars are expensive to own and operate in the city. Providing less expensive transportation options is smart. It’s also highly desirable for those who chose not to drive. With most jobs for Detroiters located outside the city (for now), it’s not realistic to focus on bike commuting to work.

The high city-owned vacant land within these neighborhoods presents an opportunity to build residential greenways, not unlike what you currently see winding through Lafayette and Elmwood/Central Park. These would connect with protected bike lanes through commercial corridors and form a safe non-motorized network to help meet the 20-minute trip goal.

Inner Circle GreenwayAgain, these unique neighborhoods offer competitive advantages over many suburban neighborhoods where biking and walking are poor. Or as the Mayor note, you need to jump in your car and drive to the strip mall to buy a gallon of milk.

The initial three 20-minute neighborhoods are at McNichols/Livernois, West Village, and Southwest Detroit near Clark Park.

Lastly, the Mayor mentioned the Inner Circle Greenway and how it ties these 20-minute neighborhoods together and to the Dequindre Cut, RiverWalk, and more.

Below is the video of the entire presentation, though we’ve skipped forward to the portion that discusses greenways and bike lanes.