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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 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
Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail — May 2020

Staying Healthy, Events Cancelled

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these challenging times. Our thoughts go out all that have lost friends, family, and club members during this pandemic.

We have been updating our COVID-19 page based on information from federal, state and local government agencies. They advise everyone riding, walking, and running to social distance from others, and to wear a mask in places that make social distancing difficult to maintain, eg. RiverWalk.

There are reports of more motorists speeding given fewer motor vehicles on the roads. Please be extra vigilant and walk/ride/run defensively. 

As for events, we obviously could not hold Bike to Work Day this year. We may consider doing something this fall, but it’s too early to make any commitment. We have cancelled our Joe Louis Greenway fundraiser ride scheduled for next month.


New Website

The Stay-at-Home order has provided a good opportunity to completely overhaul our website, which we rolled out this week. All of the web pages have been brought up to date. We’ve also taken the information from our printed bike/trail map and safety brochure and put it on the site. This includes


UMSI Crash Analysis

Also on the new website is a bicycle and pedestrian crash analysis — a report, slidedeck, and interactive mapping. This was just produced by a team from the University of Michigan School of Information. The team took state crash data, cleaned it up, and analyzed where the crashes were occuring. From the report:

Our data analysis led important discoveries around the existing safety issues per counsel district, specifically, how bikers are currently being impacted with districts. District 4, according to the data, had the most instances of biker injuries. It’s also worth noting that when a bike lane is present, accidents happen at a frequency a fraction of the time compared to instances of no bike lane with the point of contact being in the roadway.

Thanks to the team for this project and we look using this data to justify great investments that make Detroit streets safer for everyone. 


Other Updates

  • Please join us in welcoming two new board members: Beverly Kindle-Walker and Ryan Myers-Johnson. Beverly is the Executive Director for Friends of the Detroit City Airport CDC, a Legislative Assistance to County Commissioner Tim Killeen, and a board member for the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative. She’s done a great deal of work on the Eastside, including with the Conner Creek Greenway. Ryan is the Founder and Executive Director for Sidewalk Detroit.  You may have met her if you attended any of the Joe Louis Greenway Framework Planning meetings where she was a project consultant.  She’s also been involved in parks and planning in Northwest Detroit, including Eliza Howell Park. 
  • Detroit Council President Brenda Jones proposed an ordinance last year requiring all bike lane projects to have an additional vote by Council. That ordinance wasn’t feasible, so it was incorporated into an ordinance requiring Community Engagement for planning projects, including bike lanes and streetscapes. We strongly support effective Community Engagement! We’ll continue working with her office and suggesting improvements to the ordinance language so that it gets more Detroiters engaged in deciding how their streets look and who they serve.
  • MoGo Bike Share expansion is underway this week with stations being installed north of Eight Mile. We look forward to seeing those new stations automatically popup on our map. 
  • Make sure you complete your census! Michigan cities receive road funding based on their census populations. State road funding will already be lower in the near future with the reductions in fuel purchases. We don’t need to see it drop further.

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
Greenways Safety & Education

Hot off the presses: a Detroit Bike & Walk map

Long promised, finally here. Detroit has a bike and trail map again.

After many stops and starts, we finally got the funding we needed to complete the map and print 12,500 copies. Half of those have already been distributed at all the Detroit bike shops, runDetroit, the Lexus Velodrome, and Council member Scott Benson’s office at the Matrix Center. The Detroit Planning Department and Health Department also have copies they’ll be distributing at events across the city as will we.

The map shows all the current trails and bike infrastructure in Detroit as well as the Iron Belle Trail. It also include all the repair stations, bike shops, and kayak launches.

A substantial amount of effort went into including all the relevant laws pertaining to bicycling and pedestrians. Frankly, we’re not fans of the existing materials that fail to highlight laws motorists must follow around bicycles and pedestrians. We focus on those since they are the main determinant for improved safety. We also discuss the history of these laws, which were developed by the auto industry in the 1920s with no input from bicyclists.

The PDF of the map is available but it is a bit unwieldy. We’re going to work to get portions of it online in a more readable format.

Thanks to the DALMAC, the Office of Highway Safety Planning, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources for making this project possible.

Categories
Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – June 2019

Joe Louis Greenway Ride on June 23rd

Registration is open for our 24-mile Joe Louis Greenway bike ride on Sunday June 23rd. The ride is being sponsored by the SmithGroup and will start near the Clark Park ice rink (1251 Scotten St.) at 8:30am.

This second annual Joe Louis Greenway bike ride will be limited to 100 donating participants. The objective of the ride is to create more awareness of the Joe Louis Greenway and raise money for the Detroit Greenways Coalition.

This year, participants will receive a commemorative pint glass!

Event Registration


City of Detroit Community Visioning Sessions

From Christina Peltier, the City of Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway Project Manager:

The first series of the Joe Louis Greenway Visioning meetings will be taking place in the next few weeks. All four meetings have the same content and activities so no need to attend all four. Translation services will be available at Lasky Recreation Center and Patton Creek Community Center. Refreshments will be provided.

The Joe Louis Greenway is an approximately 31 mile pathway that will connect many of Detroit’s neighborhoods, people and parks. More information can be found here: www.joelouisgreenway.com

Please share the event poster and facebook page with you friends and neighbors.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions or if you would like me to present to your neighborhood organization.


Detroit Iron Belle Trail & Bike Map

We have completed updates to a new Detroit bike and trail map and expect to have it printed and available later this month. We just received a $5,000 DNR Iron Belle Trail grant that will help us print the map. Of course the Iron Belle Trail will be prominently featured.

The map also contains a comprehensive list of rules and laws pertaining to bicycling, walking, scootering, and most importantly, safely driving motor vehicles around these other modes. We put a significant effort into this so that the focus is on motorist behavior, where we see the greatest room for improving safety on our roads and in our neighborhoods.


Recent Events

  • Bike to Work Day selfie with Council member Scott BensonThanks to those that attended our recent fundraiser event at the Lexus Velodrome on April 20th. We saw some amazing track racing, especially among the junior riders. There’s a lot more racing throughout the year, so check their schedule.
  • We had another successful Bike to Work Day event. The City of Detroit posted this video from the event.Thanks again to sponsors, including Henry Ford LiveWell.
  • Lastly, we need to give a shout out to the Grown Men on Bikes (GMOB) and Grown Ladies on Wheels (GLOW) bike clubs for another great Coupe Day in Cass Park over Memorial weekend. Bike clubs came from across the county and made it a huge success. We had a table with Detroit’s JLG Project Manager Christina Peltier and share information on the Joe Louis Greenway. We have photos from the event — including the many amazing custom bikes — on our Facebook page

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