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

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.

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.

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:

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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Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – April 2019

Fundraiser at the Velodrome this Saturday

This Saturday, April 20th will be more than just another exciting evening of bicycle track racing at the Lexus Velodrome. It’s also a fundraiser for the Detroit Greenways Coalition. If you not yet seen high-speed track bike racing at Detroit’s newest sports venue, this is a great opportunity to do so. It’s the Spring Track Classic and will attract top racers from across the region. Doors open at 6:30pm and the racing begins at 7:30pm. Tickets are available in advance and start at just $10.

Of course Saturday is also Earth Day and the Detroit City Council Green Task Force is hosting its Awards Breakfast. The event runs from 10am until noon, is free and open to the public. It’s being held at JBEW Local 58 (1358 Abbott). RVSP if you plan on attending.

One more event to put on your calendar is Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 17th. Make you pledge to ride that day to receive an event shirt and commemorative patch. More details are on our website.

FCA Expansion to impact greenways & trails

You may have read the news of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) planning to expand their Jefferson North manufacturing in the city of Detroit. They need more land for this and the city has offered to give them St. Jean Street which currently has bike lanes for the Conner Creek Greenway and the Iron Belle Trail. We’ve discussed options with our partners and developed ideas for alternative routings. We’ve also asked that we not lose the existing protected bike lanes on Conner and East Jefferson, which both border the FCA footprint. We’ve shared our proposals with elected officials, city staff, FCA officials, and our partners. Our entire proposal with maps is on our website.

Ultimately, we’d love to see the local community, city of Detroit, and FCA all arrive at a mutually beneficial solution that also improves green transportation options throughout the lower eastside. This project is moving quickly so we’ll be sure to stay on top.

Joe Louis Greenway Updates

Last month, the City of Detroit announced that the SmithGroup and its team had been selected to complete the Joe Louis Greenway Framework Plan. The SmithGroup has extensive greenway experience which includes designing the Dequindre Cut and Detroit Riverwalk. The City also announced that “an advisory council has been created, comprised of community members from each Detroit City Council District impacted by the route.”

We have three Joe Louis Greenway bike tours in the works. The first is our 24-mile fundraiser ride scheduled for June 23rd. We’re also working with the Wheelhouse Detroit on two shorter 16-mile tours on August 24th and September 28th.

Visit Detroit celebrates bicycling

You may already know how fun and cool bicycling in Detroit is. Others don’t, but that will be changing a bit with the Spring-Summer 2019 Visit Detroit magazine published by the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The cover photo itself really shows how Detroiters are redefining American bicycling with customized, stylish bikes, matching attire, lights, and tunes. We couldn’t be happier seeing our friend Tracy (on the left) with her one-of-a-kind ride (BAM!). On her right are riders visiting from Ohio, not unlike the many other riders coming here from across the region to be a part of this movement.

And that’s not all. They also made this exciting video about Slow Roll that will get you ready for the summer of riding ahead of us.

Additional Reading

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FCA Expansion and the nearby greenways and trails

  • The FCA Expansion at Jefferson North will have major impacts on the surrounding greenways and trails.
  • Vacating St. Jean Street removes a critical segment of the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail. Fortunately both can be re-routed.
  • Improved greenways and trails, green space, green stormwater infrastructure, and public access to the riverfront should all be included as part of this expansion.

Below is our letter to city officials, the neighborhood advisory council, and FCA that details the impacts and proposed solutions to the FCA Expansion impacts.

The Detroit Greenways Coalition (DGC) supports the City’s effort to bring more manufacturing jobs to Detroit through the proposed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Mack Avenue Assembly Complex on the city’s east side.  Our organizations focus is to encourage and protect a network of greenways, green spaces for non-motorized transportation for community use. As this plan is further developed we are concerned about losing the existing non-motorized infrastructure around the proposed plant, including portions of the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail.

We would like to see that the development plans are aware of these existing features and that they be either protected or reconfigured to meet community needs.  We also see this project as an opportunity to replace the lost “green spaces” and add even more “green” to the area through additional trees and appropriate green storm water infrastructure (GSI).

Mitigating the loss of St. Jean

Currently both the Conner Creek Greenway (CCG) and Iron Belle Trail (IBT) use the existing bike lanes and bike sharrows on St. Jean from Kercheval to Warren. The CCG master plan used both St. Jean and Conner Street. It made St. Jean the primary route due to it having less truck traffic, fewer curb cuts, and more greenery compared with Conner St. The CCG has less flexibility in using other routes since it follows the historic route of the Conner Creek, must cross I-94 at Conner Avenue, and terminates at Maheras-Gentry Park.

Any changes to the CCG should be discussed with the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative (DECC), the CDC that developed and implemented this greenway.

The IBT joins the CCG at Kercheval and heads north with it beyond Eight Mile Road. We believe the IBT could be routed differently to avoid St. Jean. However, bringing the IBT to the plant would be a great opportunity to highlight Detroit’s automotive heritage.

DGC Recommendations

FCA and the City of Detroit should:

  1. Work with the DGC and DECC to move the CCG primary routing from St. Jean (and a portion of Shoemaker) to Conner. This would also require the city make improvements to existing protected bike lanes so that they are continuous on both sides of the E. Warren intersection. It would also require updates to existing CCG wayfinding.
  2. Improve the existing Conner bike lanes by replacing the posts with curbs and GSI infrastructure. Improve access management along the corridor to consolidate curb cuts.
  3. Work with the DGC to propose routing of the IBT preferably along a new shared-use path along the western boundary of the FCA footprint. This could be a good opportunity to highlight the Dodge Brothers history with bicycle design, racing, and manufacturing.
  4. Support ongoing efforts with the E. Jefferson streetscape project.
  5. Maintain and/or improve the existing buffered bike lanes on the Mack Avenue Bridge.
  6. Plan and implement a non-motorized route around the boundaries of the FCA footprint. Such a route would be approximately 5K (3.2 miles) when Mack is used and could be incorporated into future FCA wellness and community programing.
  7. Incorporate more trees and GSI into all of the above recommendations. An Alliance for the Great Lakes/DGC study has already identified potential green storm water infrastructure site along this corridor and should be used.
  8. Preserve green space and public access to the river at the location of the DTE Conner Creek Power Plant. The 2012 Visions of Greenways plan for the Greater Riverfront East District called for an extension of the RiverWalk adjacent to, if not through these parcels. The DTE-FCA land transfer should not jeopardize that vision for a publicly accessible non-motorized greenway along the riverfront.
  9. Coordinate all infrastructure efforts with Great Lakes Water Authority’s plans for a new water line from Waterworks Park to their Northeast Water Treatment Plant.
  10. Manage truck traffic through street design to ensure it remains on the designated truck routes and minimizes conflicts with bicyclists and pedestrians.
  11. Provide funding and support for educational materials letting motorists and bicyclists how to drive or ride safely around the neighboring streets.



Top Bike/Trail Projects for 2019

Detroit bike and trail progress is moving at a pace we never could have imagined when we started over a decade again. Back then we celebrated sharrows. Now Motown has leapfrogged other US cities to become a leader in building non-motorized infrastructure.

This doesn’t appear to be slowing down in 2019 and we’ve picked out a number of projects that illustrate this progress.

Detroit RiverWalk

It’s exciting every time a new piece of the RiverWalk puzzle is completed and a gap is closed. Soon the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will have more construction ongoing that ever before.

  • Atwater Beach near Jos Campau is under construction now and is expected to be opened in September. This is going to be a very unique and popular gathering place along the Riverfront with its bridge and sandy beach (but no water access.)
  • The groundbreaking for the Uniroyal site should occur this year. This is the major gap between Mt. Elliott Park, Gabriel Richard Park, and the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.
  • The city of Detroit expects the Jos Campau Greenway will be under construction this year. This will provide access from the RiverWalk to E. Vernor along Jos Campau Avenue and on the existing public pathway. A pathway between Larned and E. Jefferson will be added as well.
  • On the West Riverfront, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park received $50 million in October, $40 million of which is for construction. While work continues on the park, it is not scheduled to be open until Fall 2022.
  • The Riverfront Connector between the Joe Louis Arena and Centennial Park was recommended for a $3 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. Additional funding is required to build this trail segment along the river.
  • Planning continues on the May Creek Greenway between Centennial park and Roosevelt Park. This should get quite interesting with Ford Motor Company renovating the train station and now owning some of the property required for the trail. Their community benefits agreement includes verbal support for the greenway.
  • Last but not least, the city of Detroit said they would be repaving W. Jefferson between Centennial Park and Riverside Park. This would be a major park connector. Currently the road appears war torn. This could be the most underrated project on this list.