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Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter Policy

News from the Trail – May 2022

Link to our May 2022 newsletter

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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

Categories
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – October 2020

Bike the Vote

Come join us for a group bike ride on Sunday afternoon, October 25th to encourage greater voter participation. We’d love to have a healthy turnout to show that bicyclists are engaged in this year’s election. The weather doesn’t look too bad for late October, either. Masks and social distancing are required!

In addition to supporting this ride, MoGo has a “Roll to the Polls” program that gives riders a free one hour ride to access their polling location or drop off their absentee ballots.  Lisa Nuszkowski, founder and executive director of MoGo says, “Transportation should never be a barrier to voting, and MoGo is proud to join with others in the shared mobility industry to offer free rides on Election Day.”

We continue to endorse Proposal 1 along with more than 30 conservation and environmental groups, including the Michigan Environmental Council, the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. The proposal does not change the Trust Fund’s priorities of acquiring and preserving land, which is one reason it’s supported by twelve of the largest land conservancies in Michigan. It also is supported by all of Michigan’s living governors.


Pedestrian Safety Month

We strongly believe that building Complete Streets is the most effective approach for reducing pedestrian (and bicyclist) fatalities. We’ve seen it first hand with improvements to Detroit’s public lighting. Reducing speeding motorists is also a critical issue that can be addressed through Complete Streets, whether it’s more speed humps, lower speed limits, and even bike lanes. 

While the City of Detroit is making new, major investments in speed humps, the speed limit issue is moving more slowly in the state capitol. We discuss these issues and more in our new article, Every Month is Pedestrian Safety Month.


Streets for People

The City of Detroit just launched their Streets for People planning campaign. From the project web page:

The City of Detroit is developing Streets for People, a transportation plan with a singular focus — to make it easier and safer for all Detroiters to move around the city. The plan seeks to knit together diverse neighborhoods, prioritize safety of the most vulnerable road users, and identify clear implementation and design strategies for roadways improvement. Most importantly, it will be rooted in an inclusive planning process that gives a voice to the City’s residents who are most implicated by the transportation system. The plan will be completed over the next two years by the Department of Public Works in partnership with MDOT, SEMCOG, city departments, and partner agencies.

The web page also let’s you sign up for updates and provide some initial thoughts. The plan will be completed in 12 months according to the city’s press release.

Streets for People also has this great introductory video which really frames the pedestrian and bicyclist safety issue to be solved.


Joe Louis Greenway

A second Joe Louis Greenway Design public meeting will be held on October 29th from 6pm to 8pm via Zoom. There is more information about this meeting and how to join it on the city’s Joe Louis Greenway webpage.

If you missed the first public meeting, the presentation is now online and well worth looking over. 

Phase 1 construction continues moving forward. City Council has been asked to approve an MDOT grant request to build a portion of the greenway near Grand River Avenue and Oakman Boulevard. The city has also sold bonds to help with construction as well. They are “aiming to finish Phase I in Fiscal Year 2022.” 


Other Updates

  • Detroit is also updating its Parks and Recreation Plan. They are collecting some initial public input with this online survey. There’s also this interesting article on how COVID could affect this planning. 
  • We’ve been weighing on a number of developments around the city, including the project at the former state fairgrounds involving Amazon. Currently, biking and walking about this area is far from ideal. We submitted comments on how to improve these connections within the development area and with the surrounding neighborhoods, including Ferndale. We also requested bike parking and, if possible, MoGo stations. Our comments seemed to have been addressed by the city and developer.
  • We’ve also been involved in a new proposed warehouse near Conner and Gratiot at the former Cadillac Stamping Plant. Our primary concern was the project’s plan to allow truck traffic to cross the Conner Creek Greenway/Iron Belle Trail at Conner Playfield. It wouldn’t be safe and we expected the trucks would block the greenway as they waited to turn onto Conner. Council member Scott Benson worked with the city and developer to find an alternative truck route that doesn’t cross the greenway.
  • Last month we raised concerns about the city removing unprotected bike lanes during repaving projects, namely the bike lanes on E. Grand Boulevard. DPW followed up and said this was not a city policy. There are proposed plans for adding protected bike lanes on W. Grand Boulevard from Cass to Rosa Parks. We’ll be encouraging the city to continue this design east to replace what was removed.
  • Council President Brenda Jones’ Community Engagement Ordinance passed. It requires many city projects that impact the neighborhoods to have community outreach.The installation of bike lanes was one type of project named in the ordinance. After the E. Grand bike lanes were removed, we proposed that the installation or removal of bike lanes should require community outreach. Council member Benson motioned to add this language to the ordinance and it passed unanamously.
  • The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office launched an online bike tour of Detroit civil rights sites. We were part of the team that helped determine the 17-mile route between the sites. 
  • Lastly, Free Bikes 4 Kids really needs volunteers to help clean and refurbish used kids bicycles to giveaway this year. Please signup for a shift or two and help them get these bikes ready.

Additional Reading

Categories
Complete Streets

Council member Benson hosts bike tours for cohorts

We are excited to be a part of this effort to bring greater awareness of the value in building bike lanes, traffic calming, and green stormwater infrastructure in Detroit.

[Update: Fox 2 Detroit coverage of the initial tour]

Press Release from the Office of Councilmember Scott Benson

Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson hosts a series of bike rides in August to promote the City’s bicycle lane safety  

Several elected officials plan to ride along 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson is teaming up with Councilmember Roy McCalister Jr. to host a series of bike rides in August. The goal is to demonstrate to council members, other elected officials, and the city’s, and region’s transportation decision makers how bicycle lanes keep Detroiters safe. 

The Councilmen have invited their Detroit council colleagues, Wayne County and Police Commissioners, and local judges to join the ride.  

While Detroit is on track to become one of the nation’s best cities for bicyclists with more than 240 miles of lanes and trails crisscrossing the city, including paths on Belle Isle and the Dequindre Cut, the bike lanes have sparked controversy and created confusion for bicyclists and motorists. Some residents and their representatives simply do not support them. 

Benson, an avid bicyclist, wants to help people understand how bicycle lanes promote Detroiters’ health, provide a safe, inexpensive transportation mode, especially for the one third of Detroiters who do not have access to vehicles, prevent injuries, and save lives.  

The average Detroit cyclist likely is either age 12 or 45, and studies show that Detroit has the highest bicycle fatality rate in Michigan, higher than the cities of Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Warren combined. In recent years, data shows that most accidents involved children ages 11-13 and adults ages 44-46, and an estimated 88% of victims are African American. 

“This bike ride is an opportunity to allow elected officials and transportation decision makers to experience bike lanes, traffic calming installations and streetscape design from the perspective of a bicyclist,” Councilmember Scott Benson said.  

“It’s important that we see non-motorized transit as a viable option for all of our residents and people should see what the region is doing to improve the quality of life for our residents. All Detroiters, especially those without cars, deserve access to safe streets.” 

The first bike ride will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, August 7 and will begin at the MoGo Detroit bicycle station on Livernois at East Outer Drive. The slow-roll ride will cross 7 Mile Road, head north of 9 Mile Road in Ferndale, and ends with lunch at Kuzzo’s Chicken & Waffles, 19345 Livernois, Detroit. Face masks will be provided. 

MoGo is offering complimentary bike rentals, but participants are welcome to ride their own bicycles. Other rides in the series will run from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, August 21, 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, August 25, with a rain date scheduled for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, August 28. 

This ride is being supported by MOGO, Tour de Troit, SEMCOG, the City of Ferndale, City of Pleasant Ridge, Olympia Development, Detroit Geenways Coalition and Alliance for the Great Lakes. 

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Scott Benson represents Detroit’s Third District on the Detroit City Council. 

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.

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Uncategorized

Measuring Detroit’s “Bike Friendliness”

  • The current “bike friendly” city measurements and rankings are largely based on heavily flawed and inaccurate bike commuting data.
  • Bike commuting data does not represent actual biking levels in cities like Detroit where a majority of workers travel to the suburbs for their jobs.
  • Relying on bike commuting data ignores the majority of other bicycle trips made within cities.
  • Other Detroit data sources can be a more accurate measure of bicycle friendliness.

We’ve been working with the Detroit Office of Sustainability on how bicycling, walking, micro-mobility, bike lanes and greenways fit within their planning efforts. They want to measure Detroit’s progress in these areas. Initially they’d suggesting using ratings from national bicycling organizations, but those are highly inaccurate and rate Detroit poorly. Those ratings clearly do not reflect the reality of Detroit’s diverse bicycle culture that includes the largest weekly bike ride, the most bike clubs, and the second largest protected bike lane network in the U.S. This article explains why these ratings don’t work and provides better data options for measuring progress.

Measuring Detroit’s “Bike Friendliness”

There is no U.S. standard for measuring the bike friendliness of the city. One could expect the number of people bicycling in a city to be a good reflection of its bike friendliness. However, such data does not exist.

Despite this, many national organizations receive grant and private funding to rate U.S. city bicycle friendliness. They rely on heavily flawed data that impacts Detroit’s measure to a much greater extent than other cities.