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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 – August 2018

Open Streets Rouge Park is tomorrow

The original Open Streets Rouge Park event was postponed due to rain and is now happening tomorrow, Saturday August 11th from 1pm to 5pm. We’ll be located along the middle-west portion of the loop along with our University of Detroit Mercy MCD Capstone partner team. This team is working on community engagement and trail connections for the proposed Rouge River Greenway. They are focusing on Eliza Howell Park and surround neighborhoods. Stop by to learn more.

The city of Detroit Planning and Development Department will also located with us and can answer questions about their work.

This event doesn’t replace the original Open Streets Detroit: Southwest which returns for its third year on Sunday, October 7th from noon to 5pm.

Joe Louis Greenway update

The big news? The City of Detroit has now officially acquired the abandoned Conrail property for the Joe Louis Greenway. This roughly 8-mile section was one of the main gaps in the 26-mile trail loop and something the Coalition has been working on for many years. We initiated converstations with the railroad, did the early due diligence work, and wrote the two main grants that covered the $4.5 million acquisition cost. Naturally, we’re thrilled with this news.

This acquisition releases the $2 million Ralph C. Wilson Foundation funding for Framework Planning (with the community) and the creation of construction documents. Construction funding is not yet in hand, but the city did re-apply for a federal BUILD (formerly called TIGER) grant. We helped the city get letters of support for this grant, including a joint letter representing 32 bike clubs in Detroit.

Amtrak gets Roll-on bicycle service

Nine years ago, we initiated advocacy efforts along with the Active Transportation Alliance (in Chicago) to get roll on bicycle access for Amtrak in Michigan. It took a while but the Wolverine line that runs between Pontiac, Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Chicago now offers that service. Space is limited so reservations are required. Amtrak will be getting new passenger cars in the near future with more bike carrying capacity.

Photo credit: MDOT Photo Services 2018

East Jefferson protected bike lanes

The new protected bike lanes on E. Jefferson are complete from Rivard to Lakewood. The older lanes from Lakewood to Alter are currently being improved based on community feedback.  It appears these are the longest protected bike lanes of their type in the U.S.

It had been suggested that no one was using the bike lanes, so we used our mobile bike counters to measure the use. Near Conner Avenue, a daily average of 154 bicyclists were counted. Further west near Beaufait, the daily average was 373 bicyclists. These counts do not include those still riding on the sidewalk. They were also taken shortly after the construction was completed.

The city has now installed protected bike lanes on Conner Avenue from E. Jefferson to Warren. Next they will add them on Warren heading east.

We are working with some Detroit clubs to host a group ride on them in September. We’ll let you know when we get a date.

But wait, there’s more news…

  • We released our report on how Detroit’s improved streetlighting appears to have drastically reduced pedestrian fatalities, saving more than a dozen lives annually.
  • The Detroit Sustainability Community Series is this month. There are four workshops planned where one can help shape the city’s Sustainability Action Agenda.
  • Wayne State University is hiring  new Transportation Ambassador (TA) for the 2018-19 school year. The TA position is designed to help familiarize students and employees with local mobility options.
  • The Friends of Chandler Park are having a Meet and Greet on August 16th from 6pm to 8pm at 4401 Conner. Attendees can learn about what’s happening at the park and how to get involved. It also just got a whole lot easier to ride you bike to this event!
Categories
Greenways Newsletter Safety & Education

News from the Trail – July 2018

Joe Louis Greenway Fundraiser Ride

Photo by Daniel Mears, The Detroit NewsThanks to everyone who participated and supported our very successful inaugural fundraiser bike ride for the Joe Louis Greenway. We had a great turnout to match the perfect weather. Media coverage before the ride, including this fun Fox 2 Detroit video, helped raise awareness of the future greenway.

Extra thanks to the Oloman Cafe, Wheelhouse Detroit, the Bikes & Murd3r club, and other volunteers — but especially Paul Vial.

Prior to the event, the city of Hamtramck received a $410K SEMCOG grant to construct bike lanes along Joseph Campau — a key part of the Joe Louis Greenway. We also partnered with the city of Highland Park on their $336K grant to build bike lanes on Hamilton Avenue which will help connect with the greenway.

Detroit Public Lighting Improvements Reducing Pedestrian Fatalities

In 2015, Detroit had the highest pedestrian fatality rate among major US cities. While still much too high, the fatality rate has decreased during the past couple years while the rest of Michigan has increased. There were 19 fewer pedestrian fatalities in 2017 compared with 2015. Based on our analysis, this is due to the major improvements in Detroit’s public street lighting.

This shows how investments in infrastructure can have dramatic affects on the health and safety of Detroiters. We expect this trend to continue as additional Complete Streets treatments, such as road diets, bike lanes and other pedestrian infrastructure improvements reduce motor vehicle speeding and pedestrian exposure. Read more at DetroitGreenways.org

Open Streets at Rouge Park

Rouge Park will host its first Open Streets event this Saturday from 1pm to 5pm. This event wills turn three miles of road in Detroit’s Rouge Park into a safe, open and car-free zone for local families and community members to run, bike, skate, shop and play together along Spinoza, Outer, and Rouge Park Drives. We’ll be there along with the University of Detroit Mercy Capstone project team focusing on the planned Rouge River Greenway. More information is available in this Event Flyer and Event Map.

Amazon Smile donates to Detroit Greenways Coalition

When shopping through Amazon Smile program, a percentage of your purchase goes towards the Coalition. It’s an easy way to give and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.