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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

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
Uncategorized

Bike to Work Day Recap

[metaslider id=1386]

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2018 Detroit Bike to Work Day event sponsored by Henry Ford LiveWell.

It was a record turnout — and the weather wasn’t too bad at all!

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan addressed the crowd at Spirit Plaza this year and noted:

We want to have choices in the city, different ways to get around, different ways to get to work: to be able to walk, to be able to bike, to be able to take a bus, to be able to drive.

The Mayor mentioned this and you can see it in the photos. There were many city staff riding bikes to the event and of course Council member Scott Benson. As you might imagine, there  is no better way for staff to understand the bicyclist needs and perspectives than first hand.

Council member Benson also introduced a Resolution declaring May 18th, 2018 as Bike to Work Day and the month of May as Bicycle Awareness Month. The resolution was passed by City Council.

Thanks to our other event sponsors include the office of Detroit Council member Scott BensonAECOM,  American Cycle and FitnessDetroit Future CityDowntown Detroit PartnershipGiffels-WebsterHNTBOHM AdvisorsMoGoSEMCOGTour de TroitWayne State University, and Wheelhouse Detroit.

 

Categories
Newsletter Policy

New Michigan laws on electric bikes

Terry Walker's Rickshaw Detroit Pedicab has this electric bikeElectric bikes (aka eBikes) are becoming more popular. Until this week, state law was unclear on their classification and use in Michigan. (See MTGA information below)

That’s all changed. Governor Snyder signed legislation this week to define and regulate electric bike use on roads and trails. There’s now a page on the Coalition web site that has more information on these changes.

How does this legislation affect Detroit much?

Not too much. Only the lower-powered pedal assist bikes are now allowed on linear paved trails like the Dequindre Cut, SW Greenlink, Conner Creek Greenway, etc. They likely are already on these trails. eBike sales may increase and get more people riding and riding longer distances. This would lead to greater demand for biking facilities, especially for non-stop travel. Longer term bike parking areas should incorporate charging stations. It’s unlikely this will affect trail maintenance demands.

We are having some discussions with city park staff and Council member Scott Benson regarding city ordinances, which are unclear about any bike riding on park paths. That’s something that could be clarified by updating old ordiances. Also, the paved walking paths in city parks are not linear (like a rail-trail) so this state legislation does not seem to apply to them.

All of these electric bikes are allowed on Detroit roads, bike lanes, and sidewalks.

Will this increase user conflicts?

Allowing these bike on sidewalks is a concern for bicycle-pedestrian interactions. The best solution is to provide safe on-road bike facilities that get most bicyclists off the sidewalks. Without providing this better alternative, other cities (e.g. Royal Oak) have found bicyclists largely ignore any sidewalk restrictions.

We’ll certainly learn more as this technology is adopted. I am hesitant to being overly concerned now because I still remember the fear mongering some bicyclists did when Segways were introduced — and that didn’t pan out.

Todd


Background and Analysis from MTGA

Many observers have noted that this legislation is needed because e-bikes are currently not classified under Michigan law. They are, however, being sold and used. Legislation is thought to be needed by many to bring clarity to the law for retailers and owners, members of the insurance industry and owners and operators of trails.

Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) was part of a workgroup that assisted in drafting the bill language together with the League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB), the Michigan Mountain Bike Association (MMBA), the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), PEAC, People for Bikes (an industry group), Bosch and other interest groups. The drafting process started with draft language from California and suggestions from People for Bikes.

The workgroup held 12 meetings over a period of four months. The draft language was then reviewed with trail owners and managers, including Michigan Department of Transportation, (MDOT), the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC), the Michigan Townships Association (MTA), the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and the Michigan Parks and Recreation (m-Parks), through several meetings.

Electric bicycles are popular alternatives to traditional bicycles in many states and are also particularly popular in areas outside the United States. There are important management issues with electric bicycles and legitimate concerns have been expressed with allowing electric bicycles on natural surface trails, thus providing for local control is an important component of these bills.

Categories
Policy Safety & Education

Restrictive youth bicycle ordinances repealed

Photo from Council member Castaneda-Lopez's Facebook photo album
Photo from Council member Castaneda-Lopez’s Facebook photo album

Moments ago, Detroit City Council unanimously repealed three city ordinances that restricted youth bicycling within the city. In brief, these ordinances prohibited bicyclists under age 12 from riding in the street even if they were with a parent or guardian. Bicyclists between ages 12 and 17 needed to carry a permission note with them. The penalty for violating either ordinance was the Detroit Police Department could ask parents that they withhold bicycling privileges for up to six months.

We sought to remove these as we outlined in a prior post.

Yesterday we testified at a public hearing that these ordinances were archaic, unique to Detroit, and not best practices. They also did not seem to be enforced, which made youth safety education more challenging. Should we tell youth to ignore them?

Also at the public hearing was Heather Nugen, Executive Director for Back Alley Bikes. Nugen brought her wealth of experience in youth cycling to the table. Council member Scott Benson recognized Back Alley Bikes for all the great work they do in the city.

Next up were two third-graders who road their bikes to school and knew how to safely ride in the road. They clearly had the most impact. Thanks to BikeVON for bringing these kids to the hearing.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, Council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez and Benson posed with them. Member Castaneda-Lopez wrote on Facebook:

I love when youth come to speak at City Council- it can be intimidating even for adults. Today these two 9 and 10yr olds, respectively, came to support repealing archaic restrictions around youth riding bicycles. They ride their bikes to school. I hope that someday soon everyone in the city feels safe & comfortable riding bikes and using this as a viable means of transportation. #detroitcycles #nonmotorizedtransportation#youthempowered #district6

We share that hope!

Also, we do want to thank People for Bikes in helping spread the word on this with an Action Alert.

Categories
Greenways

New Detroit Hockey Arena Development

Bike improvement opportunities around Detroit hockey arena district
The blue lines represent potential bike route improvements

Detroit City Council will vote on a couple critical rezoning requests this morning for the newly planned hockey arena district (aka Catalyst Development.) One concern raised by Council as well as the Detroit Greenways Coalition is how this development will affect the new bike lanes being built on Cass Avenue this year.

Olympia Development, the organization planning the new arena, was asked by Council member (and Coalition board member) Scott Benson to meet with us to coordinate efforts. We did that.

One shared goal is connectivity. For the Coalition, that’s from a walking and biking perspective. The district area is not very walkable today, not due to the sidewalk conditions so much as the land use. Vacant fields don’t make for good walkability and the new district development will undoubtedly change that. It was great that they were already familiar with Complete Streets.

For biking, our first concern is preserving the Cass Avenue bike lanes being constructed this summer from the RiverWalk to W. Grand Boulevard. Here are our official comments from a letter we wrote to Olympia Development and shared with City Council and others:

A major bicycling connector is Cass Avenue. The bike lanes to be installed this year are a critical north-south route from the Detroit River to New Center. MDOT and the FTA have identified and invested in this route as an alternative to bicycling on Woodward due to the safety issues related to M1 Rail. . We are also actively working to extend them to the Detroit Zoo.

Closing or taking vehicle travel lanes on Cass during events has little affect on bicyclists so long as the bike lanes remain open and safe. We believe the ingress/egress concerns at the parking garages can be addressed through good design and traffic control personnel. Colored pavement can highlight any potential vehicle/bike conflict areas. Designs should make the motorist feel they are crossing a bike lane rather than make a bicyclist feel they are crossing a driveway. This can encourage proper right-of-way yielding.

When Cass Avenue is redesigned, we propose changing the buffered bike lanes to protected bike lanes. This is a low-cost upgrade that studies show increase bicycle ridership.

We also discussed adding protected bike lanes on Grand River Avenue from Downtown to W. Grand Boulevard. This would also involve improving the unsafe and inadequate intersections at Trumbull/MLK and at Temple.

With regards to the arena itself, we did note our appreciation for their planned bike parking at each of the main entrances. The location and number of racks looks great.

It’s still early to say what the final outcome will be, but Olympia Development wants to maintain a regular dialog with us. We’re looking forward to that and ensuring that Detroit is a better place for walking, biking — and playing hockey.

Historic note: James Norris had been a member of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association whose logo was a winged bicycle wheel owing to its cycling heritage. (They also played hockey and won the first ever Stanley Cup.) When Norris established the Detroit Red Wings, he borrowed the logo design and changed the bike wheel to a car wheel.