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News from the Trail – July 2021

Link to our July 2021 Newsletter

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Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – May 2021

Joe Louis Greenway Groundbreaking

The City of Detroit recently held a groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Joe Louis Greenway — a key milestone showing this trail vision is becoming a reality. This historic event took place on a former Conrail railroad property that was highlighted over 18 years ago in a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy study funded by the Greenways Initiative.

It was great to see so many elected officials and community members at the event and voicing their support, as well as Joe Louis’ family. For those who don’t already know, Joe Louis was much more than a world champion boxer. He was a leader in civil rights and an American hero — themes that will undoubtedly be told along the future greenway.

In conjunction with the groundbreaking, the City put the greenway framework plan online, which truly is an amazing vision for the greenway.

So, now that this nearly 3-mile segment is under construction, when will the next six phases get completed? The answer comes largely down to funding. There is not enough funding in hand for all the future phases, but that could change. 

The City of Detroit is receiving $826 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. Mayor Mike Duggan has initially proposed that $50 million of that go towards parks, paths, and the Joe Louis Greenway. (He’s also proposed another $20 million for streetscapes and $30 million for recreation centers.) 

Another option might be the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act that was mentioned in last month’s newsletter. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works just included this act within the next transportation bill. If it remains there, this could be a new federal grant opportunity for major trails like the Joe Louis Greenway. 

And, federal earmarks are back…

While Mayor Duggan stuck with a 10-year completion timelines, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said let’s try getting it done in five.


RiverWalk Groundbreaking

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy also broke ground on a highly anticipated segment of the East RiverWalk along the UniRoyal Site. This segment runs between the Mt. EIlliott and Gabriel Richard Parks, and would connect with the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle. 

It’s expected to be open by the fall of 2022.

If you missed the live coverage of the groundbreaking, there is a 3-minute video on the project. 

“The Michigan Department of Transportation is responsible for building and maintaining roads, bridges and freeways, and we have also assisted with building trail systems throughout the state as well,” said Robert A. Davis, senior advisor for MDOT [and DGC board member.]  “It’s exciting to work with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy to help transform the riverfront into a trail system that pedestrians can enjoy.  It’s a legacy project for us.”

Detroit Riverfront Conservancy press release


Bike to “Work” Day

Detroit Bike to Work Day looked much different this year given the pandemic and fewer people commuting to work and school. This year we encouraged everyone to ride to participating local coffee shops and bakeries. Nearly 200 people registered for the event and were able to pick up free custom Detroit Bike Challenge socks at those local businesses.

The weather was great and it seemed like a welcomed change from the previous event format. 

Thanks to everyone that participated, especially our local businesses. 

Our event was part of the Detroit Bike Challenge, which you can still register for. It’s free and you can record your rides to win prizes. This is a City of Detroit program that’s encouraging more people to ride bikes in the city, but especially to work. The Challenge runs from May through October. 

DGC Board Member Gloria Mitchell at the Motor CIty Java House in Old Redford

Streets for People

We are encouraging all Detroiters to participate in the Streets for People project. In short, 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.”

You can participate by adding your transportation needs and challenges to this Streets for People map which includes a brief introductory survey. 

While this map focuses on transportation, we encourage residents to provide feedback on transportation issues related to the environment and public health, such as the need for:

  • More green space and tree canopies along our roads and trails, which can also reduce urban heat island effects
  • Increased green stormwater infrastructure that can reduce residential and street flooding
  • Greater connection between residential communities, recreation, green space, commercial areas, jobs, transit, and more
  • Reduced impacts from truck traffic on residents’ health and mobility options

Events for Saturday May 29th

  • GMOB/GLOW Coupe Day – While there are activities planned for the entire weekend (see the flyer below), you don’t want to miss the big gathering on Saturday afternoon at Cass Park. It’s one of the most amazing displays of custom bikes and Detroit bike culture. We’ll have a table there and will be a judge in the bike custom competitions.
  • Occupy the Corner Bike Giveaway – Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield is hosting this event at the Coleman Young Playfield, Chene at Bradby from 1pm to 5pm. Supplies are limited!
  • Bailey Park Moves — This bike safety event is from 2pm to 5pm at 2617 Joseph Campau. There will be a bike raffle, helmet fitting, and more. Please register in advance. It’s free.
GMOB/GLOW Coupe Day 2021

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Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – March 2021

Joe Louis Greenway

The Joe Louis Greenway is a collection of projects, which includes some rails-to-trails conversions, on-road separated bike lanes, and park pathways. Two of those parks, Romanowski and Patton are in Southwest Detroit. The City of Detroit is applying for a couple $300,000 state grants to revitalize these parks and build a portion of the greenway.

The City is encouraging the public to attend a virtual meeting on this for Thursday, March 18th at 6pm via Zoom or phone, 312-626-6799 (Meeting ID 86979810611#)

While this funding definitely helps, the entire greenway project needs significantly more. One new funding source could be the proposed Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act.

The Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act… provides $2.5 billion in direct funding over five years to help communities and regions across the country to build connected active transportation systems that ensure people can get where they want to go safely by foot, bike or wheelchair—all while reducing carbon emissions and creating new jobs.

We’ve been working with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, City of Detroit, and others to encourage Congress to include this Act in the next federal transportation bill. It could be an ideal and critical grant funding source for completing the Joe Louis Greenway.


Vehicle Speeds

Detroit City Council is in the midst of their budget hearings. During the Department of Public Works (DPW) session, most of Council’s questions involved speed humps and streetscapes/bike lanes.

Speed humps remain top priority for residents as DPW reported 15,000 residents requests for them. The DPW budget contains funding to install signficantly more speed cushions and asphalt humps as shown on this city map. However, these traffic calming features are limited to residential streets.

More major streets require other traffic calming such as road diets, bike lanes, streetscapes, and other features of Complete Streets+.

This is especially important during the pandemic as road traffic has decreased and motorist speeds have increased. Recent data shows Detroit’s vehicle speeds in urban business districts have soared by 60%, more than the other U.S. cities. 

Higher vehicle speeds lead to higher traffic fatality rates. The National Safety Council estimates found a 24% spike in roadway death rates for 2020, which is the highest increase in 96 years!

What does this have to do with our work? Bicyclists and pedestrians are our most vulnerable road users and vehicle speed is the major factor in determining injury severity in crashes. Over the past decade, a third of all road fatalities in Detroit were pedestrians and bicyclists.

The bottom line is we are tired of reading about Detroiters getting killed while crossing a street or riding a bike. We need to reduce speeding on all Detroit roads.

Putting the brakes on higher speed limits

Posted speed limits do affect the overall speed of motorists. As we’ve mentioned last month, Michigan House Bill 4014 would allow road agencies to set speed limits on factors (e.g. adjacent land uses, pedestrian activity) other than just the 85th fastest motorist on the road. This is especially important with the increased vehicle speeds since those could lead to new, higher speed limits. The good news is the bill passed out of the Transportation committee and is awaiting a vote on the House floor. We’ll let you know if we need your help keeping this bill moving forward.


Other Updates

  • The next public meeting for the city’s Streets for People Plan is Wednesday, March 31st, 7-8pm. You can join by Google Meet or by phone +1 650 466 0753. The city is also asking people to place their transportation concerns (e.g. speeding, bad sidewalks, transit issues, unsafe biking conditions) on this map. That input will help inform the Streets for People plan. 
  • Further north, the City of Ferndale has released their draft mobility plan. They are also partnering with Pleasant Ridge and MDOT to make Woodward a Complete Street with improved sidewalks and separated cycle tracks. This would be a major safety improvement and also setting the stage for continued this Woodward biking infrastructure south of Eight Mile Road. 
  • Congratulations to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and the Downtown Detroit Partnership! The RiverWalk was named best in the U.S. while Campus Martius was named the county’s fifth best public space by USA Today.
  • Great news! Midtown Detroit’s DLectricity event will be back in September and it will include another Light Bike Parade. (Photo credit: Midtown Detroit Inc.)

Additional Reading

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Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – November 2020

Joe Louis Greenway

The City of Detroit held its second public design meeting for Phase 1 contruction of the Joe Louis Greenway. If you missed it, the city’s presentation is online. This second meeting was similar to the first but did provide additional updates and details — including this timeline.

There is also an online survey which is open through Monday, November 16th.

While Phase 1 contruction is on a former railroad corridor, other parts of the greenway will be on-road. This include Jos Campau. A mile two-way cycletrack was just completed between McNichols and Carpenter (the border with Hamtramck). This segment connects to the railroad corridor near McNichols and will eventually get extended south through Hamtramck.

A similar but shorter on-road design was recently built on Bagley in Corktown. 

The Joe Louis Greenway uses segments of the RiverWalk as well and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy continues to make progress. The RiverWalk has been extended slightly west of the former Joe Louis Arena site. While the boardwalk in front of the Riverfront Towers is nearly complete, it won’t be opened until the connection to West Riverfront/Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park is completed. That connection will be under construction in the spring as will be the nearby May Creek Greenway.  You can read more about these updates, including the new UniRoyal Promenade in the Conservancy’s Fall 2020 newsletter.


MOTION Coalition Mini-Summit

We are members of many advisory committees and task forces, but one that we’ve got much more involved in over the past few years has been the MOTION Coalition at Authority Health. This Coalition focuses on improving public policy to improve health outcomes. Our role has been to promote improvements to the built environment (e.g. Complete Streets, greenways) to increase physical activity and better health.

The Coalition has an annual summit, which is this Tuesday, November 17th starting at 10AM. It’s online and free.

We are moderating the 11:35AM Physical Activity Panel. The panelist include Meagan Elliott PhD, Chief Parks Planner for the City of Detroit, Erika Bocknek, PhD – Wayne State University Family Resilience Lab, and Damon Porter, Detroit Public Schools Community District. We’ll be talking about Detroit parks, greenways, and schools during COVID-19.

Email Dr. Carolyn Custer if you are interested in attending.


Other Updates

  • We co-chair the Detroit City Council Green Task Force committee on Green Transportation and Mobility. We host online monthly meetings to discuss projects and policy related green transportation. Email us if you want to be invited to these meetings. The next one is Tuesday, November 17th at 4pm.
  • State Ballot Proposal 1 passed overwhelmingly earlier this month. Among other things, this removes the budget cap on park/trail development grants and ensures future state gas and mining revenues go towards land conservation and park development.
  • The Ride the Vote event with Council member Scott Benson was a big success. Despite the chilly gray weather, many people came out — and some cast their votes during the ride, too. We had elected officials ride with us, free MoGo bikes, and numerous bike clubs in support. We were on the local news as well. Thanks to all who participated and helped make this event happen. We look forward to doing it again for the next elections, though perhaps during the primaries when the weather is better.
  • We highly recommend that everyone sign up to receive updates for the city’s Streets for People transportation planning effort. That plan’s focus is to “make it easier and safer for all Detroiters to move around the city.” If you want to see changes in the streets near you, this is a great opportunity to begin that discussion.
  • We also recommend taking this quick survey for the city’s new parks and recreation plan. One interesting change with this new plan is it includes greenways!
  • Ford is hosting an online event on Tuesday, November 17th at 6PM to share their vision for Michigan Central, work they’re doing in the community, and their thoughts on what future of mobility might look like. We wouldn’t be surprised if they talked about their connection to the nearby May Creek Greenway. Event Registration

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