Our February Newsletter is now online!
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.
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.
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.
- 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.)
Many streetscape improvement projects will be under construction this year as part of Detroit’s $80 million Commercial Corridor Program. Per the City, “These streetscape improvements support the City’s neighborhood planning efforts to improve safety and quality of life for Detroit residents. Streetscape improvements might include a variety of amenities including expanded sidewalks, bicycle lanes, improved lighting, plantings, neighborhood branding, and more.” (More on Crain’s Detroit)
Prior emails have encouraged everyone to attend community meetings for Grand River. Those are ongoing with additional information on the city website. As a result of previous meetings and feedback, the preferred design is for a vastly improved pedestrian, bike, and transit experience along this state trunkline while retaining onstreet parking (see below). The city recognizes the need for motorist and bicyclist education with a 2-way cycletrack. Construction is scheduled to begin this year.
There is a community meeting on Tuesday, March 19th from 6-8pm for the Kercheval Avenue Street Design between E. Grand Boulevard and Parker Street. The meeting is at the Solanus Casey Center, 1780 Mt. Elliott Street. (flyer)
Also this month is the East Jefferson Corridor Improvements Community Meeting. It will be held Thursday, March 21st from 6-7:30pm at the Hope Community Church, 14456 E. Jefferson. (flyer)
This Crain’s Detroit Business article covers many of the other exciting projects.
FCA Community Benefits Agreement
The City of Detroit is moving quickly to try landing a new Fiat Chrysler plant near the the existing E. Jefferson plant. There are already bike lanes on all four sides of that facility, including the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail along the St. Jean. Mayor Mike Duggan has proposed vacating St. Jean to gain the needed acreage for the plant. An initial community benefits meeting is this Wednesday, March 13th from 6:30-8pm at the UAW, 2600 Conner Avenue. We’ll be there to ensure the bike lanes and trails remain and propose that they get improved.
Bike Lane Ordinance
Council President Brenda Jones has asked the Law Department to draft an ordinance that requires all new bike lanes to be approved by City Council. We strongly oppose this. As we said recently in public comment before Council, bike lanes are a safety design that improves mobility for bicyclists, pedestrians, scooter users, and those in motorized mobility devices. Current city ordinance gives the Department of Public Works the ability to design safe roads based on national standards. City Council has approved the non-motorized plan that calls for these bike lanes. As one might imagine, there is a wide variety of opinions among city council members as this video from a recent Public Health & Safety Committee meeting shows.
We will keep everyone updated on this proposal and how you can share your thoughts with City Council.
- April 20th (to be confirmed) – Detroit Greenways Coalition Fundraiser at the Lexus Velodrome
- May 7th at 7:30am to 12pm – MOTION Coalition Annual Meeting (free registration)
- May 17th – Bike to Work Day in Detroit (registration to open soon)
Additional Reading & Listening
- Time to Fix Michigan’s CMAQ Problem
Michigan is on the verge of having to send back nearly $86 million in federal transportation funding that could be spent on bicycle and trail projects.
- Our thoughts: Milliken State Park Master Planning
- Detroit ByCycle – Episode 3
We had a chance to talk about Detroit bicycling with the startup Detroit ByCycle.
- 4 projects to bring Detroit RiverWalk closer to its full vision, Detroit Free Press
- With new mobility options, Detroit goes multimodal, Driven
- Want a toll-free trip into Detroit? Ride your bike over the border, London Free Press
- MoGo Neighborhood Ambassador applications are due this Friday, March 15th
- The Detroit Health Department is hiring temporary Safe Routes Ambassadors “to work on safety education with school children and community groups with an emphasis on the recent and upcoming Complete Streets work and Safe Routes to School efforts.”