Our February Newsletter is now online!
Happy Earth Day!
Updates from around the Joe
The pandemic has halted many things, but not the construction of new trails, especially those that are part of the Joe Louis Greenway.
Phase 1 construction hasn’t officially broken ground, but the City of Detroit has been busy clearing the land in preparation for it. The City has also been transferring land parcels from the Detroit Land Bank Authority to the project to help create neighborhood connections and more.
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is continuing to make progress on the Southwest Greenway (formerly called the May Creek Greenway.) According to their Spring 2021 newsletter, “With the final easements in place and the design stage nearing completion, the Conservancy will break ground this summer.”
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has selected a design for the greenspace between the U.S. Port of Entry plaza and West Jefferson near Historic Fort Wayne. This segment will include a shared-use path. They also have this video that describes the project’s design in more detail.
Much discussion has been happening at the city and federal level about additional funding for these projects. There’s talk of a federal infrastructure bill, a renewal of the federal transportation bill, and more. Detroit Is It published this article about the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act that we’ve been supporting. We’re optimistic these discussions will eventually result in dollars.
There’s also been a number of news article about these projects:
- Joe Louis Greenway groundbreaking planned for mid-spring 2021, Detroit to release framework plan, Model D
- Joe Louis, Southwest Greenways to start construction soon, Urbanize Detroit
- Detroit greenway projects blaze trails for recreation, tourism, Detroit News ($)
Great Lakes Way
If the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has its way, southeast Michigan will soon have a regional trail of national significance called the Great Lakes Way…
The Community Foundation together with regional partners developed a vision map for the Great Lakes Way – an interconnected set of 156 miles of blueways or water trails and 160 miles of greenways stretching from southern Lake Huron through western Lake Erie. The vision is that all residents and visitors of southeast Michigan are connected to and benefit from world-class freshwater, wildlife, recreation, and heritage right in our backyard through the Great Lakes Way.
An emphasis will be placed on ensuring that all residents and visitors – people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and interests – feel welcomed and share in its benefits. This Great Lakes Way will improve close-to-home outdoor recreation, enhance regional competitive advantage, help attract and retain employees for businesses, and celebrate, protect and capitalize on our region’s defining natural resources.
SEMCOG has also created an interactive project map with additional details.
From our perspective, this is another tool for encouraging communities to build Complete Streets that don’t have a history of doing so. We also asked that the Great Lakes Way infrastructure works for people of all ages and abilities. We don’t want to see a community install some sharrows and think the job is done.
- Sign up now for the free Detroit Bike Challenge. We are helping the City of Detroit with this program that encourages more people to ride bikes in the city, but especially to work. The Challenge runs from May through October. You record your rides, earn points, and get the chance to win prizes. There are also monthly mini-challenges as well. Detroit riders will also be competing with other cities across the country. There is no cost to you, so register now and start earning points.
- Detroit Bike to Work Day is May 21st. We’ll have more information available soon.
- Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the MI Healthy Climate Plan to make the state carbon-neutral by 2050. We’re on the Transportation and Mobility Working Group and supporting policies that promote more trips by walking and biking — two great carbon neutral transportation options. There are two public listening sessions planned: April 22nd at 10:30am and May 5th at 6pm. Please consider joining one of those two sessions.
- House Bill 4014 that allows cities to post safer speed limits has now passed the House and is in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. We worked with Council member Scott Benson who got a City Council resolution in support of the bill.
- Have you seen the work the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is doing on the new RiverWalk section between Mt. Elliott Park and Gabriel Richard Park? From their newsletter: “Crews are currently on site at the Uniroyal property clearing land and placing rip rap along the water’s edge. This stone barrier will help to prevent erosion, and will serve as a base for the Riverwalk and a habitat for fish species.”
- Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge are making progress on a long-sought Woodward Avenue road diet. This project would add bike lanes, shorten pedestrian crosswalks, and improve safety on this segment of Woodward. While not in Detroit, we’ve been very supportive since the project touches the border at Eight Mile. Those bike lanes could eventually be extended into Detroit.
- Lastly, we’re taking over Model D’s social media for the week of April 26th. Watch out!
People making moves
There has been a large number of moves and retirements announced recently of people involved in greenways. We want to recognize them and offer our appreciation for their continued commitment to making Detroit a better, greener place to walk, roll, bike, and paddle.
- Mariam Noland, the longtime leader of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan announced her upcoming retirement. The Community Foundation has been the major catalyst for greenways in Detroit and across Southeast Michigan. It’s doubtful there would be a Dequindre Cut without the Foundation and Mariam’s leadership.
- Paul Yauk, the State Trails Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has retired. We worked with Paul for many years and he developed a great enthusiasm for what was happening in Detroit. We’ll never forget when major rain storm rolled in on us during our Iron Belle bike tour, a ride we would have cancelled if not for Paul’s optimism. “We can do this!”
- Jodee Raines, our former program officer at the Erb Family Foundation is now the COO at New Detroit, Inc. We’ll be working again with Melissa Damaschke who was named Vice President of Programs. Both Jodee and Melissa are strong supporters of our work to get green stormwater infrastructure routinely incorporated into all our greenway and streetscape projects.
- Julie Edwards, an MDOT Metro Region planner has retired. We’ve known Julie for many years as she has helped bring a multi-modal perspective to MDOT’s role in regional transportation. We’ve promised her a bike tour after the I-375 project is finished.
- Meagan Elliott, the City of Detroit’s Chief Parks Planner is now the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Development & Grants. Meagan has played a major role in the Joe Louis Greenway’s planning. She’s also helped incorporate greenways into the city’s park plans. In her new role, she’ll be leading city efforts to find funding to get these projects (and others) built. Congratulations, Meagan, and we’re glad your still involved.
- Council member Raquel Castañeda-López just announced she will not be pursuing a third term. Raquel has been one of our biggest supporters at Council. She was part of a study tour that visited European cities and learned how they were designed for better bicycling. She also has participated in Bike to Work Day on her very cool folding bike!
- This Detroit Running Group is Transforming Lives in the Community, Two Miles at a Time, Runner’s World
- High Gear: A preference for American-made products and simpler lifestyles has shifted Detroit Bikes’ fortunes to another level, dBusiness
- Great parks don’t just have rec space. They create jobs, Fast Company
Support the Detroit Greenways Coalition by making a donation today
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.)
There is a public hearing on Monday, May 8th at 10:06AM for new Detroit ordinances relating to the QLine. They mostly relate to streetcar operations but some affect bicycling on Woodward Avenue.
The initial ordinance language raised a couple primary concerns for Woodward bicyclists.
- Though not intended as such, 58-10-18 appeared to prohibit bicyclists from riding near or across streetcar tracks.
- Both 58-10-11 and 58-10-51 prohibit bicyclists riding “in a manner calculated” to delay the streetcar.
The ordinance specified these as misdemeanors with up to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
We met with MDOT, M1 Rail, and Council member Scott Benson’s office to review the language and address these concerns. Council member Benson was able to get positive changes made to the ordinance language before Monday’s hearing.
For the first concern, the intention was to prohibit people from making devices that could ride specifically on the rail. The language has been clarified to better match this intent.
As for the second concern, the wording was changed from the “calculating” to the more common legal term “intentionally”. While still open to interpretation from enforcement, it’s an improvement. Besides this may not end up being too much of a concern as the QLine is rather slow and makes numerous stops. It’s more likely to impede bicyclists than vise versa.
Although the ordinance is expected to pass City Council on the 9th, we still have questions of how enforceable these bicycle ordinances will be given the State’s Motor Vehicle Code (MVC). The MVC smartly tries to keep road regulations uniform across the state while requiring notice to users when they are different at the local level.
The MVC does allow local governments to regulate the operation of bicycles, but those regulations must be posted.
An ordinance or regulation … shall not be enforceable until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the highway or street or part of the highway or street affected, as may be most appropriate, and are sufficiently legible as to be seen by an ordinarily observant person.
There had not been any prior plans to post such signs.
Another question involves conflicts between this ordinance and the MVC. The latter gives bicyclists the right to ride on the right side of Woodward. The local ordinance (58-10-52) says bicyclists lose that right when the streetcar gives a signal. That seems to conflict with the MVC language on local regulations, but that’s unclear.
None of this is to say you shouldn’t get out of the way of a heavy streetcar for your own safety. However, given the meandering rail alignment, safely getting of the way of anything is a challenge enough without adding the fear of a misdemeanor.
Other tips: Always try to cross the rails at a 90-degree angle and remember that wet rails are extra slippery.
Under many circumstances, Cass Avenue and John R will be the safer bike routes. As a result of these Woodward bicycle safety issues, MDOT is funding improvements on Cass Avenue. Protected bike lanes from Lafayette to W. Grand Boulevard will be built this summer after the road is repaved.
Above all, if you ride Woodward, be careful! We’ve already heard of far too many bicycle crashes due to the rails and that was before streetcars were added to the mix.
We don’t want to add your name to the list.