Complete Streets

The Community decides on Complete Streets

Photo from Alexis Wiley’s Twitter feed

Mayor Mike Duggan led a community meeting to discuss four streetscape options for W. McNichols just west of Livernois. The first was to rebuild what already existed, a two-lane road with on-street parking on both sides. The second and third options added landscaping and bumpouts. The fourth converted one side of the on-street parking into a two-way bicycle lane.

After a couple hours of community input and discussion, the group voted. It came down to options 3 and 4. While business owners preferred the additional parking in option 3, the city had created an off street parking lot for 88 vehicles — and could add more.

The vote was 39 to 12 in favor of adding the bike lanes. Project construction will begin later this year.

Approaches to Advocacy

Some bicycle and Complete Streets advocates take more adversarial approach (e.g. the War on Cars.). Some bring an intellectual elitism that is willing to belittle local decision making in communities they know little about. We don’t partner with these groups.

We have confidence that Complete Streets can help solve existing community issues like speeding, pedestrian safety, blight removal, access to parks, economic development, etc. The key is to bring all the information to a pragmatic discussion and let the community decide. They may not always support bike lanes and other Complete Streets designs — and advocates may have to live with that.

Certainly there are voices opposing Complete Street designs. While there are valid concerns, most aren’t well support by data. We’ve heard bike lanes emphatically called “the most dangerous thing in Detroit.” We’ve heard bike lanes blamed for causing one persons car crash. (They didn’t. We pulled the police report.) We heard our electronic bike counters on E. Jefferson were wrong because some only saw about three bicyclists in a month. We’ve heard that bike lanes being built for white suburbanites despite the very visible, growing Detroit #bikelife movement.

What have we not heard many say publicly (at least not directly)? That they want to continue driving faster than the speed limit and be able to pass traffic in the curb lane. Bike lanes help curb those unsafe practices. It’s one of the major benefits to bike lanes. They reduce speeding and reduce crashes among everyone: motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Bike lanes are not just for bicyclists’ benefit. They especially improve pedestrian safety in a city with one of the nation’s highest pedestrian fatality rates. They’re like speed humps for major roads.

There will nearly always be opposition any time changes are proposed. There was opposition to the Dequindre Cut before it was built. Once it was a success, the change was embraced, which helped open the door for future greenways in Detroit.

Successful Complete Streets can do the same.

Additional Reading

4 replies on “The Community decides on Complete Streets”

I don’t see any on-street parking for businesses or residents, strange and shortsighted but typical detroit.

The McNichols rendering does show a lane of on-street parking. It’s between the bike lanes on the left and the two travel lanes on the right. It depicts a white vehicle parked across from block-long off-street parking lots.

Todd, I don’t fully understand the logic of the bike lane that’s next to the motor vehicle lane going in the opposite direction. Unless it’s felt that a bike lane next to the curb should go in the normal traffic direction? Just seems that cars are going to be facing the white lights/reflectors of bikes, rather than red. My fear is that this could look like a bike/car coming head on in to traffic. Thanks. Tom

The design is trying to keep it consistent that one travels on the right side of a lane. But as you note, with two-way cycletracks, one bike lane will be moving opposite of the vehicle lane. For McNichols, they’re not adjacent. There will be 10-feet between the bike lane and the vehicle travel lane. That should help with the head-on light issue you mentioned.

Perhaps the bigger concern with the two-way design is vehicles turning through the bike lane and not properly yielding. Motorists aren’t good at looking for contra-flow traffic. The thought is that this can be improved through better design (e.g. slowing vehicles) and increased driver awareness. The advantage of a two-way is it requires less road width or it allows you to put more space into the buffer area. It can also simplify and improve maintenance. They were chosem on Grand River because there wasn’t enough space for two one-way separated bike lanes (and they put them on the side of the road that had fewer intersections.) They appears to be the case with McNichols as well. Perhaps they could have tried a “Cass” design but DDOT has concerns about the room for buses.

If you’re interested, NACTO has a guide on the use which goes into more details about their advantages and issues. NACTO has been involved in helping Detroit work through these design challenges.

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