Cycling for Cities: A Detroit Perspective

Earlier this month, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) started a new Cities for Cycling project with a kick off event in Washington DC, which we were able to attend.

But first, what is NACTO? While the more popular American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is for states, NACTO is the equivalent for large U.S. cities. NACTO has 14 member cities, including Detroit.

Their mission is to “encourage the exchange of transportation ideas, insights, and practices among large central cities while fostering a cooperative approach to key national transportation issues.”

The Cities for Cycling project mission is to “catalog, promote and implement the world’s best bicycle transportation practices in American municipalities.”

Bicycling is good for cities. Providing safe, comfortable, convenient bicycling facilities is a cost-effective way for American municipalities to improve mobility, livability and public health while reducing traffic congestion and CO2 emissions.

Cities for Cycling focuses on implementing world-class bicycle transportation systems through design innovation and the sharing of best practices. American municipalities are increasingly pioneering new designs and adapting international best practices to local conditions. To assist this local-level leadership, the Cities for Cycling project works to share and promote state-of-the-art practices that ensure safe traffic conditions for all modes of travel.

Why Cities for Cycling?

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner and NACTO president Janette Sadik-Khan also gave another reason for this project.

Other groups, including AASHTO and FHWA are moving too slowly with regards to acknowledging the latest best practices — especially from those coming from European cities — even though the FHWA recently updated the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and the new AASHTO bicycle design guidelines are due next summer.

Khan noted that so much of what she’s done in New York City for peds and cyclists still must be done “experimentally” since the standards are not keeping up. Those standards don’t include colored bike lanes, bike signaling, bike boulevard markings, advance stops, and bike boxes.

But the project extends beyond standards. The intention is to improve cumbersome state and federal policies that are often from the 1950s. Khan said these are especially burdensome for bike lanes and asked why she needs an environmental review to paint a line.

How could this affect Detroit?

Places like New York City becoming more bike friendly given their growth, increased vehicles, and limited real estate between the curbs. Many of the newest bike infrastructure is designed to carve out some of that real estate for bicycling.

But most of Detroit doesn’t share those issues. We have an abundance of unused road space. Funding and implementation seem to be the bigger hurdles. Some of the Cities for Cycling initiatives may increase federal and reduce costs, which would help.

And what might also help is simply having Detroit as a member of a larger urban cycling initiative.

A Bigger Choir

After watching Khan’s presentation and reading of her NYC accomplishments, her leadership role in fostering non-motorized transportation is clear. During the past two years, NYC has built 200 miles of bike lanes which has resulted in a 38% increase in bicycling.

I asked Khan about bringing her presentation to Detroit, which she was interested in doing. Others have said she has a great presentation that covers the economic development reasons for non-motorized infrastructure. This would be a great presentation to the Detroit business community, the Mayor’s office, and City Council.

We don’t need more preaching to the choir. We need a bigger choir.

Wearing my MTGA Detroit Greenways Coordinator hat, I’m working with city to see if we could make this happen along with support from Detroit business leaders and foundations.

Stay tuned.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Cycling for Cities: A Detroit Perspective”

  1. Cities for Cycling: More Coverage | Says:

    […] Recent Comments Biking in the Motor City | on Detroit Tiger’s Going, Going, GREENDownsizing Detroit | on Reshaping Detroit: Villages and GreenwaysIt’s winter bike commuting, not the Olympics | on Can we make biking look normal?Bicycle Parking in Royal Oak | on Push for Better Biking in Royal Oak ContinuesDetroit RiverWalk goes 3D in Google Earth | on Vote for Detroit Greenways! « Cycling for Cities: A Detroit Perspective […]

Leave a Reply