Woodward Light Rail plan: a good compromise for cyclists

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Last week the city of Detroit announced a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Woodward Light Rail project.

And while we have not yet read the FEIS, the city’s announcement does appear they did consider our bicycling safety concerns.

Those concerns mainly involved the alignment of the rails, center versus curb. The FEIS proposes a hybrid of these alignments, but mostly center-running — something that was preferred in 91% of the public comments.

The curb-running alignment is understandable on Woodward south of Grand Circus and there is not enough road right-of-way for center running rail. Besides, at this point, cyclists have many options even including the overly wide sidewalks if they want to stay out of the roadway. It’s really too bad the sidewalk planters hadn’t been designed differently in order to allow raised cycletracks along this section.

The FEIS route is also curbside along Larned and Congress. Since both are one-way, bicyclists (and eventual bike lanes per the city’s non-motorized plan) could be located on the opposite side of the street.

Washington Boulevard from Larned to Michigan will have curbside tracks, but we can probably live with that given the low traffic volumes. Washington is also supposed to receive bike lanes according to the non-motorized plan, but the rails may remove this possibility.

Why more center-running versus curb-running?

The city’s announcement provides the reasoning behind this design and alignment. Here are the reasons for pedestrians and bicyclists:

8. Provide a Safe Pedestrian Environment

a. Jaywalking is a concern under both options.
b. Stations associated with the center running option provide pedestrian refuges in center of Woodward.
c. Pedestrians would cross at marked crosswalks every 1/8th to 1/4th mile with the center running option.

9. Provide Safest Alternative for Bicyclists

a. Under both options, bicyclists will travel in the lane closest to curb.
b. The side running option creates a safety concern due to bicyclists traveling in lanes with uneven surfaces, inconsistent materials (steel & concrete) and gaps that could catch wheels due to the embedded track.

The Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Crain’s Business Detroit have also covered this recent news.

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One Response to “Woodward Light Rail plan: a good compromise for cyclists”

  1. Joel Batterman Says:

    Good news indeed, especially considering that bicyclists got Woodward paved in the first place!

    I was pleased that the City felt bicycle safety merited a mention in the reasoning, although it is too bad that bike lanes aren’t incorporated as they were along Euclid in Cleveland (admittedly, a smaller road). I wonder if Washington could accommodate lanes along the inner side of the boulevard?

    Thanks for all your work on this, Todd!

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