More talk of Complete Streets around Metro Detroit

It’s easy getting caught up in the excitement of Complete Street resolutions, but from what we’ve seen so far, it doesn’t mean much — at least not yet.

What is the likelihood that so many Metro Detroit communities have suddenly discovered their poor road designs and are committed to fixing them? What are the odds that communities which have virtually ignored bicycles as a transportation mode are now ready to embrace them?

There’s just not that much “power” in the standard Complete Streets PowerPoint presentation which has been making its way around local councils and commissions.

And from some examples we’ve seen, communities are jumping on the Complete Streets bandwagon because others are doing it and there’s a promise of more MDOT transportation funding. Who is going to hold them accountable if they don’t follow through with actually building Complete Streets?

That said, the below Complete Street information is a mixed bag. It might result in better conditions for bicycle transportation or it might not. The truth is in the road construction (and maintenance.)

Complete Streets in Birmingham

The city of Birmingham passed a Complete Streets resolution. They have members of their staff and planning commission with significant experience in non-motorized transportation and planning. For example, the planning commission has Scott Clein, an engineer with Giffels-Webster who developed non-motorized plans for Corktown/Mexicantown, New Center, and the entire city of Detroit.

We have a good of level confidence that they’ll be able to make Birmingham more bike friendly in the near future.

Complete Streets in Northville

The city of Northville also passed a Complete Streets resolution but we’re much less confident they’re heading in the best direction by having their staff develop a non-motorized plan. There are only a handful of planning firms in Michigan qualified to produced a quality plan for biking and walking. To think that city staff could pull it off sounds either overly optimistic or they are underestimating the work required. The latter is why most cities hire consultants do develop their recreation plans and master plans.

It’s also been our experience that city staff do not engage the community in the planning process as well as consultants.

And these are some reasons why the city of Royal Oak hired the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA) to create their plan. The ATA has developed over 20 non-motorized plans including Chicago’s. Planners such as ATA and others have the experience. Is Northville going to invest in training their planner(s) on how develop a solid plan?

Plan update in Royal Oak

Speaking of Royal Oak, the Observer and Eccentric recently published this article which gives an update on the plan.

The consultant, Active Transportation Alliance, submitted a rough draft of the plan to the planning department in May, according to Ethan Spotts, marketing and communications director for the Chicago nonprofit company.

Regan looks forward to having the topic as an agenda item for a future Planning Commission meeting. He said roads with bike lanes, like the re-designed Hilton Road, south of I-696 in Ferndale, are sorely needed in Royal Oak. He said encouraging more bike and pedestrian traffic would also free up more parking spaces for vehicles in downtown parking garages, especially with the recent opening of Emagine Theatre and Star Lanes. He said pedestrian friendly designs also means more federal funding for road projects.

We have not seen the plan, but are looking forward to it.

Incomplete Streets in Lathrup Village?

Only a couple pages from a draft Complete Streets plan in Lathrup Village?by Birchler Arroyo appear to be on-line. They show a couple street cross sections, neither of which are Complete Streets. They clearly lack bicycle accommodations.

Their example “principal arterial – village” cross section is a 156 foot (76 feet between the curbs) public right-of-way with speeds of 35 MPH or less yet no bike lanes. The plan also says that these streets are “generally used for vehicular travel; automobile parking, and sometimes bicycling as appropriate.” This sounds like the same streets that exist today.

We brought this up to Birchler Arroyo Associates who is developing this plan. They invited us to see the entire plan, but they never responded when we asked them how. We have not seen this plan on their web site nor Lathrup Village’s.

North Carolina Complete Streets

And while on the topic of Complete Streets, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation has this excellent design guideline framework. They have interesting information on how Complete Streets are designed for various contexts, e.g. suburban, urban, etc.

We’d appreciate seeing something similar produced by Michigan’s Complete Streets Advisory Committee.

It might be helpful in ensuring that Complete Street designs in Michigan are truly Complete Streets.

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2 Responses to “More talk of Complete Streets around Metro Detroit”

  1. » Why Carmageddon (and the Wolfpack Victory) Matters Says:

    […] proliferation of “Pop-Up Cafes” in former parking spots in San Francisco and New York. explores the slippery definition of Complete Streets in Southeast Michigan. And the Transport […]

  2. Why Carmageddon (and the Wolfpack Victory) Matters Says:

    […] proliferation of “Pop-Up Cafes” in former parking spots in San Francisco and New York. explores the slippery definition of Complete Streets in Southeast Michigan. And the Transport […]

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