Your thoughts on a Detroit bicycle & greenway map

What would be helpful information to include on a Southwest Detroit greenway/bicycle map?

Schools, libraries, transit stops, bike shops, and parks are commonly shown on such maps.

We’ve reviewed maps from six different cities (Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Montreal, and St. Louis) and compiled a list of what each includes.

Each are unique. Austin’s map shows swimming pools. Chicago highlights open metal grate bridges. Montreal and Boston show ferry service. Austin and Cleveland show how steep the roads are.

All of the maps show off-road trails. Except for Austin, all of the maps show the types of bicycle facilities on the roads, e.g. bike lanes, bike routes, etc.

The Austin map is unique in that it doesn’t show the facilities. Instead it assigns a comfort level to the road based on the existing bicycle facilities.

The roads marked HIGHcomfort level have either bicycle accommodations or low traffic volumes and speeds. On MEDIUM sections, you may find bicycle accommodations on high-speed roads, or shared-lanes on roads with moderate speeds and volumes. The LOW comfort level designates important connections with traffic volumes and speeds, and no bicycle accommodations. VERY LOW roads are not recommended for bike travel, but may still be necessary for some trips.

Of course the provide a disclaimer as well.

Cleveland’s map employs a similar mechanism based on bicycle skill level: basic, intermediate, experienced. They also highlight roads “no suitable for bicyclist but there may be no alternative route.” Of course they define what each skill level means.

Best Approach?

What do you think makes a bicycle and greenway map most useful?

It would be easiest putting only the bicycle facilities on the map, but designating roads by comfort level or bicycle skill level adds more information and is in more layman terms. It’s more work to do the latter – more data collection from cyclists, more vetting of preferred routes.

However, with so many of the city of Detroit streets having high comfort but not bicycle accommodations, perhaps this would produce a better map.

What are your thoughts?

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5 Responses to “Your thoughts on a Detroit bicycle & greenway map”

  1. george Says:

    What if it were a map that indicated bikeability (“comfort”), but made a distinction between deliberate and inadvertent bikeability? For example, a road with bike lanes and not much traffic might get a fat green line (‘very bikeable, bike lanes present’), while a lower traffic, larger road would get a fat, dotted green line (‘very bikeable, but not due to any particular effort on anyone’s part’.)

    The point being partly to make the map and the research that went into it useful for directing future bikeability projects. But mostly the point being to communicate “comfort” quickly and visually (color) and then the details (what to expect, why is it comfortable or not, etc) in pattern or otherwise, so that you can skim the map for a quick trip as well as read it road for road.

    I would be interested in a measure of intersections as well as roads. I’m not sure how to measure that, much less convey it on a map. Detroit sometimes has a pretty arbitrary hierarchy of roads. Riding down MLK is fine; that trumbul/grand river/MLK intersection is a mess.

  2. Todd Scott Says:

    Thanks for the input. Yeah, I bet we could combine comfort and features as you suggest.

    That’s also a good comment on intersections. The one you mention as well as Randolph/Broadway/Gratiot are disasters. We could highlight those using comments as the Austin map does.

  3. Adam D. Says:

    I like George’s idea of including both comfort and features. You could use a value system or index to assign the comfort level without having to ask people’s opinions which would vary. Categories like speed limit, traffic volumes, and bike friendly features (bike lane, bike route, ect.) could be used to determine how comfortable a section of road is.

  4. Dave Says:

    For the purpose of cycling distances that are considerably longer than either a trip to the store or a modest 5 mile ride, whether commuting or for recreation/fitness, I would find something simple but rather important of use:

    -Public water sources

    A place to start would be to label public locations like parks. Having a place to sit and rest for a short while, maybe have a bite to eat, and replenish your water should not be underestimated.

    Note: Water bladders are useful for those longer rides, but they can be a bit of a hassle for me at least, and are of course extra weight to carry.

  5. Elizabeth Says:

    When I lived in Chicago, I vaguely remember really like whatever kind of “comfort/expertise” scale available on the bike map, though I don’t remember the measures ? some combination of # of lanes of car traffic, traffic speed, existence of a bike lane, etc. In Detroit, so many streets are so wide open and easily bike-able, it might be best to simply highlight the serious extremes: bad biking conditions (high-traffic/congested/skinnier streets, where they exist), and amazing biking conditions (shade, many lanes of traffic, easy intersections to cross, etc.). I like George’s idea of making a distinction between intentional/unintentional bike-ability as well – this definitely matters to a lot of people, and could be a useful tool for guiding/advising future facility development.

    In terms of features/amenities, I’m guessing that’s the kind of stuff that would be mostly relevant to new residents or visitors, so – mostly parks and general points of interest.

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