Posts Tagged ‘Ann Arbor’

Gov Candidate Snyder attacks bike/ped project

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

The Michigan gubernatorial debate may not have helped too many with their voting decision this November, but it did bring out one surprise. That surprise was brought to our attention by fellow transportation nerd Transport Michigan.

Near the end of the debate, candidate Rick Snyder ripped MDOT for adding a pedestrian bridge while reconstructing the freeway interchange — arguably making this part of Geddes Road a Complete Street.

FINLEY: We all know Michigan has the worst roads in the nation. Mr. Snyder, would you support an increase in the gasoline tax to fix them?

SNYDER: I don’t support an increase in the gas tax, because we need to get efficient first. I mean, we need to look at value for money budgeting. Because if you go around our state our roads are terrible, but let’s tighten our belts, let’s be efficient and see where we can deploy these dollars to fix the roads that really need to be fixed. A classic illustration I used from the Ann Arbor area, if you went to the Michigan/Michigan State game you had to suffer over the Stadium Street bridge potentially. Two lanes are permanently closed on that bridge. I think it’s got a rating of like 2 out of 10. At the same, I live near Geddes Road and US 23. They just built a bike and pedestrian bridge across US 23 at the cost of millions of dollars. What they didn’t bother to tell us is a quarter mile south that there’s a bridge over the Huron River and there’s a bike and pedestrian path there. So let’s get efficient about where we’re deploying these dollars. There’s a much better way to do things. And that’s what we should focus on first.

Transport Michigan offers a great rebuttal.

Snyder is surely correct that inefficiencies exist in state transportation policy. But why target a much-needed bike/pedestrian bridge, when the state is spending far more colossal sums to widen roads across the state? We know from experience that expanding road capacity will only bring more congestion. Highway widening isn’t just wasteful: it ultimately worsens the problem it’s intended to fix. You’d think a candidate who favors walkable cities, and opposes the crippling spread of urban sprawl, would see the need to link Washtenaw County’s two biggest towns with bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and see the foolishness of so many other more expensive roadway projects.

We agree. If Synder has  provided a classic example of anything, it’s of someone giving an easy but impossible solution.

As Transportation Michigan aptly pointed out, the federal funding for this project could not be spent on the Stadium Boulevard bridge.

And according to Synder’s debate comments, if there’s another crossing within a quarter-mile, it’s a waste of transportation money. Is that correct?

If so, he didn’t bother to tell us there are two alternative routes for the Stadium Boulevard bridge within a quarter mile.

By his own logic, why is the Stadium bridge required at all?

What about Bernero?

We should add that candidate Virg Bernero’s response to the same question hinted that he’s done more of his homework and has a little better grip on Michigan’s transportation funding situation. He references MDOT’s inability to fully match federal funding and he understands at least some of the issues surrounding falling fuel tax revenues.

He is also the mayor of Lansing, a Bicycle Friendly Community, and his web site actually includes the word “bike” albeit once.

Virg will continue to support green transportation in our communities by making cities walkable and bikeable and increasing public transportation options.

While there was a reference to “walkable” and an undefined “green infrastructure”, we couldn’t find “bike” or it’s common permutations on the Synder web site.

Ann Arbor eliminates bike registration

Monday, March 8th, 2010

In a unanimous vote, the Ann Arbor City Council eliminated their bike registration ordinance according to the Ann Arbor Chronicle. According to the Chronicle, the current registration ordinance wasn’t working.

At a February meeting of the council — in the context of discussions on a possible revision to the registration program, as well as a revision to all the city’s ordinances on bicycling — Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) had reported that the registration program had in recent years, not resulted in the return of stolen bicycles to their owners. The return of stolen bicycles to their owners is an often-cited benefit of the program.

Specifically, Hohnke had said that from September of 2007 to the present, 39 stolen bikes had been recovered and returned to their owners — but in none of those cases had the bicycle registration program been instrumental. The return of those bicycles had been the result of regular police work.

The city staff is apparently looking at a new and improved bike registration ordinance, though it’s unclear why they would if the police have not needed it to return stolen bicycles.

Old time bike laws and bloomers

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The Ann Arbor Chronicle recently published this interesting article on local bicycling history, but especially on bike law and bloomers.

The 1876 Ann Arbor city charter contains no mention of bicycles — it wouldn’t be until two years later that A. A. Pope manufactured the first bicycles in the U.S. The invention spread across the nation, threw city fathers into consternation as they scrambled for their city charters, and incited Ann Arbor’s “Bloomer War.”

The Chronicle also notes that Ann Arbor’s recent debate on banning sidewalk bicycling is not new.

In Michigan, state law does not prohibit bicycling on sidewalks though it does allow cities to prohibit it. Some have prohibited sidewalk riding citywide (e.g. Royal Oak) while others have limited the ban to their business district (e.g. Ferndale.) Often such bans provide exceptions for children.

State law also requires these city specific regulations to be adequately signed, otherwise they’re not enforceable.

The intention of these laws is not always clear, though it seems reducing pedestrian-bicyclist conflict is often cited. Are they also intended to promote safer cycling by reducing vehicle-bicycle collisions? Studies have shown that riding on sidewalks is significantly more dangerous than roads.

A recent review of police crash reports in Royal Oak and Troy found that nearly all crashes occurred on sidewalks or in crosswalks.

It should be noted that many Metro Detroit outer-ring suburbs ignore national AASHTO guidelines and best practices by designating sidewalks and sidepaths (locally known as “safety paths”) as bicycle routes. In these cases it could be argued that vehicle mobility — getting bicyclists off the road — is the fundamental justification, not safety.

Nine Detroit Projects to Watch in 2010

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Here are nine bike- or trail-related Detroit projects scheduled for design, construction and/or completion in 2010.

9. Bus racks on DDOT buses

SMART buses already have racks and DDOT says their fleet should have them by the spring — or so we’ve been told.

8. Milliken State Park

Okay, technically this was opened in December, but given the weather, not many may know about this RiverWalk connection. One key is it brings the RiverWalk trail much closer to the Dequindre Cut. The DNR has already received some funding to continue the pathway around the large grassy mound.

7. Dequindre Cut Trail Extension

Construction is underway on this trail extension which connects the existing Dequindre Cut to Atwater and Milliken State Park. Construction should be completed by the fall.

6. Bagley Street Pedestrian Bridge

This critical non-motorized bridge over I-75 reconnects Bagley Street in Mexicantown. While the bridge appears complete, the ramps were not the last we’d seen them. We expect the construction to be completed early in 2010.

5. Anthony Wayne Drive/Third Avenue

Anthony Wayne Drive through the Wayne State Campus is being reconfigured to add more on-street parking and bike lanes.

4. Second Avenue

New Center Council is looking at reconfiguring Second Avenue between Grand Boulevard and the Wayne State Campus. It’s expected that the new configuration will become two-way with either bike lanes or shared-lanes.

3. Conner Creek Greenway

Two miles of this greenway are already completed near the city airport. More segments should be constructed this summer, including bike lanes along St. Jean between Mack and Jeffererson. Clairpointe from Jefferson to Maheras Gentry Park will also get bike lanes. A third segment along the Mt. Olivet cemetery and continuing north to Eight Mile is becoming ready to go as well.

2. Midtown Loop (Phase I)

Construction of the first mile of this new greenway should begin this spring along Kirby and John R. Phase II will complete the rectangular route along Canfield and Cass.

1. Corktown/Mexicantown Greenlink

Construction is expected to begin this year. The end product will be 16 miles of bikes routes and bike lanes throughout the Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods.

The city of Detroit currently has about 7 miles of bike lanes, nearly all of which are on Belle Isle. That number should break 40 miles by the end of the year.

There are two other MDOT road projects that should have bike lanes but MDOT is providing flimsey excuses to not do so. Advocates are still pushing MDOT on those and if MDOT does the right thing, Detroit would surpass Ann Arbor’s bike lane mileage.

Updates from Portland, New York and Detroit

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Portland: Attracting or Converting

There was an interesting article in that discusses Portland, the apparently self-annointed Bike City USA.

One question: “Is [Portland] just filling a niche and attracting bicyclists from elsewhere, instead of changing the habits of residents?

According to Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder, “We’re not draining the world of people who like to ride bikes. It’s facilities that make people switch over, not philosophy.’’

But perhaps the best quotes are from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in response to George Will.

Even if they could be replicated, however, the city’s policies have also made it a lightning rod for criticism from conservatives, who have derided the administration’s embrace of the city. Newsweek columnist George Will referred to Portland as “the P word’’ in a column in the spring and accused officials of pursuing “behavior modification’’ to coerce people out of cars.

In an interview with the Globe, LaHood said that such critics were “living in the past’’ and that continuing to build more highways was also coercive. “We’ve created a system that requires people to get in their cars if they want to get anywhere,’’ he said.

Cyclists and pedestrians have lived through over 80 years of coercion. It took a while, but the pendulum is swinging back a little.

Portland: How much for a used bike?

One side effect of more Portlanders taking up cycling is their used bike prices have increased.

Thankfully we haven’t heard of a similar price rise in Detroit. Such an increase could keep many Detroiters from jumping into the sport.

New York: Biking on the rise

WCBS TV has quoted  City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan saying biking is New York City’s “fastest growing mode of transportation.”

And article continues with:

The number of cyclists has jumped by 80 percent in the past decade — to 185,000 among the more than 8 million city denizens.

City officials say they’ve worked to make the city more biker friendly. They note the hundreds of miles of marked bike paths created in recent years, safety awareness campaigns and handouts of free helmets to unprotected cyclists.

Over that time, bicycle accidents have fallen more than 40 percent.

Unfortunately we do not know the number of cyclists on the road. The only information we have is from the Census Bureau. They keep track of the percent of people who bike to work. The percentage is low enough to not be very useful. In addition it does not include those cycling for transportation outside of work or for recreation. Children and seniors are also not included in the Census numbers.

Given the economy and proposed bus cuts in Detroit, the fastest growing mode of transportion in the city might be biking or walking.

Detroit is Lonely

Brian Kennedy is a former Detroiter now living in Chicago. And he’s a cyclist.

He recently visited Detroit and wrote this interesting ride report.

There are some updates to his story:

  • Comerica Park has or will soon install two bike racks near the stadium
  • Secondhand sources say that DDOT buses will have three-bike racks by Spring 2010. There had been some debate between the two- and three-bike racks, which are from different manufacturers.
  • Through my job with MTGA, I have been in contact with Brian and the Active Transportation Alliance about getting roll-on service for Amtrak trains running between Chicago, Ann Arbor, and Detroit. (“Roll-on” means you can roll your bike onto the train without having to disassemble or box it.) With the great cycling environment in all three cities, this seems like it could become very popular.

Brian also plans on returning for the Tour-de-Troit next month — and he plans on riding the Dequindre Cut and visiting the Honey Bee Super Mercado, too.