Posts Tagged ‘bike lanes’

Birmingham to consider road diet and bike lanes

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

As we’ve mentioned before, Birmingham is really starting to get more involved in improving biking and walking opportunities.

One of there latest efforts is to improve Maple Road between Eton and Woodward. This is a main gateway to their downtown and the road isn’t too pretty. It’s mostly a four lane road that allows on-street parking except between 7am and 9am and 4pm and 6pm.

The road carries significant vehicle traffic mostly during rush hour and road that very few would feel comfortable biking on.

We’ve heard that many of the houses along this stretch are rentals, which is probably an reflection on the unwelcoming street.

A proposed alternative is a road diet, taking it to three lanes with bike lanes. The current lane design would be maintained at the intersections to facilitate more traffic flow. Traffic models determined that 30% of the vehicle traffic would use other roads if this were to happen and travel delays would not be that much worse. While motorists might wait more at the Adams crossing, the Woodward crossing would operate with less delay.

If you are interested in supporting this, please attend this upcoming public meeting on February 13th. The details are below the fold.

Adding bike lanes to this section of Maple would connect the popular Eton Road cycling route to downtown Birmingham. It would also connect the transit center and Troy’s shopping district to downtown Birmingham as well.

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Bike lanes: Safety and Southwest Detroit

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Here’s a quick thought for Friday.

It’s not uncommon to hear those who don’t ride bicycles or those who are just starting out say they don’t feel comfortable in bike lanes. One often heard reason? It’s just paint separating you from the cars.

Ask them if they’ve drive on a two-way road? You know those yellow lines in the center? That’s paint. (Thank you, Edward Hines.)

Cars crossing the centerline and hitting others is common crash type, especially with drunk or distracted drivers.

Bicyclists getting hit from behind is not very common. Most car-bike crashes occur at intersections, and usually in crosswalks.

Perceptions create reality

One interesting feature of roads with bike lanes is cyclists perceive them to be safer, so more cyclists ride. When more cyclists ride, everyone is safer due to the safety in numbers hypothesis.

When you have more people on bikes and you have roads with bike markings and signs, drivers’ expectation of seeing cyclists increases — and they adapt their driving habits. Safety increases.

Benefits to others

There is a Detroit resident in Southwest Detroit campaigning against bike lanes there. Her issues have gone so far as City Council where yesterday it was on the agenda for the Neighborhood and Community Services Standing Committee.

In response, the City Planning Commission reviewed the bike lane issues and wrote a report for the committee. The report noted that bike lanes “help develop more travel choices in Detroit, enhance travel safety, and improve the city’s quality of life.”

We agree.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are many benefit to bike lanes and most have nothing to do with bicycling. This paper from the Oregon DOT documents them.

Yes, even motorists benefit — something that’s always worth mentioning when making your bike lane sales pitch in the Motor City.

Besides, it’s just paint.

 

Light rail, BRT and bicycles in Detroit

Monday, January 9th, 2012

It’s challenging keeping abreast of the recent announcements for the off-again, on-again light rail and now bus rapid transit (BRT) projects in Detroit.

The latest proposal is to build the M1-Rail’s 3-mile light rail on Woodward with BRT on Michigan, Woodward, and Gratiot.

Woodward Avenue

According M-Live, the M1-Rail group has “90 days to develop a plan to incorporate their 3.4 mile light rail line into the BRT system. Just how that will work on a practical level is something to be decided in the planning process, according to Bing spokesman Stephen Serkaian.”

Are we back to the curb-side versus center-running debate? Not sure.

Both the light rail and BRTs will all but certainly share a dedicated right-of-way and some stations. As wide as Woodward is, MDOT’s not going to dedicate four lanes to transit.

And in order for both projects to move most quickly while using federal dollars, they’ll likely use the DDOT light rail study which favored center running for most of the route. That coincides with a statement from the Mayor’s office that “Any light-rail studies to date can be applied to advance the approval and construction of rapid bus.”

Following the DDOT study would be fairly ideal for cyclists who want to continue riding safely on Woodward.

However, M-Live adds, “experts say the possibility of BRT ending in New Center is a real one.” That would make it easier to put light rail on the curbs, which would be?a terrible scenario for cyclists.

Michigan and Gration Avenues

For these roads, there are definitely more questions than answers at this point.

How will the BRT affect:

  • the new Corktown bike lanes?
  • the planned sharrows on Gratiot in Detroit?
  • the Woodward Avenue non-motorized planning north of Eight Mile?

We may not have answers to these for some time, especially since Woodward will likely be the first dip in the BRT waters.

We do know that BRT will be on state trunk lines and MDOT is committed to building Complete Streets.

Google Bicycle Layer: Detroit additions

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Google Maps has a bicycle layer which shows three main types of bicycle facilities: off-road pathways (dark green), roads with bike lanes (lighter green), and roads that are preferred bicycle routes (dotted green).

As of this today, the city of Detroit has been updated.

  • Milbank Greenway added
  • Conner Creek Greenway added (including St. Jean and Clairpointe bike lanes)
  • Southwest Detroit Greenlink added (bike lanes only)
  • Atwater bike lanes added
  • “bike lanes” on Joy Road removed
  • “bike lanes” on Fort Street removed
  • RiverWalk sections added

There are still more corrections to make.

  • W. Outer Drive and W. Chicago are shown with bike lanes when they only have shoulders.
  • There are still some sections of sidewalk shown as “preferred” bicycle routes.
  • The Southwest Detroit Greenlink bike routes should be labelled as “preferred.”

We’ll get to these changes unless someone beats us to it.

We also removed the sidewalk along Lakeshore through the Pointes as a preferred bicycle path/trail.

What are the benefits?

For one, the map can help cyclists map their route. It’s interactive and up to date, though some may still prefer a printed bike map, especially since not everyone has a smart phone or direct access to the Internet.

Having an accurate bicycle layer also affects how Google generates bike route directions. Google will try to route cyclists on to bike lanes and preferred routes when it makes sense.

On the other hand, having an inaccurate bicycle layer can make bike directions less valuable. Google has directed us out of our way to use a sidewalk in Troy that has been labelled as a preferred bicycle route.

How to update the bicycle layer

The bicycle layer can be updated using the Google Mapmaker utility. There is a review and approval process for changes so it’s not as instant as Wikipedia.

Mapmaker gives you the ability to change roads attributes, sidewalks, places, and more. It appears bike racks are not being added to this map.

Guide to Mapmaker bicycle facilities

The Google guidelines on how to appropriately label bicycle facilities aren’t always that clear, but here are some key points.

  • Paved shoulders are not bike lanes. Google’s best practices says, “Roads without explicit paint markings or signage indicating a bicycle lane should not be given the ‘On-street bicycle lane attribute'”. Since paved shoulders of adequate width can improve bicycling, they can be labeled as “preferred.”
  • Sidewalks and sidepaths are not trails/paths. Sidewalks and sidepaths should be documented as part of the road attributes. Google’s best practices says they should only be mapped as separate trails/paths when they’re “separated by a river, railway, or other impassable physical barrier.” Yes, many parts of Oakland County has improperly labelled bicycle features.
  • Sidewalks are rarely preferred bicycle routes. If the above guideline is followed, sidewalks along roads can’t be. It’s less clear for sidewalks that are not along a road. In some cities like Royal Oak, bicycling on a sidewalk is prohibited. Sidewalks aren’t usually not cleared of snow by cities unlike streets, so their value in the winter can be variable. We’ve removed a preferred sidewalk segment in Royal Oak that had stairs.

Feds fail to fund Detroit’s inspired TIGER project

Friday, December 16th, 2011

[Disclaimer: I provided assistance to the city of Detroit on this TIGER grant application.]

It wasn’t a good week in Detroit for transportation news.

First came the light rail decision, and now this. The U.S. DOT did not select Detroit’s TIGER III grant.

There were 828 application and only 46 were selected. The odds weren’t good but Detroit’s $20 million grant request was first-class.

It was called Link Detroit, a Multi-model enhancement plan and a copy of it is available on the city’s web site.

The listed project benefits were:

  • Implements a $25 million infrastructure project that includes bridge replacements, streetscapes, on and off road non-motorized greenways ($20 million DOT grant, $5.8 million local match)
  • Links Detroit’s core investments such as the Riverfront Conservancy and adjacent downtown central businesses through the Dequindre Cut and Midtown Loop greenways to the Eastern Market, Midtown and Hamtramck
  • Intersects major transportation routes including auto, bus, and the planned Woodward Light Rail, enabling multi modal options from anywhere in the region
  • Enhances non-motorized and multi-modal connections to:
    • Jobs (downtown and midtown anchors, locally owned commercial/professional services, start up establishments, hotels and restaurants, eastern market district)
    • Educational institutions (Wayne State)
    • Cultural institutions (DIA, MOCAD, DSO, theatres)
    • Recreational opportunities (Milliken State Park, numerous city parks, marinas)
    • Famers market (Eastern Market)
    • Neighborhoods (Midtown, Hamtramck, East Villages)
  • Leverages significant investments already made in the transportation infrastructure (Campus Martius, Detroit RiverWalk, Woodward Light Rail, Dequindre Cut Greenway, Midtown Loop Greenway, Hamtramck Greenway) and real estate development (Downtown, Midtown, Eastern Market)
  • Provides 289 direct near term jobs, and up to 16,000 long term jobs, assuming the residential and commercial fill in development typically stimulated by this kind of investment

Can Detroit just reapply for TIGER IV? That’s uncertain.

Congress has asked that TIGER “focus on road, transit, rail and port projects.” One source says it’s not a ban on bike-ped oriented projects, but that future focus doesn’t help Link Detroit.

In addition, some of the matching funds will likely be spent before the next TIGER round, and therefore will become ineligible.

Detroit had received $25 million in the first round of TIGER grants. That money was to be spent on the Woodward light rail and will now be applied towards planning bus rapid transit. We don’t know what role this previous award and the city’s current financial situation had in this grant request cycle.

No Dequindre Cut Extension?

This does not stop the planned Dequindre Cut extension. The city has a purchase agreement for the private property from Gratiot to Mack and is now doing due diligence. The funding is there to keep moving this project forward.

Eventually the Midtown and Hamtramck connections will be built once the needed funding is found. TIGER III would have put these critical projects on the front burner.

Other Michigan TIGER grants

The only successful TIGER III grant was for $3.6 million to rebuild 2.6 miles of road in St. Clair County which “provides essential access to the County’s only landfill facility.” Yeah, that stinks.

That said, we’re not surprised the MDOT/Canton TIGER request was rejected. This was a $22 million project to improve the IKEA exit on I-275.

The required grant section on Livability appears to have been written in the 1980s or earlier. One claimed project benefit is it will improve the quality of life by having “a safer operational and connected network to and from the surrounding community and the freeway network.” That and they won’t remove the existing bike path.

The grant’s section on Alternative Transportation and Sustainable Development says, Canton is “committed to promoting sustainable development opportunities and alternative transportation options for residents.” Canton opted out of SMART. You cannot take the SMART bus to the IKEA store.

If anything, this is an example of why transportation in Michigan is not a sustainable model. We let a major traffic generator locate in an area which lacks the existing transportation infrastructure to handle it. And now Canton (and MDOT) want taxpayers to fix their $22 million mistake.

IKEA even mentioned in their support letter for this grant that “when IKEA was considering potential locations for our Michigan store, we had strong concerns about the interchange.”

But to be fair, there are other costly expressway exit examples, from the Chrysler headquarters to the Great Lakes Crossing at Baldwin. We have a history of funding mistakes.

The bottom line is Michigan can’t afford to keep ignoring the obvious relationship between land use and transportation.