Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham’

Grassroots Southeast Oakland County bike route mapping

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

From Tom Regan of Royal Oak:

If you cycle frequently you have probably mapped out some safe and quick ways to get from here to there (say, from Royal Oak to Berkely, or from Clawson to Ferndale). Now it is time to share your knowledge.

We are collecting safe biking routes into one large regional biking map. With help from the Oakland County mapping department we will collate the data and publish this map sometime in the spring of 2012.

Residents of Berkley, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak are invited and encouraged to attend. If you live in another city and would like to join please call or email me directly and we will add you in.

Join us:

Come by any time between 7pm and 8:30pm to share your map ideas.This event is a joint project of the Royal Oak Environmental Advisory Board and environmental advisory boards in Berkley, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, and Pleasant Ridge. Thank you also to the Oakland County mapping department for their kind offer to collate our mapping data.Please spread the word any way you can.
Tom Regan
3126 Glenview
Royal Oak, MI 48073
home: 248-435-0147
cell: 248-797-1075

More talk of Complete Streets around Metro Detroit

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

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.

Having realistic expectations for walkability

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Let’s be frank about walkability.

A large percentage of communities in Southeast Michigan will never be very walkable. That doesn’t mean they can be improved, but it does mean they won’t be competitive.

And it was by choice.

They were purposely designed for low density (e.g. large residential lot sizes) and no mixed use development. In short, most things are too far away to walk to. Putting a sidewalk on one side of a road between a residential area and a shopping district doesn’t make it walkable if they’re separated by a mile or more.

As I told some residents last week, if your community wasn’t designed during the streetcar era, chances are it’s not very walkable.

Some communities are a mixed bag where the older portions are very walkable while the newer areas are not. Royal Oak is a good example of that. The downtown, an area once served by a number streetcar lines, is highly walkable. The northern portions of the city are more car dependent.

This is very apparent in this graphic from the WalkScore web site. The green areas indicate good walkability.

Birmingham: top 20 for walkability?

There is a major bicycle festival being planned for Birmingham this year, which sounds very promising. What caught our eye in the article was the statement that Birmingham was “recognized as one of top 20 most walkable communities in the country.” The Birmingham web site also says the city was named one of the country’s “Top 20 Most Walkable Communities.”

A Google search for the phrase “top 20 most walkable communities” return 47 matches, all of which referred only to Birmingham.

Irregardless, is Birmingham truly in the nation’s top 20 according to the Walk Score web site, arguably the best indicator of walkability? The Walk Score site determined the walkability of the 74 largest cities in Michigan. Birmingham is tied for 14th among these Michigan cities. It apparently has the same issues Royal Oak has: a walkable downtown, but less walkable outlying areas.

So what were the most walkable Michigan cities? Hamtramck, Clawson, and Berkley tied for first. Ferndale and Traverse City weren’t too far behind.

And Detroit?

While the city of Detroit scored lower, it also received scores by neighborhood. New Center was most walkable with Corktown and Midtown tied for second.

The declining Detroit population and the resulting loss of area businesses certainly hurts the walkability of Detroit. And while much has been made about the city potentially moving residents to more dense areas, it seems the draw of greater walkability might be more of a carrot.

USA Today just reported on walkability and how it is attracting young professionals.

Educated 20- and 30-somethings are flocking to live downtown in the USA’s largest cities — even urban centers that are losing population.

In more than two-thirds of the nation’s 51 largest cities, the young, college-educated population in the last decade grew twice as fast within 3 miles of the urban center as in the rest of the metropolitan area — up an average 26% compared with 13% in other parts.

Even in Detroit, where the population shrank by 25% since 2000, downtown added 2,000 young and educated residents during that time, up 59%, according to analysis of Census data by Impresa Inc., an economic consulting firm.

“This is a real glimmer of hope,” says Carol Coletta, head of CEOs for Cities, a non-profit consortium of city leaders that commissioned the research. “Clearly, the next generation of Americans is looking for different kinds of lifestyles — walkable, art, culture, entertainment.”

Yes, even in Detroit.

South Oakland County communities in the news

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Despite the downturn in the weather, there’s been an upturn in media coverage for bicycling news among communities in southern Oakland County.

And while we’ve already covered these stories, it’s great to see them in the media before a much larger audience.

Metromode has two new articles.

The latter article includes a discussion of getting Complete Streets in Birmingham.

Jana Ecker, a planner with the city of Birmingham, said although that city is already a walkable community, there isn’t a resolution in place yet. For example, the city doesn’t have bike lanes. “It will require some changes from what we do now,” she says. She expects the city will take another look at the ordinance in November, after it’s reviewed.

The Detroit News published an article that covers both Royal Oak’s planning efforts and the local Complete Streets victories.

And even the Oakland Press provided some positive coverage of the recently passed Complete Streets legislation in Lansing.

All combined these articles reflect the significant (and relatively new) momentum behind making at least the lower portion of Oakland County a bike friendly environment.

Royal Oak Bike and Dine

Don’t forget that the Royal Oak Bike and Dine is tonight. Here’s the information:

Please join us for a Progressive Bike & Dine in Royal Oak and Berkley.  Royal Oak is conducting a non-motorized transporation plan, and Berkley recently adopted a “complete streets” policy, so this event will celebrate progress in both communities.

No RSVP is required but we would appreciate an RSVP so that we can alert each restaurant on how many guests to expect.  RSVP via the Facebook event (!/BikeWalkRoyalOak), or reply to this email,, or phone 248-797-1075, or mail to 3126 Glenview, Royal Oak 48073.  The event will begin:

  • Thursday, October 21st
  • Lily’s Seafood, 410 So. Washington, Royal Oak MI 48067.
  • Join us in the bar any time between 5:30pm to 6:30pm to register.

The pace will be leisurely–new and occasional cyclists are welcome and encouraged.  Our schedule is approximate but the locations are confirmed:

  • Optional drinks at Lily’s, 5:30pm to 6:30pm.  We leave from Lily’s to begin the ride at 6:30pm.
  • Appetizers at Amici’s Pizza, 3249 W. 12 Mile, Berkley MI 48072, 6:45pm – 7:15pm.
  • Entree at Royal Oak Brewery, 215 E. 4th, Royal Oak MI 48067, 7:45pm – 8:30pm
  • Dessert at Pronto’s, 608 S. Washington, Royal Oak MI 48067, 8:35pm, 9:00pm
  • Optional after-dinner drinks at Lily’s, 9:00pm – ?.

There is no fee outside of the bill at each restaurant.  Participants should:

  • Bring cash in small bills (to make dividing up the tab easier).
  • Wear reflective clothing, since we will be riding after dark.  Attach bicycle lights if you have them.
  • We will NOT cancel in case of rain or cold weather.

Birmingham looks to possibly repeal bike registration

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Birmingham’s City Commission may repeal their onerous bike registration ordinance.

City Commissioners are expected tonight to repeal the community’s 1963 bicycle ordinance — including its 25-cents-a-day charge to impound a bike.

Police Chief Richard Patterson, in a Sept. 11 memorandum to City Manager Tom Markus, pointed out that the ordinance was antiquated.

Birmingham police will continue providing free bike licenses to residents, the chief said in his memo. But he’d like the city to scrap the ordinance, which includes having cops charge 25 cents a day for impounding a bike if the owner lacks a license or is otherwise not in compliance with a litany of outdated bike rules.

This repeal is a direct result of our m-bike article highlighting some Metro Detroit’s ridiculous bicycle ordinances. In that article we noted that all bike in Birmingham sales and purchases must be reported to the police. The city also required all bicycles to be registered, including those of non-residents.