Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Riverwalk’

Detroit River trails and ferries in the news

Monday, July 9th, 2012

It’s becoming increasingly challenging to highlight all the trail and bike media coverage for the city of Detroit.

We’re even seeing great photos like this one of regular people riding the “Dequinder” Cut in a Detroit News article about the weather.

Below are some updates primarily about the RiverWalk, ferry service, and TIGER grant.

Detroit RiverWalk’s 10th anniversary

The Free Press ran stories about the RiverWalk that were run during the RiverDays event. It’s great that Harriet Saperstein is part of the article as she’s been one of the longtime proponents of developing riverfront trails as well as other bicycling facilities throughout Detroit.

…Saperstein, who still visits the waterfront and Belle Isle on a regular basis from her Lafayette Park home, said the vision developed for the riverfront in the 1970s continues to motivate fans of the waterfront today.

“You stay patient and persistent, and you come at it again and again and again,” she said earlier this month.

The idea for Detroit riverfront trails is more than 10 years old. It pre-dates Saperstein and goes all the way back 113 years to Mayor Hazen Pingree.

The Free Press also created this video that interviews RiverWalk users.

Craig Fahle Show

Last Friday’s Craig Fahle Show included a more general discussion of trails and biking in Detroit, including changing perceptions of greenways, connecting greenways, the $10 million TIGER grant, public bike sharing, and more. A podcast of the show is available on-line.

Detroit & Windsor Ferry Service

This CBS Detroit article gives an optimistic update on ferry service between Detroit and Windsor, which may start as soon as next spring. As we’ve been saying for a few years now, this would be an ideal means for bicyclists to get across the Detroit River.

Detroit Port Authority Chairman Louis James told CBS Detroit this news.

“We’ve already been funded for the ferry, we have companies that are coming to us that own ferries who would like to contract with us, so I don’t really see any real cost at this time. We hope to have, as I said, private contractors to come in and operate them,” he said.

James said he views the ferry as being a People Mover on the water. He said there could be one big ferry or several smaller ferries along the river, transporting roughly 200 passengers at a time.

?This morning we had another inquiry from bicycle tourists looking to cross the river. We’re hoping to have a good answer for them soon.

Comments sought on Milliken State Park plans

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

If you were at RiverDays, you might have seen the below graphic. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) It’s a conceptual plan for expanding Milliken State Park and the Detroit RiverWalk.

What do you think about this vision? The Michigan DNR is asking that you send you email your comments.

A copy of the original PDF is available.

Faye Nelson: Leading the RiverWalk effort

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Continuing the topic of woman leading biking and walking improvements, BLAC Detroit magazine has this article on the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s director, Faye Nelson.

One most impressive aspects of the RiverWalk is its public-private partnership model. We wouldn’t be able to bike or walk along much of the river if not for the Kresge Foundation, General Motors, DNR, MDOT, and many others. This is touched on during Nelson’s interview.

How do you respond to people who feel the focus on the riverfront is at the expense of other parts of the city?

No city tax dollars have been used. The Conservancy is a non-profit that has formed a public / private partnership. Private partnerships include the Kresge Foundation and its $50 million grant. There is the public collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources for Milliken State Park and Harbor, just to the west of Chene Park, the first urban state park in Michigan. Then there are the corporate contributions, like General Motors that spent $500 million renovating the Ren Cen, including building a riverfront plaza that it then donated to the Conservancy.

There is research showing the RiverFront is attracting people downtown, and they spend money downtown. Development is attracted to downtown by the RiverFront. We’re proud to say this project is helping to revitalize and sustain the entire city.

There is a minor downside to being so successful in getting private funding for biking and walking trails. When groups like the Alliance for Biking and Walking compile funding numbers to compare cities, they ignore private funding. That $50 million Kresge RiverWalk investment? General Motor’s $25 million RiverWalk investment? The Alliance purposely does not include that funding in their report and it makes Detroit look bad. That’s just one reason why groups like MTGA and others have declined to participate in their future reports.

A cycling perspective on the Detroit Consent Agreement

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

With a 5-4 City Council vote, it appears the City has at least temporarily kept Governor Rick Snyder from appointing an emergency finance manager.

That vote was for a “historic” consent agreement, according to the Detroit Free Press:

In the historic consent agreement between the city and state over the management of Detroit, the city agreed to give up — at least temporarily — a good deal of sovereignty over its financial affairs.

So aside from the hope of future solvency, what does Detroit get in return?

A modest amount of increased state spending — and an array of promises.

The 53-page agreement does keep City Council in charge of policy, which is a positive for our Complete Streets efforts. Detroit’s road money is separate from the general budget. We’ve argued that our Complete Streets ordinance wouldn’t add to the city deficit. It just divides up the road funding pie in a slightly different way.

The agreement also contains some state promises which affect Detroit cyclists to varying degrees.

The Positives

The state vows to:

  • Improve public lighting by working with the city to create a separate authority to manage and finance streetlights.” Working street lights can reduce crashes.
  • “Move ahead with the New International Trade Crossing project.” The bridge plans do include a bicycle pathway.
  • “Invest in a regional, multi-modal system including BRT, bike paths and walkability.” We’re not sure if this means more state investment or just continued funding.
  • “Assist the market in applying for a federal TIGER grant to create a seamless trail system from the Riverfront through the Eastern Market, Brush Park, and Wayne State University areas.” It’s a little late. Detroit already applied.
  • Riverfront – Develop the Globe Building, expand Milliken State Park, dedicate a new launch for citizens near Riverfront Park and assist DEGC with resources and talent to transform Hart Plaza.” The latter likely refers to an expansion of Hart Plaza over land that was previously used for the Ford Auditorium.
  • Belle Isle – Create park funding for Belle Isle while ensuring continued City ownership by designating Belle Isle as a part of a cooperative relationship with Milliken State Park. This would include a long-term lease that would accrue the cost of the park’s maintenance and improvements out of the Park Endowment Fund. We will partner with Belle Isle Conservancy and the City to implement a master plan for the Island.”

The Belle Isle item is among the more interesting. Unfortunately the Free Press already got it wrong with an article titled, “Belle Isle likely won’t be free anymore.

If the island is managed like other Michigan State Parks, there will only be an annual $10 fee for arriving by motor vehicle. One can walk or bike into state parks for free and the same would likely be true with Belle Isle.

While some cheer that this small fee will keep out the less desirable elements, those elements won’t disappear. They’ll find another location, just like they do now when the island closes at 10pm. A fee is not a total solution.

The Big Negative

It can’t all be positive for Detroit cyclists, right? The state vows to:

  • “Accelerate a capacity improvement project for I-94 from I-96 to Conner Avenue, supporting more than 13,000 jobs between 2012 and 2020.”

This outdated, mostly unnecessary MDOT project will wipe out 9 bridges over the expressways, including some pedestrian bridges, Third Street, and John R. It effectively widens the I-94 scar through the community.

The Governor needs to get involved in this project since the cost/benefit numbers just don’t add up. It’s “benefit” is from a 1980’s frame of reference that put a priority on reducing rush hour congestion irregardless of the effects on the local community.

Fortunately some local activists are started to pull together some project opposition.

Detroit: a national model for public-private partnership

Monday, February 27th, 2012

As the MTGA Detroit Greenways Coordinator, I worked with different City departments to complete Detroit’s Bicycle Friendly Community application, which was submitted last Friday.

One question was to name three primary reasons Detroit deserves this recognition. Here’s one of the given reasons:

Detroit is a national leader in developing and maintaining greenways/biking facilities through public-private partnerships. Philanthropy, community development organization, business organization, and other non-profits are the driver behind much of the bicycle friendly infrastructure in Detroit. For example, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has raised $104 million to transform Detroit’s industrial riverfront into a world class greenway. That said, a limitation of this BFC application is it presumes the city is always the project development and maintenance lead. That is not often the case in Detroit. For example, while there is approximately city of Detroit 1 FTE working on bicycle issues, there are approximately 30 FTEs among the non-profits and retained consultants.

This recent video from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy highlights their public-private partnership on greenway security. In most cities, security would be provided by a police agency or perhaps contracted by them.

Maintenance on the RiverWalk and Dequindre are similar in that the Conservancy hired Clean Detroit and others to perform the work. In other cities this work is more commonly performed by city staff.

The other two reasons

The Bicycle Friendly Community application asked for three primary reasons. Here are the other two.

Detroit is bike friendly in 2012 for many of the same reasons it was bike friendly in 1910. There are not that many cars on the roads, which is not something that’s reflected in this application. The city’s population has dropped over 61% since 1950 and we’ve added a comprehensive freeway network. Both issues have pulled cars off the surface streets. Detroit has 23 linear feet of road for every resident, nearly double the rate in Los Angeles. Cyclists dont always need a bike lane when they have a car lane to themselves. During a recent meeting on creating another Detroit bike map, we realized that there are so many roads that accommodate bikes well in their current state. We agreed it would be easier to just mark the few roads that don’t.

Detroit has a burgeoning Black bike cultures perhaps unmatched by any other city. Despite being the Motor City, that’s not unexpected since Detroit has the highest percentage of African American residents among U.S. cities over 100,000. There are at five Detroit riding clubs that have formed in the past 2 years. These clubs are growing in popularity. One club, Grown Men on Bikes (GMOB) just released their own theme song to ride to. These clubs along with the youth clubs and Hispanic bike clubs are helping overcome the stigma of the bicycle as a last choice mode of transport.

We should know in a couple months whether Detroit will be recognized as a bicycle friendly community. Currently there are none in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties. Ferndale applied years ago but was unsuccessful.

It would be quite exciting if Detroit was the first.