Posts Tagged ‘FHWA’

Detroit: Have a great Bike to work day

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Our reprieve from cold rainy weather couldn’t have come on a better day.

And today I’ll be giving ride updates via Twitter (MTGA’s DetroitGreenway account) — but not while in riding.

It’s also worth mentioning that there is a new web site for biking to work, It includes resources for planning bike to work events, a discussion forum and more. The site funded by the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

Finally, here is a appropriate comic strip for today. It’s actually yesterday’s Frazz. The author, Jef Mallett lives in Huntington Woods which is just off the Detroit bike to work route on Woodward.


“Don’t Embarrass the Agency or Yourself”

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

The National Center for Bicycling and Walking recently posted a great list of resources compiled by Christopher Douwes from the Federal Highway Administration. If you’re just looking to make your community more bike friendly or more walkable, this is a good place to gain some background.

Included on the lists are some of Douwes’ presentations. His first presentation, Policy, Planning, Programs, and Provisions for Pedal-Power, Pedestrians, and Paths, includes one of our favorite slides:

Don’t Embarrass the Agency or Yourself.

Then it was the DOT traffic engineer’s turn….and I quote: “Since the bicyclists are always in the way of traffic, we need to figure out how to get them off the road.” (or something very close to that :-]). I couldn’t ignore the comment. I tried. Really I did. But I had to share: “Bicyclists and pedestrians are also traffic.” The poor man didn’t say one more word the rest of the meeting.

– A planner from the Heartland

“Get them off the road?” That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Dequindre Cut gets FHWA award

Friday, January 7th, 2011

In November, the Federal Highway Administration announced the 2010 Transportation Planning Excellence Awards. These awards are given to recognize “outstanding initiatives across the country to develop, plan, and implement innovative transportation planning practices. ”

The Dequindre Cut and MDOT received an honorable mention in the Livability/Sustainability category.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) transformed the Dequindre Cut, a formerly overgrown abandoned railroad corridor, into a 1.35-mile recreational trail for walking and bicycle use. Serving over 100,000 residents, the Dequindre Cut provides a safe and vital non-motorized connection from popular destinations in downtown Detroit to the beautiful Detroit Riverfront and Harbor.

Transformation of the Dequindre Cut involved extensive community input, and involved a number of private and not-for-profit entities. The Downtown Detroit Partnership led a public involvement, visioning, and planning process to gather input from nearby neighborhoods on how the “Cut” could be transformed and opened to the public. Residents toured the site, discussed options, and provided feedback on conceptual designs, including the popular decision to preserve existing graffiti art along the bridge abutments.

Through the efforts of the public, nonprofit, and private partners, this project transformed a forgotten, unused corridor into a natural greenway for public use, promoting physical activity, and offering residents and visitors a unique experience within the urban framework of Detroit.

That’s great, but we wish it not be labeled a recreational trail? That label might lead one to believe it’s just about recreation, which certainly isn’t the case. Generally speaking, trails that are loops within parks are recreational trails.

One of the award winners was New York City’s commitment to build 200 miles of bike lanes.

In June 2009, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) fulfilled its commitment by building 204.8 lane-miles of bicycle facilities in all five boroughs, doubling the number of on-street bicycle facilities and bringing the total mileage of bicycle facilities to over 600 lane-miles.

The 200 lane-mile project is an unprecedented expansion of the city’s bicycle infrastructure that radically improves the quality of the streets of the Nation’s most densely populated city. The 200 lane-miles included the execution of 88 separate projects on scores of unique street segments. To accommodate the vastly different street conditions, NYCDOT’s planning and design staff utilized innovative designs, such as protected bicycle paths, which position cyclists between the curb and the parking lane, the first of their kind in the United States.

Before-and-after data from the protected paths proves their safety benefits: up to 56 percent reductions in all injuries along the project corridors, up to 29 percent reductions in pedestrian accidents, and up to 57 percent reductions in cyclist accidents. Data from the 9th Avenue and Grand Street protected paths shows an 84 percent reduction in illegal sidewalk riding.

That’s so impressive given the value of road real estate in NYC.

While the city of Detroit has a commitment to build 400 miles of bike lanes, there is no time commitment.

Mode bias in traffic forecasting

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Recently released 2009 National Household Travel Survey from the Federal Highway Administration documents transportation mode choice trends. From 2001 to 2009, the percentage of biking, walking, and transit trips have increased while vehicle trips have fallen.

According to the Mobilizing the Region web site:

Of course, the good news for walking, bicycling and transit use may reflect fluctuating gasoline prices and the current economic recession (respondents were surveyed between March 2008 and April 2009). But when asked to interpret the findings, FHWA staff told MTR that “the general public is more aware of the need to walk and bike for environmental and health reasons, thus they make more of those trips and they report more of them in our survey.”

What we have found in Metro Detroit is traffic engineers assume there will be increased vehicle traffic, even in cities which have undergone drastic populations drops like Royal Oak and Detroit. (Note that according to U.S. Census data, Royal Oak’s population decline rate is slightly higher than the city of Detroit’s since 2000.)

Assuming increased vehicle travel often means our roads are wider than they need to be — width that could be converted into bike lanes.

Washington Boulevard in Royal Oak

For example. last year we tried pushing the city of Royal Oak to change Washington Boulevard before it was repaved between Lincoln and Woodward. We asked for a 4 lanes to 3 road diet which would have added bike lanes while increasing safety for all users. We were told that the city was projecting an increase in vehicle travel on Washington over 20 years and therefore could not reduce the number of lanes.

This projected increased was standard practice but completely unrealistic given that:

  • Washington Avenue north of Lincoln had already been road dieted from 4 to 3 lanes.
  • Woodward vehicle traffic was declining.
  • Royal Oak’s population is dropping.

(Of course what’s ridiculous is that the road diet could have occurred for the time being. If that vehicle traffic did return, the road could be re-striped. In the meantime, there would be increased safety for all travel modes. Clearly safety was not the highest priority in this decision making process.)

I-94 Expansion in Detroit

Another example is the planned expansion on I-94 through Detroit. MDOT is still forecasting increased vehicle traffic even though the actual numbers show no increase.

On the other hand, MDOT decided to remove two pedestrian bridges after concluding they weren’t justified given the existing pedestrian and bicycle traffic. MDOT did not project any growth for biking and walking on these bridges despite the US DOT policy statement that such projects “should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities.”

Their bias is apparent.

We need to ensure that Metro Detroit transportation projects realistically and consistently forecast traffic for all modes.

Cycling for Cities: A Detroit Perspective

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Earlier this month, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) started a new Cities for Cycling project with a kick off event in Washington DC, which we were able to attend.

But first, what is NACTO? While the more popular American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is for states, NACTO is the equivalent for large U.S. cities. NACTO has 14 member cities, including Detroit.

Their mission is to “encourage the exchange of transportation ideas, insights, and practices among large central cities while fostering a cooperative approach to key national transportation issues.”

The Cities for Cycling project mission is to “catalog, promote and implement the world’s best bicycle transportation practices in American municipalities.”

Bicycling is good for cities. Providing safe, comfortable, convenient bicycling facilities is a cost-effective way for American municipalities to improve mobility, livability and public health while reducing traffic congestion and CO2 emissions.

Cities for Cycling focuses on implementing world-class bicycle transportation systems through design innovation and the sharing of best practices. American municipalities are increasingly pioneering new designs and adapting international best practices to local conditions. To assist this local-level leadership, the Cities for Cycling project works to share and promote state-of-the-art practices that ensure safe traffic conditions for all modes of travel.

Why Cities for Cycling?

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner and NACTO president Janette Sadik-Khan also gave another reason for this project. (more…)