Posts Tagged ‘Hart Plaza’

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 looks to make biking legal on RiverWalk

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

It’s legal to ride your bike on most of the Detroit RiverWalk except for the portion in front of Hart Plaza.

Why? Because of this city ordinance:

Sec. 40-4-7. – Wheeled vehicles prohibited.

No wheelbarrow, handcart, automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, motordriven cycle, go-cart, unicycle, moped, solex cycle or other wheeled vehicles are permitted in Hart Plaza except as approved by the civic center department or recreation department for a scheduled event. This section shall not apply to a handicapped person in a wheelchair nor to emergency or service vehicles.

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It’s a little policy issue we shared with our wonky friends, but it wasn’t a big problem on the RiverWalk since it wasn’t enforced.

Apparently it’s more of big deal now because the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will soon maintain that portion of the RiverWalk. Currently the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) maintains the RiverWalk from the Port Authority to Joe Louis Arena. The Detroit Recreation Department is developing a maintenance agreement for the Conservancy to take the reins.

The Recreation Department is asking City Council to change the ordinance’s definition of Hart Plaza to not include the RiverWalk. They said it would be the “most direct and expedient resolution.”

Doing this solves the bicycling issue and others. For example, it’s also not legal to walk your dog or roller skate on this section of RiverWalk.

We’d rather the ordinance not restrict bicycles (or unicycles!) in all of Hart Plaza except during events, but the above proposal is a step in the right direction.

We do have to wonder why solex cycles were called out in the ordinance.


Sidewalks, bicycles, and… unicycles

Friday, April 15th, 2011

The Colbert Report has clever coverage of the unicycle issue in New York City (below).

Here in Michigan, state law allows bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk though we don’t recommend it for most cyclists, most of the time.

However, Michigan law also allows cities to prohibit them if they chose to. This has led to a lack of consistency. For example, it’s legal to ride on most Detroit sidewalks but not on any Royal Oak sidewalks.

Sometimes cities prohibit bicyclists only on sidewalks within their central business district or other specific areas.  As seen in the photo, the city of Detroit has this “Cycling” prohibition on Auditorium Drive’s sidewalk, but only for those heading uphill towards Jefferson. We did not see a similar sign for those cycling down the not-so-steep grade (and towards the fire hydrant located in the middle of the sidewalk.)

Also, the city of Detroit bans bicycles (and unicycles!) from Hart Plaza:

Sec. 40-4-7. – Wheeled vehicles prohibited.

No wheelbarrow, handcart, automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, motordriven cycle, go-cart, unicycle, moped, solex cycle or other wheeled vehicles are permitted in Hart Plaza except as approved by the civic center department or recreation department for a scheduled event. This section shall not apply to a handicapped person in a wheelchair nor to emergency or service vehicles.

Yes! Even solex cycles are banned!

Prohibitions must be posted

Michigan state law does require communities to post signs indicating any bans on sidewalk riding. Without the signs, the law is not enforceable.

So what about unicycles in Michigan? Like most other states, they are not considered bicycles under state law. (Note that some cities have their own definitions of bicycle.)

257.4 “Bicycle” defined.“Bicycle” means a device propelled by human power upon which a person may ride, having either 2 or 3 wheels in a tandem or tricycle arrangement, all of which are over 14 inches in diameter.

So it’s a gray area for unicycles with the exception of Hart Plaza. If you are the “Enemy from within”, use your best judgement.