Posts Tagged ‘road diet’

Putting Woodward on a serious road diet

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Woodward Avenue in Detroit between McNichols and Eight Mile is ten lanes wide and carries roughly 30,000 motor vehicles a day.

With that traffic volume, Woodward is twice as wide as needed. That translates to:

  • Roughly twice as expensive to maintain in good repair
  • Twice as expensive to light
  • Twice as expensive to remove snow
  • Twice as much water run off flowing to storm sewers

And wide roads are much more difficult for pedestrians to cross safely. They also encourage speeding.

One interesting idea: change the road so that only the five northbound lanes are used. South of the Eight Mile bridge, vehicles would crossover and use a two-way 5 lane road which includes a center turn lane. Similar, but temporary crossovers are used during expressway construction when half of the road is under construction. Curbside parking would remain on the northbound curb.

This would free up the existing five lanes of southbound Woodward for other uses?

We imagine two lanes closest to the median would be dedicated to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The curb lane would be for a two-way cycletrack for bicyclists. The middle lanes could be permeable to absorb storm water and while also having space for southbound BRT stations.

This redesign could also reduce the footprint of the overly built Woodward and McNichols intersection.

Sound crazy? Remember that Woodward south of McNichols is effectively has six lanes during rush hour and five lanes at other times.

It’s an idea we’ll definitely pitch during the upcoming Woodward Complete Streets planning process, scheduled to get underway very soon now.

Birmingham says “no” to Maple Road diet

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

We mentioned earlier about the city of Birmingham’s consideration of converting Maple Road from 4 lanes to 3 between Adams and Eton.

Prior to the meeting, the Observer and Eccentric newspaper stirred the mob mentality with the headline “Birmingham’s nightmare on Maple Street.” No, it wasn’t an op-ed.

Mostly negative comments were given during the public hearing.

From the Observer:

The commission came to the same conclusion, voting 6-1 to keep Maple a four-lane road. They did, however, show their support for the concept of trying to narrow major roads to make them more pedestrian friendly, directing staff to begin a Complete Streets study that encompasses the entire city rather than just one particular street.

“Somehow, some way, we’re going to make Maple a better road,” Mayor Mark Nickita said before the vote.

Tom McDaniel was the lone member of the commission to vote against keeping East Maple four lanes, saying the only way to do a valid study of whether the road would work as three lanes would be to re-stripe it for a set period of time and evaluate the results.

City Manager Bob Bruner is a staunch advocate of the Complete Streets initiative, and he thought the timing was right to see if some of the ideas would work on East Maple. Starting in the spring, the stretch of Maple between Eton and Adams is being reconstructed to the same width of 41 feet, giving the city an opportunity to re-stripe the road to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane.

We’ve never seen a road diet studied more than this. The studies and traffic modeling showed it could work, but that wasn’t enough to change public opinion.

As we mentioned in our comments, if it didn’t work as the modeling predicted, it’s just paint. The old road configuration could be restored.

But unless the City tries it, they’ll never know.

As for the Observer newspaper, they showed their 1950s understanding of traffic solving in a follow up opinion piece.

Maple has been a problem road for years. It’s too narrow as it is to handle the flow of daily traffic. If anything, it needs to be widened, not narrowed.

And they probably think the Internet is a series of tubes…

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.


Royal Oak non-motorized plan updates

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The Draft Royal Oak Non-motorized Plan was forwarded by the Planning Commission to the City Commission on September 13th. On Monday the City Commission will decide whether to approve the plan for distribution to adjacent communities, MDOT, SEMCOG, and others. After a 63-day comment period, the Planning Commission can hold a formal public hearing and decide whether to adopt the plan. The City Commission may assert their right to approve or reject the plan.

Confused yet?

The city staff did send a letter to the Commission which provides an overview and these concerns expressed by the Engineering department.

The Non-Motorized Transportation Plan includes recommendations for both road diets with bike lanes and shared-lane markings on various streets throughout the city. Questions arose after we received the plan regarding proposed road diets for Twelve Mile Road, Thirteen Mile Road, Fourteen Mile Road, Crooks Road, and Main Street. The Engineering Department indicated that road diets would not be suitable on these roads due to their traffic volumes and would therefore not support them. The Active Transportation Alliance disagrees and feels road diets would be suitable for these streets. As a compromise, the plan states that if traffic volumes preclude a full road diet on any of these streets, then shared-lane markings could be installed as an alternative.

The traffic volumes do support some of engineering’s concerns. However, Crooks Road and Main Street look very different throughout their length. Crooks Road north of 13 Mile might not be suitable for a road diet, whereas it might south of 13 Mile. Main Street through the central business district is ripe for a road diet, as are the portions north of 12 Mile into Clawson — where it has already been road dieted successfully.

During the past couple weeks, there have been at least a few news stories about the plan, the latter of which made the front page.

Royal Oak City Commission Candidates

League of Women Voters recently held a forum for Royal Oak Commission candidates. One question for the candidates was, “What is your opinion of the non-motorized plan?”

The Royal Oak Patch covered the event and has their responses to this question. All of the candidates voiced their support for the non-motorized plan, though some were quick to offer caveats as well.

Here’s what we think of the responses:

  • Kyle DuBuc: We think this was among the best responses, and as mentioned before, he supports Complete Streets.
  • Mike Fournier: We’re not clear what he means by doing it “the right way” and “benchmark, benchmark, benchmark.” Who’s made their community more bike friendly and walkable the wrong way?
  • George Gomez: Another good response, and he’s right. Bike friendliness and walkability are already in the master plan.
  • Peggy Godwin: She’s a “huge proponent” but with an eye toward being fiscally realistic. That makes sense.
  • Rick Karlowski: This seems to be the least supportive answer of the group. Road diets are not “extremely expensive” nor do they “shut down major thouroughfares.”
  • Bill Shaw: Somewhere among the nostalgia is a brief note of support.
  • Scott Warheit: We agree. This plan is merely a great start and we need to continue community engagement.

Have you read the plan? What are your thoughts?

Detroit road obesity makes for easy cycling

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Detroit’s loss of population is well documented. No matter where the recent census counts fall, the reality is Detroit has a million fewer residents since the 1950s.

And since the 1950s, Detroit lost its streetcar network while gaining one of America’s most extensive urban expressway networks.

This has resulted in roads like Forest just east of Dequindre. Five lanes one-way with limited hours of parking.

Despite its one-way design, the road’s recent repaving and lack of traffic makes this ideal for biking.

And from 2004 to 2009, there are no reported motor vehicle crashes involving bicyclists or pedestrians on this segment of Forest from Dequindre to Gratiot.

Marked in Red

However, the MDOT and SEMCOG bicycle maps say otherwise. Both bicycle maps show this road in red, which means it’s generally unfavorable for bicycling due to the heavy traffic.


We looked at the SEMCOG traffic counts and did not find any relevant traffic counts near this section of Forest. There was one count from June 2006 taken on Forest west of Dequindre however Forest is now closed at Dequindre. Even still, that traffic count was only 6,823 vehicles during a 24-hour period. The MDOT map says over 15,000 cars a day use this section of Forest.  SEMCOG map says there are over 10,000 vehicles per day.

Unfortunately it appears Forest is not the exception on these maps. There are other super wide, one way Detroit roads with little to no traffic that are shown in red, including Rosa Parks and 14th from Warren to I-75. Second Avenue from Forest to Temple is red on SEMCOG’s map despite its lack of traffic.

This really just reinforces the idea that Detroit needs a good bike map that is designed for cyclists and provides recommended routes — like Forest.

Road Diet?

Does road dieting a road without cars make it more bike friendly? Is a road with so few cars a Complete Street? These are questions that don’t get asked in most cities but are very relevant in Detroit.

Perhaps it makes more sense to approach this with a financial perspective. Could a road diet reduce the road maintenance costs and storm water runoff? Could we convert those outside travel lanes to half bike lane, half pervious surface. The pervious surface (perhaps as bio swales) would provide some separation between the parking/vehicle travel lanes and the bike lane while also absorbing the road’s storm water runoff. Could the city maintain (e.g. sweep) a physically-separated cycle track?

Eliminating vehicle lanes on Federal aid roads (such as Forest) affects Michigan’s federal transportation funding formulas. The state would get the same amount of funding, but less would be distributed to counties and cities like Detroit. There is a financial incentive for not losing vehicle lanes on federal aid roads, but is it enough to justify the added cost?

Hopefully the answer to these questions will emerge over time from the Detroit Works Project and more analysis.

But until then, go bike on E. Forest and enjoy the wide open road.