Posts Tagged ‘sidewalk’

Google Bicycle Layer: Detroit additions

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Google Maps has a bicycle layer which shows three main types of bicycle facilities: off-road pathways (dark green), roads with bike lanes (lighter green), and roads that are preferred bicycle routes (dotted green).

As of this today, the city of Detroit has been updated.

  • Milbank Greenway added
  • Conner Creek Greenway added (including St. Jean and Clairpointe bike lanes)
  • Southwest Detroit Greenlink added (bike lanes only)
  • Atwater bike lanes added
  • “bike lanes” on Joy Road removed
  • “bike lanes” on Fort Street removed
  • RiverWalk sections added

There are still more corrections to make.

  • W. Outer Drive and W. Chicago are shown with bike lanes when they only have shoulders.
  • There are still some sections of sidewalk shown as “preferred” bicycle routes.
  • The Southwest Detroit Greenlink bike routes should be labelled as “preferred.”

We’ll get to these changes unless someone beats us to it.

We also removed the sidewalk along Lakeshore through the Pointes as a preferred bicycle path/trail.

What are the benefits?

For one, the map can help cyclists map their route. It’s interactive and up to date, though some may still prefer a printed bike map, especially since not everyone has a smart phone or direct access to the Internet.

Having an accurate bicycle layer also affects how Google generates bike route directions. Google will try to route cyclists on to bike lanes and preferred routes when it makes sense.

On the other hand, having an inaccurate bicycle layer can make bike directions less valuable. Google has directed us out of our way to use a sidewalk in Troy that has been labelled as a preferred bicycle route.

How to update the bicycle layer

The bicycle layer can be updated using the Google Mapmaker utility. There is a review and approval process for changes so it’s not as instant as Wikipedia.

Mapmaker gives you the ability to change roads attributes, sidewalks, places, and more. It appears bike racks are not being added to this map.

Guide to Mapmaker bicycle facilities

The Google guidelines on how to appropriately label bicycle facilities aren’t always that clear, but here are some key points.

  • Paved shoulders are not bike lanes. Google’s best practices says, “Roads without explicit paint markings or signage indicating a bicycle lane should not be given the ‘On-street bicycle lane attribute'”. Since paved shoulders of adequate width can improve bicycling, they can be labeled as “preferred.”
  • Sidewalks and sidepaths are not trails/paths. Sidewalks and sidepaths should be documented as part of the road attributes. Google’s best practices says they should only be mapped as separate trails/paths when they’re “separated by a river, railway, or other impassable physical barrier.” Yes, many parts of Oakland County has improperly labelled bicycle features.
  • Sidewalks are rarely preferred bicycle routes. If the above guideline is followed, sidewalks along roads can’t be. It’s less clear for sidewalks that are not along a road. In some cities like Royal Oak, bicycling on a sidewalk is prohibited. Sidewalks aren’t usually not cleared of snow by cities unlike streets, so their value in the winter can be variable. We’ve removed a preferred sidewalk segment in Royal Oak that had stairs.

Metro Detroit biking: City vs. the suburbs

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

It’s an easy opinion to find on bike forums: Detroit is bad for cycling. Those opinions are usually based on cyclists who ride in the suburbs or exurbs where poor street planning, cul-de-sacs and sprawl means they’re forced to ride on busy arterial roads which don’t have bike lanes.

But it’s simply not correct to label all Metro Detroit as bad. Our cycling condition is far from homogeneous.

The city of Detroit riding is some of the best cycling in America: mostly complete street grids, low speeds, very light traffic — and now many miles of bike lanes.

Some of the inner ring suburbs designed during the streetcar era aren’t too bad or at least have good potential. That includes the suburban cities like Dearborn, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Berkley and the Pointes.

Beyond that, yeah, the cycling can get pretty rough. Cities like Novi and Ferndale have shown leadership on improving cycling opportunities. Royal Oak, Berkley, and Birmingham are coming along, but we don’t see many others following them – at least not yet.

Worse still, some communities have talked the talk on Complete Streets but are not committed to building them. They just don’t see bicycles as transportation and they’re willing to redefine Complete Streets as the status quo with improved crosswalks.

Still, it’s not just about building Complete Streets. A much bigger issue is land use. Sprawl hurts cycling and kills walking as transportation modes. There’s a real vacuum of regional leadership on that issue.

Suburban sense of entitlement

One other difference we’ve seen is the suburban sense of entitlement. Entitlement to the entire road, that is. Getting brushed by motorists and yelled at is a common story shared by many suburban cyclists.

And one of our favorite blogs, Bikes, Books, and a Little Music seems to share this viewpoint after their first ride in the suburbs.

In Detroit, drivers gave me lots of room when passing by and never yelled at me. In the suburbs, the drivers were much more aggressive, many times forcing me to the curb. During my first week of riding, two suburban drivers yelled at me to get out of the street and get on the sidewalk where I belong!

As I soon found out, there is a difference between city and suburban riding. For me, Detroit is a much more interesting place to ride.

Moving from Madison Heights

Here’s another related story of a former Madison Heights city councilman moving to the city of Detroit. This is less about the infrastructure than the culture.

Another roommate worked at the Hub of Detroit, so getting a bicycle was a first priority upon moving in. The bicycle culture here in the city is larger than I had imagined. From Critical Mass to Tour De Troit, to the Bikes and Murder Slow Ride to Slow Jams, to the Full Moon bike ride from Fender Bender, there is not a lack of people who are willing to take a ride on a nice day (or a rainy/snowy one!)

Troy loves sidewalk biking

For some cities, it’s difficult harboring any hope that they’ll ever value safe biking. For us, Troy is one of those cities.

The latest proof? The city of Troy touts their 500 miles of sidewalks… for bicyclists.

A community with sidewalks enables residents to walk and ride bikes. There is a clear correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and poor health. Thus sidewalks make walking & biking a viable option. Bike route signs are placed throughout the City.

Sidewalks are not a viable option for most bicyclists according to the national design guidelines nor their own non-motorized plan, which the Troy City Council paid for but never approved and is not implementing.

Unfortunately we’ve seen many local biking “experts” label this region based on their experience in cities like Troy.

Fortunately, they’re not correct.

Clearing snow Copenhagen-style

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Copenhagenize recently highlighted snow removal from bike lanes and sidewalks in Copenhagen. It’s apparently a priority for both government and local business.

Snow removal and salting priorities in Metro Detroit are based on maximizing vehicle mobility.

For example, the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) based their winter maintenance priorities on motor vehicle travel volumes. According to RCOC spokesman Craig Bryson, this priority is for safety — or more specifically, the safety of motorists.

The photo on the right is from the city of Southfield, Michigan where snow has been piled near a crosswalk. The streets are well cleared. Judging by the condition of the snow pile, it’d been there a while.

In this case, Southfield might as well keep the Don’t Walk signal on 24/7.

Metro Detroit biking in the media

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Dequindre Cut

It’s grand opening in May officially kicked off the Summer of Dequindre Cut Love. It was far and away the most talked about trail at the MTGA RiverDays booth. And at the Palmer Park Green Fair, Lt. Governor John Cherry was quick to locate the Dequindre Cut on the Detroit Greenways brochure.

The word is out.

And one major reason is the world class graffiti along the Cut. Yesterday’s Detroit News ran an article that discusses that graffiti with some of the artists that created it. The article includes both a video and an audio tour. It was interesting to learn that some of the graffiti is over 20 years old.

Additional link: Photos of the Dequindre Cut graffiti prior to the trail construction

Detroit Ferry Service?

Currently the only convenient means for getting ones bike across the Detroit River into Canada is by driving it. That may change as the Wayne County Port Authority will soon have support facilities for ferry service on the RiverWalk. The Free Press is reporting their receipt of $7 million in funding to further that effort thanks to Senator Carl Levin.

Imagine if taking your bike to Windsor, Canada was as straightforward as taking it to Mackinaw Island (with customs, of course.)

Special Needs Bike Camp

Today’s Detroit News has a great article called, Bike camp clears hurdle for special needs children:

Because of their limitations, only 10 percent of children with Down syndrome and 18 percent of children with autism can ride a bike, said Dale Ulrich, director of U-M’s Center for Physical Activity & Health in Pediatric Disabilities.

But after the camp, most who attend can ride a bike, and the study is finding the children are more likely to stay physically active, leading to many health benefits. This is especially good for children with Down syndrome since it often leads to excess weight. Children with autism often suffer from sleep disorders that are treated with medications, some of which cause weight gain.

Besides the health benefits, learning how to ride a bike also helps the children become more social, verbal and independent, Ulrich said.

No Sidewalks

This Free Press article, Road sound raises residents’ fury, shows how backwards some communities can be.

…The residents did post one victory. The township board agreed not to run a sidewalk alongside Square Lake Road.

“The beautification project is not most important right now, safety is the issue,” township Clerk Janet Roncelli said.

Apparently pedestrians safety is not a priority for Bloomfield Township.

Downsizing Detroit

The Free Press revisits how we can manage the downsizing of Detroit. While not directly about biking, a planned downsizing would lead to vast greenspace and opportunities for additional greenways and trails.

And in a related vein, the Detroit News is noting the return of wildlife within the city, including red foxes.

The red fox is carving out a place of its own deep into downtown, joining the ranks of raccoons, skunks, opossum, white-tailed deer and red-tailed hawks finding homes in untended lots, houses and buildings in the rusting one-time car capital.

And don’t forget the red-necked pheasants!

Safety Paths: Not Safe for Cycling

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

First, let’s clarify what safety paths are. The term safety path is apparently a local definition usually nearly exclusively within Oakland County, Michigan. AASHTO’s Guidelines for the Development of Bicycling Facilities contains the generally accepted standard terms and definitions for bicycle facilities. According to AASHTO’s definitions, safety paths are wide sidewalks.

Also from the AASHTO guidelines:

Utilizing or providing a sidewalk as a shared use path is unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. Sidewalks are typically designed for pedestrian speed and maneuverability and are not safe for higher speed bicycle use. Conflicts are common between pedestrians traveling at low speeds and bicyclists… At intersections, motorists are often not looking for bicyclists.

It is important to recognize that the development of extremely wide sidewalks does not necessary add to the safety of sidewalk bicycle travel. Wide sidewalks might encourage higher speed bicycle use and increase potential for conflicts with motor vehicles at intersections, as well as with pedestrians and fixed objects.

There are two major studies that compared bicycle safety on roads and sidewalks.