Posts Tagged ‘Troy’

What’s preventing more people from biking?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

CBS Detroit recently reported on entrepreneurs developing a bike that automatically shifts.

The company’s idea and business plans won first-place honors on Friday, Feb. 10, in the Intercollegiate Business Plan Competition hosted by Eastern Michigan University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and representatives were to present to the OU INC Investment Review Board at OU INC on Tuesday, Feb. 14, to win additional funding opportunities. Company co-founder Sean Simpson said the Ann Arbor Spark loan represents a key step forward in AutoBike’s efforts to provide casual bicyclists with a means to ride a bike at a steady cadence without having to push levers or turn knobs.

“Our technology allows even the most novice bicyclists to always be in the right gear, because instead of teaching the rider how to shift, we taught the bike how to,” the company’s Web site explains. “The AutoBike bicycle riding experience can best be described as a stress-free ride in the park.”

While the intention of this article is not to critique this technology but to critique the idea that some new bike technology is the answer to stress-free riding.

It isn’t.

Having an optimal cadence isn’t going to make riding in the product’s hometown of Troy “stress-free.” Implementing the non-motorized master plan the city of Troy paid for and put on the shelf would be a step in the right direction. Or building Complete Streets.

What’s primarily holding Metro Detroiters back from riding more is the condition of the riding environment and the perception that it’s not safe. We hear that all the time and it’s a common problem in many other cities across the U.S.

Detroit’s Golden Era of Bicycling

And consider the technology when bicycling was at its peak in Metro Detroit – the 1890s.

There were no gears to shift. Everyone rode fixed gears, and in most cases, the bikes didn’t even have brakes.

Why was bicycling so popular then? Detroit’s streets were quite welcoming to cyclists of all abilities and there were more dense land uses, which meant shorter distances between destinations.

If you want to see the Autobike, here’s a video they produced.

Looks like it’ll work in London, too.

Troy opposes transportation investments… again

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Troy, the “City of Tomorrow… Today” has been in the news lately with their recent rejection of federal funding for a transit station.

Now Brian Dickerson’s Free Press column, “In Troy, an all-too-familiar fear of the other” drops an H-bomb by calling them “hicks.”

To be a hick in 2011, then, is to be in a state of denial — which is why “hicks” is precisely the right word to describe Troy Mayor Janice Daniels and the like-minded elected city leaders who’ve sent Troy reeling backward in time, grasping for a past that is not so much racist or unsophisticated as it is, well, past.

But their real motive was transparent: the fear that outsiders currently disinclined to visit Troy may do so if enticed by a modern train station and convenient parking, at an incalculable cost to Troy taxpayers and their way of life.

This reminds us of a speech given by Horatio Earle in the late 1890s. Earle led the Good Roads committee for the League of Michigan Wheelmen — the state’s cycling body. He was in Troy to promote government investments in building good roads.

From his autobiography:

One night in Troy Township Hall, in Oakland County, where I was holding a meeting, it almost became a riot. I told them that they showed lack of intelligence, and gave me less consideration than would be shown a man in the center of Ethiopia; that some time they would be ashamed of themselves. And they have been; since then, they have made profuse apology.

The farmers said the muddy roads were good enough for them. They felt they were taxed enough already and they didn’t want city folks, especially bicyclists riding through their community.

Sound similar?

Now to be fair to Troy, Earle garnered the same negative reaction in nearby Royal Oak.

Then again, it’s likely that federal funding to improve the Royal Oak transit station would be greeted with celebration rather than controversy.

We should also mention again that Troy also created a citywide plan for non-motorized paths and Good Roads, now called Complete Streets. That plan also appears to be going nowhere.

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.

Where to take m-bike in 2010?

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

This web site has been a labor of love for some time now, but perhaps more lately. It’s been a challenge publishing so much information.

But, the results have been very encouraging. According to Google, our web visits have increased by 105% this year over last. We’ve been getting some of our articles picked up in the local and national blogosphere.

What are your thoughts on making this site better or more effective?

This site was originally created to fill a void in Southeast Michigan in terms of bicycle advocacy — a void that unfortunately remains after our unsuccessful attempt to improve our local bike advocacy.

And with the exception of a handful of local communities, Southeast Michigan has become less bicycle friendly through the years — unless you’re lucky enough to be on a trail. Bicycling has received lip service and maps, but not much in terms of leadership and funding that could make some real changes on the ground. A lot of people, including cyclists seem quite satisfied with the status quo.

Vehicle mobility continues to trump the safety of all roads users. As a result, best practices and AASHTO guidelines for safe bicycling facilities are routinely ignored.

The bright spots for bicycling progress in the Tri-county region are Detroit, Troy, Royal Oak and Novi. The latter three have or are about to begin non-motorized transportation planning with qualified planners. Of course Ferndale has been a leader in the past as well. Is this enough of a critical mass to get other communities and the county to do the same? What will be the implementation timeline?

And 2010 should see Detroit emerge as the clear non-motorized transportation leader within the three counties. But, for the time being, Oakland and Macomb have a firm grip as the two worst counties for bicycling in Michigan and we don’t see that changing.

Birmingham/Troy Transit Center off track?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

When it comes to understanding the needs of bicyclists, there are certain organizations and professionals that we don’t expect much from because they embrace the status quo even when it doesn’t work.

But planners should get bicycling. To be good, they must be looking forward and embracing the future.

That’s why it’s so very frustrating to review the work of planners that apparently don’t get it.

Examples include:

  • A sustainability study for Farmington Hills that all but ignores increasing bicycle use (Hooker | De Jong)
  • A county parks and recreation plan that assumes parks users won’t ride their bikes to the parks (Carlise Wortman)
  • A trails and pathways plan for Oakland Township that ignores the basic AASHTO guidelines for good bicycle facilities (Carlise Wortman)

And perhaps we can add another plan, the Birmingham and Troy Transit Center.

The most obvious failing is the tunnel design which runs beneath the railroad.

According to a recent Metromode article, Carrie Zarotney, president of the Birmingham-Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, noted the public interest in the center’s bikeabilty.

Last June, at the transit-oriented development charrette held to raise awareness of the project, the public made it “…very loud and clear that there was a need for pedestrian-friendly access and bicycle paths, so not only could you walk through the tunnel but you could bike through the tunnel.”

Then why does the August 2009 plan route cyclists onto a convoluted sidewalk route against AASHTO design guidelines?

The tunnel has very poor sight lines at the entrance and exit that are unsuitable for mixing cyclists and pedestrians. With this design, it may not take many?collisions?before bike riding in the tunnel is prohibited.

It appears there was little to no thought given to making a simple and clear bicycle pathway connection between the roads on either side of the railroad tracks. Did the planners not realize that a major residential area and downtown on one side of the tracks would generate bicycle traffic to the residential and shopping areas on the other side (and vise versa)? Why didn’t they accomodate it using the AASHTO bicycle design guidelines?

Right now there is no direct and safe way between these two areas for bicyclists. This plan does little to help that.

Another big issue is bike parking. It appears there are approximately 200 car parking spaces, yet there is one bike rack that should hold about four bikes.?The bike rack is also poorly located according to the Bicycle Parking Guidelines set forth by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. This bike parking does not appear to be covered.

There doesn’t seem to be a bike rack on the Birmingham side.

There are no bike racks near the bus stops (even though they are shown in the sample photos.)

Adding a bike rack is an easy point for buildings looking to gain LEED status, which this one apparently is.

We will be sure to submit these comments to Birmingham and Troy.

With Troy’s recent non-motorized planning efforts, this important tunnel connection must be properly designed to accomodate bicycles, whether they are using the transit center or not.

And if they are using it, they need adequate bike parking.