Posts Tagged ‘Vernor’

New bikes lanes in Corktown and Southwest Detroit

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Have you seen the new bike lanes and bike routes being installed throughout Corktown, Mexicantown, and along West Vernor in Southwest Detroit?

This is not a new project. It started about seven or so years ago with the Greater Corktown Development Corporation and a grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The goal was to make the area more walkable and bikeable while connecting it to the future West RiverWalk.

But much has changed since then. Greater Corktown went through financial issues forcing them to hand off the project to the Southwest Business Development Association (SDBA). In taking over the project, the SDBA expanded it to include bike lanes along most of West Vernor, connecting it with their existing trail through Patton Park.

The project design also changed over time, shifting from having some off-road paths to simply bike lanes and bike routes. The latter are being employed on roads that are too narrow for bike lanes.

In the meantime, the wildly successful Tour de Troit has generated additional funds for the project to keep pushing it forward.

Safety Grants

There’s one other piece. The city of Detroit applied for an MDOT grant to improve safety along a portion of West Vernor from Livernois to Waterman. As a result, the city is adding bike lanes along that one mile of Vernor. They’re also adding lighting beneath the viaduct just west of Livernois.

When completed, there will be 24 miles of new bike lanes and 11 miles of signed bike routes.

Building on this success, the city recently applied for seven safety grants and received six. The city is looking to add bike lanes to all six projects in 2012, which includes roads such as Central and West Chicago.

Bike parking, directional signs, and more

And there are additional projects which complement this work.

There are new bike racks being installed throughout the area by a handful of different groups. Have you seen the new cool bike racks at Clark Park? They’re across the street from Cafe con Leche.

Also, the SDBA is also looking at wayfinding — signs and maps that help guide bicyclists through the area. For example, a sign might provide bicyclists with direction and mileage on how to get to specific destinations like downtown, the RiverWalk, Roosevelt Park, and Patton Park. The posted mileage also reminds those who don’t bike just how close some places are — and that perhaps bicycling between them is easier than they may have thought.

This wayfinding project is looking to develop designs that can be used across the city, which would help keep signs more consistent.

Adventure Cycling should have their first of two maps completed this year for their Underground Railroad Bicycle Route through Detroit. That route has been located on West Vernor to take advantage of these bike lanes.

Now wouldn’t it be great if the West Vernor bike lanes could get you to the Rouge Gateway Trail and Hines Drive in Dearborn?

Detroit Bike Shorts

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Bikes on Buses

All SMART buses and about half of DDOT buses now have bicycle racks. DDOT expects all of their buses to have racks by the first quarter of 2011.

Weren’t they talking about possibly three-bike racks? Yes, but we were told there was an apparent design problem with those racks. When loaded, they blocked the bus left headlight. Not good. DDOT is also looking at funding bike racks near their transit stops.

DDOT’s Bikes on Buses brochure is on-line (PDF).

Lighting the viaduct

Model D is reporting on an effort by 100 Points of Light to light the W. Vernor viaduct at the Michigan Central Station.

Armed with a grant from Kresge Community Arts, the group — comprised of siblings Mary Beth and Patrick Carolan and Robert Reese — propose a series of solatubes paired with chandeliers inspired by those once found in the depot that are powered by light stored in solar panels. Eventually, excess power generated would be sold back to the grid, creating the possibility that the concept becomes not only self-sustaining, but profitable.

Over the next few months, 100 Points of Light will focus on cleaning up the underpass and replacing existing bulbs with high-efficiency LEDs while planning for installation gets underway.

A better lit viaduct will be very welcomed by cyclists. The darkness makes it difficult to see road hazard. Also, it’s difficult knowing how well motorists can see cyclists there. More light would be great.

The lack of light is one reason why the W. Vernor bike lanes (to be installed next year) end before going under the viaduct.

RiverWalk progress

A DNRE official was on the Craig Fahle show discussing the cleanup of the Uniroyal site. This site is on the Detroit River between two completed sections of the RiverWalk: Gabriel Richard Park and Mt. Elliot Park. Site cleanup could begin as early as next spring. This is a necessary step before this critical RiverWalk segment can be constructed.

And this Sunday the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is leading a free guided tour of the RiverWalk from 10am until 11am at the Rivard Plaza. There are more details on their Facebook page. They are asking attendees to RSVP by tomorrow by sending an email to

Reaching our goals together

There was a Greens Streets and Highways Conference in Denver this week. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wrote about it on his blog, including this quote:

We have the tools, and are developing even more tools, to make sure that transportation doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Highway advocates, environmentalists, car owners, truckers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and preservationists can all reach their goals–together.

No more excuses for Metro Detroit road agencies.

We need leaders who find solutions to problems rather than continuing to find problems with solutions.

Spring is here: Detroit biking in the media

Friday, March 26th, 2010

W. Vernor improvements to target pedestrian safety, add bike lanes

Model D has published follow up to the open house we mentioned earlier in Southwest Detroit.

Concepts shared at the Open House include the installation of bike lanes on W. Vernor between Waterman and Lansing, which would mean narrowing the road down in some areas to one lane of vehicular traffic; redoing the street surface and water and sewage lines on the stretch of W. Vernor that passes under the viaduct just east the W. Vernor/Dix/Waterman intersection, as well as the installation of new sidewalks and lighting; the incorporation of a left-turn lane on eastbound W. Vernor at Livernois to prevent illegal and unsafe turns; and improving lane configuration at the W. Vernor/Dix/Waterman intersection to prevent lane jockeying.

Plans will be submitted for approval to the Michigan Department of Transportation this month in the hope that construction can begin this year.

All total this will be about two miles of bike lanes (1 mile westbound, 1 mile eastbound.) Plans also call for lighting underneath the viaduct.

Sounds like a Complete Street to us!

Sharing Woodward Avenue

Metromode has an article on returning Woodward Avenue to a Complete Street.

That means making the thoroughfare friendly to all forms of transportation, like pedestrians, bicyclists, trains and automobiles. It also means building density and economic opportunity along Michigan’s Main Street. The belief is that by making Woodward less car-dominant it can grow into one of Metro Detroit’s primary economic engines.

“The time has come,” says Heather Carmona, executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, a non-profit that advocates for the avenue. “The irony is decades ago Woodward was a transportation-inclusive corridor, but it lost that with the rise of the automotive industry. However, it’s coming back full circle.”

Detroit Has to Demolish Before it Can Rebuild

ABC News has a story on Mayor Bing’s efforts to rebuild and reinvent Detroit.

Demographer Kurt Metzger envisions small urban villages connected by parks and bike paths.

“We could become the greenest city in the country because of the land that we have if we start to manage it correctly,” he said.

We share that vision as do many others. While the Mayor in his recent state of the city address did not specifically say bike paths and greenways, he did mention “parks and green space” twice:

Strengthening our city will take a long-term strategy for how we use Detroit’s 140 square miles more productively. The harsh reality is that some areas are no longer viable neighborhoods with the population loss and financial situation our city faces. But instead of looking at our land as a liability, we need to begin to think creatively about how it can be a resource as we rebuild our city. That conversation is in its initial stages but let me take a moment to dispel some myths out there.

We’re not giving away or selling any neighborhoods to anyone. This is about determining what areas of our city are best suited for residential use, commercial and industrial businesses, parks and green space.

When I imagine Detroit’s future, I see a city with vibrant neighborhoods, with retail and grocery stores, a city that’s home to thriving small businesses, better mass transit and community parks and green space. But it will take all of us to make that happen and it’s a process that will not happen overnight.

And he also mentioned Detroit’s Safe Routes to School effort.

Bike and ped improvement meeting in Southwest Detroit

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Last year the city of Detroit received special funding for improving non-motorized safety along West Vernor Avenue in Southwest Detroit. This work is related to last July’s walkability audits with Dan Burden along this same stretch of roadway.

Now the city is hosting an open house to discuss their plans to improve safety along this corridor, including bike lanes.

Here are more details from the city of Detroit Traffic Engineering department:

Vernor Ave (Waterman to Lansing) Corridor Safety Improvement Project

Come to this open house to learn more about plans for traffic and safety improvements along the corridor, including new crosswalks, upgraded traffic signals, and changes to striping and lane use on Vernor Avenue. This project is intended to promote pedestrian and vehicular safety and the vitality of the area.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Most Holy Redeemer Church
1721 Junction St. in Detroit (Southwest corner of Vernor and Junction)
Meet in the “Blue Room”

For more information, contact Prasad Nannapaneni at 313‐628‐5603

Southwest Detroit, Woodward, and Walkability

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Vernor Avenue through Southwest DetroitDan Burden in Southwest Detroit

In July, MDOT brought Dan Burden to a number of Michigan cities for walkability audits. Burden is from Glatting Jackson and is acknowledged as among the leading authorities on improving streets for walking and biking.

One visit was in Southwest Detroit. The audit was on Vernor Avenue from Clark to Livernois. We were joined by a couple city of Detroit traffic engineers who are looking to improve pedestrian safety along this specific stretch of road.

Some of Burden’s ideas included painted bike lanes (painted as in the entire lane, e.g. blue or green), a couple minor roundabouts (to slow traffic), and improved pedestrian crossings. And he also emphasized the need to change the facades. Too many of the buildings have covered or blocked their front windows. It would be best if these were unblocked so that there are more “eyes on the street” and adding to the pedestrian comfort levels.

Burden also visited Hamtramck. Model D Media has a coverage of his Detroit visits.

Dan Burden on Woodward

Next, Burden headed over the Woodward Avenue and stopped in communties between Birmingham and Ferndale. Some of his suggestions were noted in a Free Press article (no longer on-line):

City planners could revive Woodward Avenue with bike lanes, slower traffic, 100,000 new trees and big improvements at pedestrian crossings.

And that’s just the start of a vision that consultant Dan Burden shared last week with local officials, road engineers and residents, as he led what he calls walkability audits in Pontiac, Birmingham, Royal Oak and Pleasant Ridge.

To attract “the creative class” that can jump-start a region’s growth: “You start with paint. You put in bike lanes and get trees planted, and that brings the speeds of motorists down, and then the buildings start to come back, and with that, the tax base. That lets you redesign the streets,” he said.

Some of Burden’s suggestions were simply no-brainers. While auditing the crosswalks at 13 Mile and Woodward, we noted that MDOT had placed a sign that blocked the pedestrian walk signal. Another Don’t Walk signal was barely working.

Near Pasquale’s, there’s a sign telling pedestrians not to cross there. Burden correctly deduced that these signs are put up by cities when pedestrians are killed, rather than fix the problem. In this case, using a signalized crosswalk would require more than a half-mile of walking, which is completely unrealistic.

This isn’t Burden’s first visit to the area. Years ago Burden had advised Ferndale to narrow 9 Mile, which led to a huge turnaround and improvement to the area.

Unfortunately this time around, not all the communities were as receptive.

During a walking audit in Pleasant Ridge, Burden told local officials, “I can’t help you if your community wants to be auto-dependent.” Burden suggested they convert some of their mostly unused (and often inaccessible) green space into high density, mixed-use development. Sure, trees are “green”, but it would be more “green” if their residents could walk or bike rather than drive to nearby coffee shops, an ice cream parlors, or convenience stores.

Woodward: Next Steps

But there’s more momentum to improving Woodward for biking and walking than these audits, as evidenced by this press release:

The Woodward Avenue Action Association is pleased to announce that in partnership with engineering firm Giffels-Webster, we are closer to finding ways to make Woodward more pedestrian & bike friendly. The Woodward Avenue Non-Motorized Plan will focus on Woodward between 8 mile and Maple will identify ways for communities to plan and zone safer routes for non-motorist users of Woodward. Some of the elements being looked at for this plan include reducing speed limits, developing landscaped buffer zones and more countdown times at crosswalks.

This study was prompted by the city of Royal Oak, who is now doing a non-motorized study for the entire city. Other cities who have become examples of getting non-motorized plans right include the city of Ferndale. Since the early 1990’s the city has transformed its downtown which sits squarely along Woodward, from desolate streets into a thriving bustling district. Improvements such as parking lots developed behind stores, reduction in traffic lanes and lowered speed limits have all contributed to the economic boos Ferndale is currently experiencing. For more information on this program please contact, Nicole Klepadlo, WA3 Program Manager.

The Oakland Press recently ran an article that also discussed Woodward Avenue and this planning effort.

Of course beyond the communities that are dug in and ready to defend status quo, there’s MDOT. They’ve been willing to listen to these sorts of efforts but haven’t been overly interested in any plans that they think would reduce Woodward’s level of service.

That’s a level of service for motorists, of course.

However, they have acknowledged that the vehicle counts on Woodward have been declining. They should drop even further once Woodward gets light rail north of Eight Mile.