Archive for the ‘General bike news’ Category

2012 Bike the Bridge registration closing soon

Monday, May 28th, 2012

On Sunday morning, June 17th you’ll be able to ride your bike from Detroit to Windsor over the Ambassador Bridge.

Make sure you register now. It appears Bike the Bridge registration is closing for the event at 11am on May 31st. Since this event involves U.S. and Canadian Customs pre-screening, there just can be exceptions for late registrants.

Here’s additional information from the web site:

This is a very special Biking event. The Ambassador Bridge, spanning from Detroit to Windsor, pauses traffic to allow bikes to cross. Canadian riders will ride to the US, across the bridge, and meet up with the Americans. Then both the Canadians and Americans will ride back across the bridge. A delicious Breakfast will be provided after the bridge ride, at Canada’s beautiful Mic Mac Park. Breakfast will be provided by Tres Bean Cafe’ of Windsor. We also plan to have guest speakers and musical entertainment. Then one of two tours can be selected. The short tour will be approximately 15 miles/ 24 KM in length. The short tour will include a special production by Mackenzie Hall. The Long tour will be approximately 40 miles/ 64 KM in length. Both tours will focus on the theme of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The long tour will include a trip to Fort Malden. At the conclusion of the tours Americans, will be bussed back across the bridge and their bikes will be transported via truck. You will also receive a uniquely designed T-shirt as a memento of the event. If you want to attend this event you must have a valid Passport, Passport card, enhanced driver’s license, or Nexus card at the time of registration. This applies to everyone attending this event.

Hopefully the Canadians won’t tease us to much about our rapid surrender of Fort Detroit during the War of 1812. At least we took Fort Malden the next year.

WindsorDOTca also has an article on this event.

Detroit biking articles all over the local media

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

A couple weeks ago we wrote about seven different biking articles that ran in the Detroit media.

Well here’s another nine!

Cycling for Health

Our friend and longtime Detroit cyclist Cassandra Spratling wrote this article in the Detroit Free Press. The Daley’s adoption of biking as transportation — and how they lost 210 pounds between them — is quite a story.

When Don and Darla Daley dine at restaurants near their Royal Oak home, they no longer drive their car.

It’s the same with quick trips to the store or nearby Royal Oak Farmers Market. They hop on the bicycles they bought two years ago — their favorite form of recreation and exercise.

“I never thought I’d love it as much as I do,” Darla Daley says. “Other bikers wave at you. It’s just fun.”

There are other health success stories included here as well.

Cycling for Green Jobs

The Free Press also ran this story on Vanita Mistry and her Detroit Greencycle company that provides curbside recycling.

Four days a week before heading out to her day job, Mistry straps an 8-foot trailer to her mountain bike and pedals for several hours through a number of Detroit neighborhoods, including Clark Park, the Eastern Market district and Corktown to pick up recyclables and compost from her regular customers.

She totes twelve 18-gallon bins on her trailer, with a capacity to carry up to 300 pounds. Mistry separates plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and aluminum. She also collects composting material.

“I find that I’m driven more by public service and giving back,” Mistry said. “What motivates me is knowing I’m making a difference in the work I’m doing, and I’ve found that Greencycle is one of many ways I strive to make a difference in my community.”

Next, the Huffington Post continues their series on Detroit biking with an interesting look at the city’s bike messenger history.

CBS Detroit also joined in with this article on Shane O’Keefe’s Hot Spokes food delivery company.

O’Keefe said it’s sometimes a challenge to balance several meals inside his thermal bike box and his hands, but he does it. O’Keefe said they’ll deliver in any weather — even deep snow.

The last time they could not make a delivery was more than two winters ago during a major snow storm.

O’Keefe said he does not own a car and he’s glad he doesn’t have to pay for gas while trying to run a delivery business.

Critical Mass

Again, the Huffington Post published this article, Detroit Critical Mass Helps Area Cyclists Find Common Ground On City Streets. It accurately paints a mixed view on how successful this ride is. Interestingly, the critics aren’t motorists, but other Detroit cyclists. We’ve heard from critics of this popular ride as well: it’s too fast, too long, too organized, and it caters too much to suburban cyclists who drive to the city for the ride.

Ironically enough, the Detroit Critical Mass ride was moved to this location in part because of its free car parking. The bike lanes being installed this year eliminate much of that free parking. Will Critical Mass move again because of the bike lanes?

A View from Below

The Lakewood Observer from the Cleveland-area published, The Detroit Comparison: Sam Willsey’s Recent Cycling Experience. It’s an interesting article that gives the impression that Detroit is ahead of Cleveland in terms of adding bike lanes and trails. We’re not sure how both cities compare, but it seems we have much lower traffic on our streets.

The article does get a couple things wrong. We do have a bike advocacy group — the Detroit Greenways Coalition. And, the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance is not proposing or significantly funding these projects. Non-profits and the City are the ones proposing, while funding comes from a variety of state, local, and philanthropic sources.

A Bicycle Lending Library

Stories about Fender Bender’s plan for a community-based bike share program were published in both Mode Shift and the Huffington Post.

From Mode Shift:

Like any bike sharing program, The Bicycle Lending Library will rent bikes out from one to four days with the single-day rental being the most “expensive” and adding days will make the rental cheaper. [Sarah] Sidelko says the program is going to be very affordable, but does not have the specific dollar amounts worked out yet.

In addition to renting a bicycle, the Library will also lend out a helmet, a bike light and lock and a map of Detroit, which will have an emphasis on bike lanes and greenways, and will have other prominent destinations peppered in.

Detroit Cycling History

The Huffington Post rounded out their bike series by touching on the city’s rich cycling history. The article is primarily an interview with the Hub’s Jack Van Dyke.

And on a related note, the web site Roads were not Built for Cars ran this story on Henry Ford and his connection to cycling back in the day. The web site’s author Carlton Reid was recently in Detroit. We had the opportunity to give him a bike tour that connected our cycling history. During our ride he asked, “Are we downtown?”. Yes we were. It was midday on a Friday and the streets were ours. There was very little traffic. He was rather impressed and said, “This is the cycling city of the future.”

Detroit: There are no accurate bike counts

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

How many people in Detroit bike? How has this changed over time?

They’re very popular questions. The truth is we don’t know. Nobody does.

And that same answer is true for most American cities – accurate bicycling data does not exist.

That hasn’t stopped some groups from pretending that it does.

If you read the recent Huffington Post article on Detroit, you may have seen this.

A 2012 report by the Alliance for Biking & Walking found the number of bicycle commuters in Detroit rose 258 percent over the last two decades.

Sounds good, right? The Alliance report says Detroit had 340 daily bicycle commuters in 1990 and 1,217 in 2009.

What the Alliance report fails to tell you are the margins of error, which really give you an idea how inaccurate these numbers are.

That 2009 number is 1,217 plus or minus 803. Yep, the Census says the actual 2009 number could be as low as 414, likely within the 1990 number’s margin of error.

Another thing to consider: The 2009 numbers are based on a Detroit population of over 900,000, which is off by couple hundred thousand people.

And while everyone acknowledges Detroit’s notable increase in cycling activity last year, the 2010 Census numbers show bicycle commuting dropped nearly in half to 651 plus or minus 424.

If this hasn’t convinced you these numbers are quite worthless, there’s more.

The Census numbers only includes those who are working and 16 years or older. The Census doesn’t count most people who combine modes (e.g. use the bus bike racks) or who bike only a couple times a week.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking were made aware of these Census discrepancies for Detroit, but for the most part they did not address them. That’s why Detroit chose not to participate in the most recent report.

Other cities

Other cities are making big strides in understanding bicycling trends and counts. They’re doing travel surveys and bicycle counts — both automatically and manually — at key bridges and intersections.

And in cities like New York, they’ve found their counts don’t match the Census numbers either.

Detroit’s done some bicycle counts around Woodward, in Southwest Detroit, and on the RiverWalk, but not enough to draw any major conclusions. It would great if some future bike lane projects (looking at you, E. Jefferson!) could get some automated counters.

Until then, there just aren’t any good answers.



Improving the Google Maps bicycling layer

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Last week was the Google Map Maker North American Conference in Montreal.

What is Map Maker? It’s a web-based tool that lets you modify and add to Google Maps.

However, unlike Wikipedia, there is a change review process. New users can expect all of their changes to require a review while more experienced users can get some changes published immediately.

What changes can made? The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance has added missing pathways for the Detroit RiverWalk, Conner Creek Greenway, and Midtown Loop. All of the City’s bike lanes were added. There were also a number of trails shown for Detroit that simply don’t exist or are sidewalks. Those were removed.

The Google bicycling layer, which is selectable in Google Maps is now looking fairly accurate. We’re using it on this site with an overlay of bike parking locations.

Nonetheless, there are some improvements Google could make to improve their bicycle and trail data.

Here are some suggestions that were shared with their development team at the Montreal Conference.

  • Show unpaved roads differently – This would make it easier for road bikers to determine their routes.
  • Bicycle routing – Similarly, it would be useful if bicyclists could get biking directions using only paved surfaces if they prefer. This would be similar to the motorist directions which let you avoid expressways.
  • Add more trail surface descriptions – The popular crushed limestone surface seen on trails like the Paint Creek isn’t an option when describing a trail surface.
  • Add paved shoulders – Google Maps lets you describe bike lanes on a road, but not paved shoulders that make biking more desirable. For example, Edward Hines Drive should not be shown with bike lanes based on Google’s map policies.
  • Add bike racks – Points of interest can be added to Google Maps, but there’s not a category for bike racks. We heard that it will be available in the future.
  • Add abandoned rail corridors – There isn’t a way of properly showing abandoned rail corridors on the map. This is perhaps more useful for planners than riders, but it would be useful to add.
  • Exporting data – If we put all the bike rack locations in Google Maps, we want to be able to pull it back out. That information is needed for Bicycle Friendly Community applications. It would also be useful if we Google Maps could tell us the miles of bike lanes or trail within a city.

The U.S. Bicycle Routes were discussed. Those can be added now. For example, we’ve added the Conner Creek Greenway name to its on-road segments, e.g. ?St. Jean.

There was also a question of bicycles using ferry service. At the time, it was unclear if that was integrated into Google’s bicycle routing software. A different Google development team is responsible for routing (as well as rendering.)

However, getting bike directions from Detroit to Windsor does take you to the ferry in Algonac. City hall to city hall is 127 miles by bike — or 2 by car.

Mapping delays

One word of warning. There is a delay from the time your change is published in Map Maker to the time it shows up on Google Maps. That delay is dependent on many factors, including the size of the change and where the change is made.

There’s also a delay before changes affect the routing. Google’s bike routing tries taking advantage of trails, bike lanes, and preferred bicycle routes. If you add these features in Map Maker, it can take up to a couple months before the routing routines know about them. The Google engineers said there were working on reducing this delay.


Windsor’s effort to boost bicycling

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Riding the Riverfront Trail in Windsor

From bike lanes to riverfront trails, Windsor has had a big head start on Detroit. While that gap has narrowed over the past few years, they’re arguably still ahead. In fact they just got their Bicycle Friendly Community designation last year which Detroit applied for this year.

This CBC News article gives a glimpse of what they have and what they need to make Windsor more bikeable.

According to Windsor’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, the city plans to eventually add approximately 46 kilometres of bikeways.

Every year since 2001, the city has annually spent $400,000 on cycling infrastructure and programs. That doesn’t count the lanes that are added during regular construction.

The goal of the master plan is to have bike lanes and pathways within a five minute radius of every Windsor neighbourhood. It will add up to 350 km of trails and bike routes when it’s done. The current tally is 177 km.

For a really interesting and dynamic look at their plans, check out this before-and-after map.

This is all the more reason why we need a cross-border connection for bicyclists.

Here is a video from the CBC article, Windsor focuses on commuter cycling, bike paths.