Archive for the ‘On-road bicycling’ Category

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.

Grassroots Southeast Oakland County bike route mapping

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

From Tom Regan of Royal Oak:

If you cycle frequently you have probably mapped out some safe and quick ways to get from here to there (say, from Royal Oak to Berkely, or from Clawson to Ferndale). Now it is time to share your knowledge.

We are collecting safe biking routes into one large regional biking map. With help from the Oakland County mapping department we will collate the data and publish this map sometime in the spring of 2012.

Residents of Berkley, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak are invited and encouraged to attend. If you live in another city and would like to join please call or email me directly and we will add you in.

Join us:

Come by any time between 7pm and 8:30pm to share your map ideas.This event is a joint project of the Royal Oak Environmental Advisory Board and environmental advisory boards in Berkley, Birmingham, Clawson, Ferndale, and Pleasant Ridge. Thank you also to the Oakland County mapping department for their kind offer to collate our mapping data.Please spread the word any way you can.
Tom Regan
3126 Glenview
Royal Oak, MI 48073
home: 248-435-0147
cell: 248-797-1075
tregan3@hotmail.com

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.

Pilot ride on the Lake Erie Cycling Route

Friday, September 16th, 2011

On Monday, a group of cyclists rolled out of Windsor for a pilot ride on the proposed Lake Erie Cycling Route.

From the Windsor Star:

The project is being spearheaded by the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, which has established a similar 900-kilometre signed route from the Niagara Region, along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, to the Quebec border. Also involved are the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, Transportation Options and the Carolinian Canada Coalition.

The goal is to establish a mapped and signed Lake Erie cycling route that will help attract cycling tourists and encourage local bicycle use, said Marlaine Kroehler, executive director of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. It could be completed as early as 2013.

This new route is a mix of paved roads with some sections of unpaved rails-to-trails added — mostly the Chrysler Canada Greenway. This is one difference from the otherwise similar U.S. Bicycle Route System which keeps to paved surfaces.

Interestingly enough, the Chrysler Canada Greenway was perhaps less scenic than the road, which ran closer to the lake.

Some highlights along the first leg are Amherstberg and the Fort Malden National Historic Site; Ontario’s wine country; the John R. Park Homestead (no relation to Detroit’s John R. Williams); and the Point Pelee National Park. The latter is about 60 miles from Windsor.

The Lake Erie Cycling Route connects with the existing Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario, which also connects with Quebec’s Route Verte. Yes, you’ll be able to ride from Windsor to Montreal along these cycling routes.

One bonus: The Bike Train means you don’t have to ride out and back. One could take the train and take the route backwards to Windsor.

For Detroit residents, having these mostly rural bike routes (and wineries) so close to the city is a real bonus. This is much closer (and much flatter) than Metro Detroit’s rural roads and much closer than the vineyards near Traverse City. Southeast Ontario drivers seems to be rather congenial as well. The biggest issue is once again, getting across the Detroit river without needing a car.

The Windsor Star published this follow up article with more details, including a discussion on the growing Detroit bicycle scene and the plans to build bike routes through the Motor City. Ignoring the Windsor Star’s inappropriate reference to “the poorest neighborhoods”, the article does capture the excitement of bicycling in the Windsor-Detroit area and the potential to grow the culture and cross-border tourism opportunities.

Share your thoughts on Downtown Ferndale

Monday, August 29th, 2011

The Ferndale DDA is hosting a survey to collect your thoughts on the downtown area.

There are bike-related survey questions regarding bike lanes, bike parking as well as the call for traffic calming.

It’s just a one-page survey and it doesn’t take too long to complete.

A recent Daily Tribune article gives more details:

[DDA Executive Director Cristina] Sheppard-Decius said downtown officials hope to find a way to narrow West Nine Mile Road from five to three lanes, similar to what has been done in the main business district.

Reconfiguring the roadway would allow for wider sidewalks and landscaping and open the way to add public benches, decorative street lighting, bike racks, and on-street parking. Other possible improvements are bicycle lanes and a roundabout at Livernois.

We’d love to see that Livernois intersection improved. It seems to create endless waits especially when heading south. Livernois is a key Eight Mile Road crossing for area cyclists.