Archive for the ‘Quality of Life’ Category

Walkable cities are key to urban recovery

Friday, April 17th, 2009

A Paris crosswalk

Yesterday’s Detroit News had an excellent opinion piece on creating walkable (and bikeable) cities in Michigan. It was written by Brad Garmon of the Michigan Environmental Council and Gil White, the past president of the Michigan Association of Realtors.

Michigan needs great, walkable, urban places if it is to mount a serious economic recovery.

In essence, the idea is this: If we build places where the best and brightest want to live, our economy will reap the benefits in job creation, skilled workers and entrepreneurial activity. If we fail to build them, those same folks will continue to go elsewhere, taking their job skills, creativity and disposable income with them.

Michigan has not kept our young, talented professionals “because you’ve not offered them the walkable urban way of living, and they’ve left,” Leinberger says. “It’s not the only reason, of course, but it’s significant. You’ve got folks in this country that would love to move back to Michigan if there was any hope and any option that they could live the kind of life that they want to live.”

Both Garmon and White are on the Leadership Council of People and Land. One of their “Pillars for Prosperity” is to build attractive cities and neighborhoods.

They note that even Michigan’s best-performing city, Ann Arbor ranks 184th among the top 200 performing cities nationwide.

What’s it going to take to initiate this change?

Given the attitudes and aptitudes in our current road commissions, local, county governments, and SEMCOG — it’s going to take a generational change in leadership. We need new elected officials who aren’t satisifed with the failings of our current status quo plans for the future and are committed to stepping up to move us forward.

Biking, Trails, and the New Economy

Sunday, March 1st, 2009


Last week the Land Policy Institute (LPI) at Michigan State University released a study summary that for biking and trail advocates only reinforces the obvious: this region needs to make prioritized investments to improving biking, walking, and trail opportunities in order to retain and attract residents.

The report, Chasing the Past or Investing in Our Future: Placemaking for Prosperity in the New Economy, emphasizes the need to attract three specific categories of residents in order to grow in the new knowledge-based economy: young workers, retirees and well-educated immigrants.

Currently, Michigan lags “far behind” most other states in achieving this.

Michigan does poorly in nabbing the highly desired 25- to 34-year-old age group–the so-called Generations X and Y. Michigan sits nearly 15 percent below the national average and in the company of states like North Dakota and Kansas–not with leaders, such as Colorado and Georgia.

According to Dr. Soji Adelaja, the report’s lead author:

The winners will be those regions that build strategies and bolster vibrant urban cores, green recreation opportunities and diverse, entrepreneurial populations, among other assets.

In the Old Economy, people moved somewhere new or lived somewhere for 30 years because that was where their jobs were. Not anymore. People who create the most jobs directly and indirectly are also those people moving to those places in the country that have the best amenities and quality of life. They are seeking places first, not jobs first.

One item we’d add is our region often fails to market what green recreation we have. Metro Detroit has a very respectable collection of singletrack trails and rail-trails. Urban biking in the city of Detroit is top-notch.

Perhaps it’s our Motor City moniker that leads many to believe we lack these green facilities.

Either way, Michigan will not be competitive hanging out with the likes of North Dakota and Kansas.

Talking about Windsor Biking

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

There’s a lot going on in Windsor, Ontario with respect to biking.  Despite being just across the Detroit River, there hasn’t been much interaction and exchange between bike advocates and even bicyclists — that should change in the future.

But first, lets begin by highlighting some Windsor stories on biking that have come up during the past couple months.

To begin with, a recent Windsor Star newspaper article spoke of efforts to improve biking on Riverside Drive:

Windsor has rolled a little closer to the longtime but controversial goal of having a bike path stretch from the Ambassador Bridge to the east end’s Ganatchio Trail.

A recent ruling by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment allows the city to widen parts of Riverside Drive — against the wishes of some residents — in order to create an unbroken bike path along 16 kilometres of waterfront.

The Windsor Star even printed an opinion piece in support.

One of the biggest supporters for biking in Windsor right now is Councilor Alan Halberstadt.

Mr. Halberstadt was also involved in a flap over ticketing cyclists that ride on sidewalks (and endanger pedestrians.)  One problem is some streets are not properly designed for bicyclists and high-speed, high-vehicular traffic counts. As a result, many cyclists feel forced to use sidewalks.

One such example is Windsor’s Tecumseh Road.  A cyclist challenged him to ride Tecumseh during rush hour to eyewitness the problem and he did.

Their two-wheeled adventure took about 15 minutes. More than once the much faster motorists were hitting the brakes as they slowed behind the cycling duo. Some impatient drivers farther down the line even hit the horn before darting out into the other lane. Graber said he wanted the councillor to experience what cyclists go through every day.

“So he could have more insight when he’s making decisions,” said Graber, who rides 15 kilometres to work each day. “I gotta take my hat off to him. He really stepped up. He was out there and a city bus came within two feet of him, so I really have to give him credit.”

Halberstadt said his ride, while hair-rising at times, hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not really,” said Halberstadt. “I’ve been saying for 10 or 12 years, since I’ve been council, that we need to improve our cycling network. If the attention this has brought helps move this along, then I’m thrilled.”

And if you’re really interested, there’s a video of this ride as well.

Windsor Star also ran an editorial Bike Paths would Boost our Quality of Life.  It was great to read except it didn’t mention Detroit and our biking efforts.

Expect that to change.

NEXT UP: Getting bicyclists across the border

Detroit City Council Approves Non-Motorized Plan

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Last Tuesday, the full Detroit City Council approved two resolutions relating to the Non-Motorized Transportation Master Plan.

Why a Master Plan?

Municipalities develop non-motorized master plans to look at their entire area and creates a vision for improved biking and walking facilities based on public input and various data sources.  Typically the plan calls for modifying existing road right-of-ways to better and more safely accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.  It would also consider non-motorized trails needs as well as related amenities, such as bike racks.

And of course, a good plan would make recommendations on how to change city policies in order to make the planning vision a reality.

Having a good non-motorized plan helps municipalities implement them as road construction projects are planned.  Similarly, it obligates other road agencies (e.g. MDOT) to implement the plan on roads they own within the municipality.

And finally, having system-wide plans such as these improves the chances for grant funding to help implement the plan.

Detroit’s Plan

MDOT funded a non-motorized plan for Detroit.  Giffels-Webster along with other firms and the City of Detroit developed the plan.   The plan calls for various improvements for walking and biking in Detroit, including nearly 400 miles of bike lanes.

Link to Detroit Non-motorized Transportation Master Plan

City Council Resolutions

The plan was first presented to Council President Ken Cockrel Jr.’s Green Task Force.  We received a very favorable response and Mr. Cockrel got this on a council committee agenda.  With a solid showing of public support, the committee created resolutions to approve it.

Both resolutions are shown below: (more…)

Greenways, Riverwalk, and Dequindre Cut Blogging

Monday, September 15th, 2008
Photo by Marvin Shaouni

Photo by Marvin Shaouni

Tom Woiwode knows greenways. ?He’s been at the forefront of the movement in Metro Detroit since 2001 when he led development of the GreenWays Initiative.

At the end of August, Tom wrote a series of guest blogs covering topics from the Dequindre Cut to the Riverwalk to other trails and greenways in Metro Detroit. ?The resulting blog entries are some of the best you’ll read on trails and what they mean to the people and communities that build and use them.

Thanks to Metromode and Model D for putting these on-line. ?The photo was taken by Marvin Shaouni.