Great things are afoot (and apedal) when it comes to walking and cycling in Detroit!
We recently reported on the effort to expand Detroit's favorite non-motorized pathway, the Dequindre Cut. We're happy to inform you, though, that extending the Cut is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are three walking and biking infrastructure enhancements now underway that might just have you popping a metaphorical wheelie.
Jefferson Protected Bike Lanes
The Motor City has a lot of bike lanes—170 miles to be precise—but it recently crossed into new territory with the announcement that it would be building its first protected bike lanes on Jefferson Ave. The project, which falls under the umbrella of the Jefferson Avenue Streetscape Project, is a partnership between the city of Detroit and Jefferson East.
Its first phase will involve installing protected lanes on a stretch between Detroit's border with Grosse Pointe Park at Alter Road and Lakewood Street. After that, there are tentative plans to extend protected lanes all the way downtown.
"The bike lanes will be against the curbs." Richard Doherty an engineer for the City of Detroit told Mode Shift. "A two-foot buffer will include lane delineators to protect the bicyclists. The parking lane will be outside this buffer strip and then the through lanes of traffic."
Funding support for the Jefferson streetscape project is coming from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Kresge Foundation, and DTE Energy Foundation.
MDOT has been handling bidding and was expected to have a contractor in place by the beginning of September. Work on the initial phase of the project is projected to wrap up this fall. After that's done, there's momentum to extend them even further down the avenue.
"We are preparing the next phase of the project, which will go from Lakewood to East Grand Blvd., or approximately three miles," says Doherty. "Our goal is to continue with the bike lanes and medians all the way west to the I-375 interchange on the edge of our Central Business District."
If partners can secure funding, the second phase of the streetscape enhancements should be completed next year.
The Midtown Greenway Loop
Things are looking good right now for the Midtown Loop, a 3.5 mile greenway that's being built to make life more convenient for cyclists and pedestrians traveling around and through Detroit's Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood.
When it's complete, the greenway will combine a two-mile loop joining together various Midtown destinations with a 1.5 mile pathway leading to the Dequindre Cut.
The final phase of the project kicked off in late August, 2015. It'll connect an existing section of the greenway with the Dequindre Cut, following a route that winds east along Mack Avenue at John R. Street, south on Brush and east on Wilkins.
Originally the Midtown Loop only included plans for about a half-mile of bike lanes on Cass. That number has been inflated, however, as a result of the M-1 Rail Project making Woodward Ave. inhospitable to bicyclists. As a result of M-1 streetcar rails being installed on the thoroughfare, MDOT awarded $1 million to the city of Detroit last year to turn Cass Ave. into a bike-friendly alternative to Woodward.
Due to this extra funding, the completed Midtown Loop will now feature a full four miles of bike lanes connecting the neighborhood with New Center and the Riverfront, according to DBusiness.
Along with bike lanes, the project will also sport a 12-foot-wide walking path that will follow existing street patterns. The Midtown Loop will also feature colored pavement, street and LED pedestrian lighting, benches, way-finding signage, bike racks and other improvements, as well as bicycle counters, which will keep track of bike lane usage.
The project should be completed late summer or early fall of 2016.
The Detroit RiverWalk
With its majestic view of the Detroit River and the Windsor skyline, Detroit's RiverWalk has become one of the city's premier walking and cycling attractions. For many years, the pathway was confined to a stretch east of Joe Louis arena. Last year, though, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the nonprofit that oversees the RiverWalk, opened up a new western expanse that stretches from the Riverfront Apartments to Rosa Parks Boulevard.
"We have an an extra wide RiverWalk there," says Marc Pasco, the conservancy's director of communications. "We wanted to make sure there was room for fishermen as well as people walking, jogging, running and things like that."
The western RiverWalk currently stretches about four-tenths of a mile along the riverfront and runs adjacent to West Riverfront Park, a 20-acre recreation spot that opened last year.
According to Pasco, the conservancy ultimately plans to have five-and-a-half miles of "revitalized and transformed riverfront," stretching from Gabriel Richard Park, east of the Belle Isle's MacArthur Bridge to Riverside Park, which is located just past the Ambassador Bridge.
It's an ambitious vision, but one without a strict timeline. Expansion requires funds above and beyond what it costs to maintain the existing RiverWalk, as well as working out arrangements with public and private landowners to gain access to riverfront properties. For these reasons, upgrading the pathway has been a piecemeal effort, though one the conservancy is determined to see to completion.
Enhancing the RiverWalk isn't just about adding more pathway, either. Bicyclists riding there now have access to bike repair kiosks that should be helpful if they run into any minor mechanical troubles.
"There are several repair stations at the pavillions that people can come up to and perform relatively simple repairs: pump your air up, tighten your bolts, tighten your sprockets, adjust your chain," says Pasco.
For major repairs cyclists also have the option of stopping by the Detroit Wheelhouse bike shop.
Connecting local businesses to trail activity is yet another positive outcome of the walking and biking projects we should see unfold in Detroit in the near future.