DETROIT—Local government has played a crucial role in fostering Motown’s growing network of bicycle lanes, but it’s far from the only player involved in the effort.
Right now, the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation is working with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Wayne County and the city to install new bike lanes in the northwest Detroit neighborhood of Cody Rouge.
Current plans call for two miles of lanes on Joy Road stretching between River Rouge Park and the Southfield Freeway. Rodney Gasaway, Joy-Southfield CDC’s Director of Community Development, told Mode Shift the street is in dire need of repair -- especially for those on bikes.
“The lines on the road are about gone,” he said. “The roads are in pretty bad shape, so cars are kind of all over the place. It’s really not safe for bicyclists. This would take care of that.”
The project’s execution will be handled jointly by Wayne County, which owns Joy Road, and Detroit’s Department of Water and Sewerage, which is in charge of several water mains that will also be repaired. Their efforts are being coordinated by SEMCOG, an intergovernmental association that steps into help with transportation projects that span across multiple jurisdictions. Construction crews should begin working on the lanes next year, though the exact timeline and funding structure are still being determined.
Under the plan, five traffic lanes will be slimmed down to three, with new bike lanes and parallel parking filling in the slack on each side.
Gasaway’s organization is the guiding force behind the road revamp. Founded in 2001 by the Second Grace United Methodist Church, the Joy-Southfield CDC also operates a free medical clinic in Cody Rouge. It sees the bike lanes as part of its broader mission of encouraging a safe and healthy environment in the neighborhood. The new bike infrastructure is part of a bigger push by the CDC to reinvigorate the community’s main commercial strip and encourage green development in the area.
In 2009, the CDC applied for (and was later accepted into) a special “Downtowns of Promise” program, sponsored by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. It’s designed to help communities strategize action-oriented plans to redevelop downtown areas and commercial districts. Joy Southfield’s inclusion in the program came with a state grant that helped them leverage further funding to redesign and rebuild the road. They chose a Complete Streets approach that tied the bike lanes to a significant local attraction.
“We sit next to Rouge Park which is the largest urban park in this area, about 500 acres larger than Belle Isle.” Gasaway said. “[The bike lanes] would be a natural pathway for people to connect a vibrant downtown to Rouge Park and the 17 miles of bike trails they have within park.”
The final redevelopment plan emerged from a series of meetings that combined community input with the expertise of technical consultants.
Those who bike regularly at the park were big boosters of the Complete Streets design from the start, but other stakeholders were initially apprehensive about adopting a non-traditional streetscape plan. They eventually came on board, however, after learning about how the project’s setup could benefit the entire community.
“Not only does it help with the [neighborhood’s] possible economic feasibility with promotion of the parks and downtown area through the bike lanes,” Gasaway said, “but it also acts ... as a little bit of safety for those parallel parking on the street.”
Now, he said, local businesses and residents can’t wait for Joy Road's rehabilitation to get underway, and he's excited for the transformation of the area to begin.
“We’re really wanting a healthy, vibrant community where people can have places to shop and walk and ride their bikes and exercise and feel comfortable in doing so,” he said. “The bike lanes and the greening and Complete Streets will really set the Cody Rouge neighborhood apart from other neighborhoods.”
Those interested in business opportunities in the Cody Rouge neighborhood are encouraged to contact Rodney Gasaway with the Joy-Southfield CDC at (313)581-7773, X104.