Bike Summit outlines 2013 advocacy and policy efforts for Woodward

Bike Summit outlines 2013 advocacy and policy efforts for Woodward

PHOTO: J Singleton

Royal Oak, Mich.—Bicycle advocates and supporters took another step in unifying and progressing efforts toward equal pedestrian and cyclist rights in Michigan Dec. 12 during the Royal Oak Bike Summit. 

Nearly 100 attendees from southeast Michigan met to hear updates on the state of policies and projects concerning cycling and walking in communities adjacent to Woodward Avenue.

Organizers said the purpose of the Bike Summit was - and is - to provide room for citizens to discuss a multi-city effort to plan for transportation alternatives, including preferred bicycle routes, lane markings, cycle boulevards, and paths that link the various communities along Woodward.

Woodward Avenue Action Association: Gran Fondo and M-1 Complete Streets

The WA3 has been very active in improving the Woodward corridor for all road users of the road resulting in better conditions for cyclists and pedestrians from Detroit to Pontiac.

"We're building for cars, not people anymore," said Heather Carmona, WA3’s executive director. "The Woodward Avenue Action Association is connecting the dots for non-motorized transportation across communities."

Carmona said WA3 is currently researching and creating a complete streets plan for the entire 27-mile stretch of M-1, which thanks to the WA3 now has national designation as a historic road, which qualifies certain projects for federal funding. 

Part of WA3's effort to create the unified complete streets plan is to organize what's called a gran fondo, which is Italian for "big ride.” Through two riding formats, a 54-mile elite bike race and a casual ride, WA3 hopes to raise money for improvements along Woodward as well as awareness for cyclists on the historic street. 

Carmona said WA3 is also looking for public input relative to how and why residents bike, and what they want to see happen along the corridor. To give WA3 your input on complete streets in your Woodward community, contact them here.

Woodward Avenue Bike Maps

Matt Faraday, who heads the Non-Motorized Green Transportation Team at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, explained his group's efforts to map comprehensive bicycle routes in Oakland County. The maps outline safe routes to destinations in and around the Woodward corridor in an effort to promote more active communities.

The maps were created using input from area cyclists nearly a year ago and Faraday says they'll be ready for distribution before Bike-to-Work Day in May 2013.

Road Commission for Oakland County pushes communities to adopt progressive policy

David Evancoe, planning and environmental concerns director for the Road Commission for Oakland County, said county road conditions for bikers and walkers have improved a lot in the past few years, but much work has yet to be done. 

Evancoe stressed the need for more funding for projects and "interconnected multimodal facilities," like transit centers, not just roads.

"We want to do it but we need more money," Evancoe said. "Just a $.01 increase in the state gas tax would raise $43 million more a year." A $.06 tax raise, which he said would barely be noticeable, would raise $250 million a year for more projects.

He said the Road Commission, which manages more than 2,600 miles of road in the county, receives $75 million in repair requests every year but is only provided $15 million a year.

For now, Evancoe said the RCOC's main goals are to address user needs and stakeholder input while designing with all users and safety in mind, to secure more funding for such projects, and to push Oakland County communities to consider similar measures.

Birmingham

Birmingham's Assistant City Planner, Sue Weckerle, said the city is in the process of developing a multi-modal master plan to piggy back the complete streets resolution passed last year to start getting systems in place for more pedestrian and cyclist-oriented improvements.

Weckerle also said the city is phasing in 45 bike racks in over the next two years.

She also said in drafting the NMP and implementing more bicycle amenities, the city was looking for input from citizens. One of those opportunities is on Jan. 17, 2013 at the Baldwin Public Library from 7 - 9 p.m.

Madison Heights

Jim Schafer, community development director for Madison Heights, said that while his city ranks number two on the popular Walk Score website, which rates a city's walkability depending on its density and the location of residential development relative to its commercial districts, the city manager wants to achieve a number one ranking, which Hamtramck holds right now.

Madison Heights also has a vigorous sidewalk gap improvement program, which Schafer says is currently addressing 16 miles of sidewalk gaps throughout the municipality and has been doing so since 2002. 

He also explained the city's idea of creating a trail along the Red Run drainage pipeline, which would build a trail along the historic drain path near the Red Oaks Golf Course. The trail would go from Dequindre to I-75 and Stephenson Highway. While there is no set date for completion yet, Schafer says Madison Heights has worked long and hard hours with the County Parks and Water Resource Program to develop the trail.

When finished, it will serve as a connecting trail in the southeast Michigan greenway network, which includes the Clinton River and Paint Creek Trails, as well as the Conner Creek Greenway and the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative.

Clawson

Clawson has made strides in improving walkability, said Joan Horton, director for the Clawson Downtown Development Authority.

She said the 2.2 square-mile city increased their pedestrian traffic downtown after they added on-street parking, and their goal for 2013 is to install pedestrian islands in bigger road crossings. She said the increase in walkability has improved their small community's sense of place.

Huntington Woods

City Planner, Bonnie Cook, said Huntington Woods will likely begin drafting and researching for a complete streets plan starting July 1, 2013.

Berkley

Berkley has had a complete streets ordinance for two years. Officials have amended the master plan to include non-motorized transportation options and are now building with consideration of transit development.

While they're well on their way to creating a pedestrian-friendly downtown, Berkley City Councilmember Steven Baker said, "It's important we've established the importance of these issues" and he urged summit attendees to be engaged in their city governments.

Detroit

Todd Scott of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance gave a laundry list of updates from south of 8 Mile in Detroit, including many of the projects he's worked on with the Detroit Greenways Coalition.

Other projects adding to the city's cycling infrastructure are a planned 17-mile inner circle greenway, and Wayne State University has initiated a business plan and study determining the feasibility of a bike share system for the university and surrounding area.

Using the 2006 non-motorized master plan the city of Detroit drafted in 2006, Scott, City Councilmember Ken Cockrel Jr., and many other organizations have worked to bring to the city about one quarter of the nearly 400 miles of bike lanes outlined in the plan, define preferred bike routes, and install signage and road markings, such as sharrows.  

The city is looking to add another 70-80 miles of bike lanes in 2013, including an extension for the Dequindre Cut, which is part of the city's greenways network. In Summer 2012 the project received a $10 million federal grant to extend the subterranean greenway from Eastern Market to Midtown and eventually to Hamtramck.

Other projects adding to the city's cycling infrastructure are a planned 17-mile inner circle greenway. Wayne State University has initiated a business plan and study determining the feasibility of a bike share system for the university and surrounding area.

On a final note, Scott also said the MTGA is pushing for the city and state to create a pedestrian and cyclist crossing from Detroit to Windsor both by ferry through the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority and via bikes lanes on the new international bridge.

Takeaway

Seven guests presented the progress report for Oakland and Wayne County bicycle and pedestrian facilities, but the recurring theme of the night was: What can everyone do to help?

Aside from registering a profile on Mode Shift to share your stories and ideas (*ahem*), the driving point behind speakers’ points were to contact those who are elected to represent you and tell them we need to devote and secure more funding and debate for bicycle and walking amenities in Michigan.

While the State of Michigan passed complete streets legislation in 2010, Public Acts 134 and 135, which requires the Michigan Department of Transportation to build and design road projects for all users of the road, it doesn’t mandate any municipalities in Michigan adopt the policy.

Many of the speakers said the need to contact your representatives and tell them to consider these projects and to ask that more funding from roads towards building and maintaining these cycling and pedestrian amenities is of the utmost importance.

"These kinds of meetings are awesome but the folks that need to hear this are the ones making road funding decisions," Schafer said. "You have to talk to those folks making the decisions."

You would be surprised at how successful one can be doing by just showing up and saying something, he said.

Upcoming meetings:

  • Woodward Avenue Action Association Gran Fondo hearing: Dec. 17
  • Birmingham multi-modal transportation visioning meeting input: Jan. 17
  • Metro Coalition of Congregations Task Force meeting: Feb 24 (information TBA)

Tell your representitives to support and allocate more funding to transit and complete streets in Michigan! If you have a meeting you'd like to register, click here!