UPDATE: Unfortunately Detroit was not among the latest round of cities to be picked for the Green Lane Project. Of the more than 100 U.S. cities that applied, the nonprofit group PeopleForBikes chose Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Seattle to participate in the program. The results were announced on March 10.
DETROIT- An innovative new class of bike lanes, light years beyond simple painted lines, could be coming to Detroit as part of a special project that helps cities develop cutting-edge biking infrastructure.
Last month the city of Detroit applied to take part in the two-year program, which is known as the Green Lane Project. Sponsored by the bicycle industry in conjunction with a nonprofit group called PeopleForBikes, it offers technical assistance and expertise to cities to spur the the installation of protected bike lanes and create safer, less stressful streets.
In 2012 the organization selected Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. to participate in the program's first round. Now Detroit is part of a second wave of cities invited to submit applications.
PeopleForBikes will announce its six new winning Green Lane Project cities later this month.
"Their goal is to get more advanced bike lanes built in US cities, designs that you might see in Europe," said Todd Scott of The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance who helped the city of Detroit write it's application.
"[They're selecting] six cities to bring technical resources and to travel throughout the world to seek for examples of these advanced designs and to inspire and encourage these cities to implement these designs here in the U.S., and those designs are called green lanes," he said.
Scott describes green lanes as a cross between a bike lane and and off-road path. Essentially they're protected lanes, also known as cycle tracks or separated lanes, which means there's some sort of physical barrier between them and the rest of the road. If Detroit is chosen, though, he believes others options like buffered bike lanes or more novel designs, like green sheets on the road that would differentiate lanes, could also be explored.
While conventional bike lanes still make a lot of sense for much of the city because they're cheaper and easier to implement, Scott thinks advanced lanes could really be real game changers in certain areas.
"Not every bike lane's going to be a green lane, but there are special opportunities where you'd want to do a green lane:
a road has a lot of congestion on it, or it's a prime connector, or it's part of another trail system like were looking at, possibly parts of Connor Creek greenway, upping the design and making it more green lane. [In] the central business district where there's more cars and more traffic, green lane's make more sense."
In its bid to join the project, Detroit is receiving a helping hand from a major business district player, Bedrock Real Estate Services, which has submitted a letter of support.
Bedrock is part of the Quicken Loans family of companies, a major downtown employer and property owner that's invested in both the proposed M-1 Rail street car system and a Zagster bike sharing system for its Detroit employees.
"We believe there is huge unrealized opportunity to provide the proper infrastructure through protected bike
lanes that would allow many more of both our own team members and others to use bikes," Eric Larson, a managing partner with Bedrock wrote in the letter. "We are strong supporters of initiatives that give our team members and visitors transportation altematives. We know this is important to attracting the workforce of the future, which is key to our business."
Detroit wasn't invited to send an application for the first GLP program. Since that time, though, there's been a lot of new developments, including miles of new bike lanes, progress on Detroit's enormous Inner Circle Greenway, the Zagster bike share and prospects for a broader city-spanning bike share in the next few years.
"I think we have a very good shot because things have changed a lot in the past few years," said Scott. "Keep your fingers crossed!"