Birmingham says “no” to Maple Road diet

We mentioned earlier about the city of Birmingham’s consideration of converting Maple Road from 4 lanes to 3 between Adams and Eton.

Prior to the meeting, the Observer and Eccentric newspaper stirred the mob mentality with the headline “Birmingham’s nightmare on Maple Street.” No, it wasn’t an op-ed.

Mostly negative comments were given during the public hearing.

From the Observer:

The commission came to the same conclusion, voting 6-1 to keep Maple a four-lane road. They did, however, show their support for the concept of trying to narrow major roads to make them more pedestrian friendly, directing staff to begin a Complete Streets study that encompasses the entire city rather than just one particular street.

“Somehow, some way, we’re going to make Maple a better road,” Mayor Mark Nickita said before the vote.

Tom McDaniel was the lone member of the commission to vote against keeping East Maple four lanes, saying the only way to do a valid study of whether the road would work as three lanes would be to re-stripe it for a set period of time and evaluate the results.

City Manager Bob Bruner is a staunch advocate of the Complete Streets initiative, and he thought the timing was right to see if some of the ideas would work on East Maple. Starting in the spring, the stretch of Maple between Eton and Adams is being reconstructed to the same width of 41 feet, giving the city an opportunity to re-stripe the road to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane.

We’ve never seen a road diet studied more than this. The studies and traffic modeling showed it could work, but that wasn’t enough to change public opinion.

As we mentioned in our comments, if it didn’t work as the modeling predicted, it’s just paint. The old road configuration could be restored.

But unless the City tries it, they’ll never know.

As for the Observer newspaper, they showed their 1950s understanding of traffic solving in a follow up opinion piece.

Maple has been a problem road for years. It’s too narrow as it is to handle the flow of daily traffic. If anything, it needs to be widened, not narrowed.

And they probably think the Internet is a series of tubes…

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3 Responses to “Birmingham says “no” to Maple Road diet”

  1. Andrew Mutch Says:

    One comment I saw repeated numerous times was the idea that people felt like this was an experiment or that they were guinea pigs for some untested idea. It sounds like the decision makers in Birmingham need to take some road trips to locations in Michigan where road diets have been implemented successfully. There are many examples where all the negative pronouncements never came to pass. At this point, these are no more of an experiment than roundabouts.

  2. Andy Says:

    Par for the course in metro Detroit.

    It’s a reminder that soliciting public feedback, while well-intentioned, does not necessarily help bike advocacy. The “public” that turns out for these things is by no means guaranteed to favor progress in the form of road diets, bike lanes, etc.

  3. Eric Says:

    I like the idea of studying the whole city rather than just one road that serves as a main access point for visitors coming downtown from the west. There are probably other streets that should be modified first.

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