Detroit pursuing improved bike upgrades at Dorais Park

March 11th, 2013

Riding the Dorais velodrome in Detroit

One of those is the Farwell/Dorais Park. The city will be applying for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to match their $125,000 contribution.

As you may know, Dorais is home to an old concrete velodrome built by the Wolverine Cycling Club in 1969. The city was looking into options for restoring it. Dale Hughes came in to offer his advice. Hughes is an international expert on velodrome construction and his father-in-law, Mike Walden built the Dorais track.

His advice was it’s beyond repair. It would be easier to build a new one.

Why?

Water began seeping through some seams early on, which caused the sand base to erode. That erosion led to small cracks. When cars and motorcycles starting riding on the track, the cracks became far more substantial. The cracks are larger enough that one could not simply lay down a thin layer of blacktop.

Besides, the track has an irregular design. It was surveyed prior to grading but vandals removed half of the survey markers. With no time to redo the surveys, the north oval was made using an outstretched garden hose.

Despite the defect, this track still produced hundreds of national champions and even world champions.

But unfortunately the replacement cost far exceeds what the city can provide, not to mention the cost of programming the track. So, the city instead plans on doing some additional patchwork to fill some of the large, tire-sucking seams.

New Trails

The majority of funding would go towards a crushed stone trail around the park, a singletrack climb up Derby Hill, a multi-use, banked downhill, and more.

If you want to provide comments , you can this Wednesday at a public hearing or via writing the Recreation Department. The details are below: Read the rest of this entry »

Detroit bicycling in 1898: No other city compares

March 4th, 2013

1898 Detroit Official GuideWe recently purchased the Detroit Official Guide from 1898.

The city was growing then and it appears this guide was intended for newcomers. Most of the pages list “reliable merchants”, including sixteen bike shops around the downtown area, nine of them on Woodward Avenue.

Beyond the retailersr, bicycling has a prominent place in the guide. The appendix lists city officials first then bicycling information.

And it speaks very highly of Detroit’s cycling opportunities. Detroit and Brooklyn were America’s best cycling cities in 1898? We’d like to think so, but it could just be visitor’s guide boosterism.

From the Guide:

With perhaps the exception of Brooklyn, noted for its cycle paths, no other city in the country can compare with Detroit in the facilities which it offers for pleasant bicycle runs. The suburban runs are especially fine. Elsewhere mention has been made of the streets and avenues of the city, and they need only be referred to here in passing. Miles of excellent macadam extend in all directions leading to scenes of beauty and interest. The course around Belle Isle is famous but that is only one. In reaching the Island you ride past some of the finest homes in the country beneath a canopy of foliage of trees planted more that a century ago, on a perfect asphalt pavement. To write of the attractions of the various cycle paths would be to write a long story. Suffice it to merely point them out:

Going out Fort St. West, rides may visit Ecorse, 9 miles; Wyandotte, 12 miles, Trenton, 17 miles; Flat Rock, 25 miles.

Michigan Ave. — Dearborn, 10 miles; Inkster, 15 miles; Wayne, 18 miles; Canton, 23 miles; Denton’s, 26 miles; Ypsilanti, 30 miles; Ann Arbor, 38 miles.

Jefferson Ave. — Grosse Pointe, 10 miles; McSweeney’s Club, 24 miles.

Woodward Ave. — Highland Park, 5 miles; Whitewood, 7 miles; Royal Oak, 12 miles; Birmingham, 18 miles; Bloomfield Center, 21 miles; Pontiac, 28 miles; Drayton Plains, 31 miles; Waterford, 33 miles; Clarkston, 35 miles; Orchard Lake, 32 miles. The road out Woodward Avenue is always good.

Grand River Ave. — Greenfield, 8 miles; Farmington, 10 miles.

And the bicycling ordinances? There weren’t many. Remember there were no stop signs, traffic lights, one way streets, or expressways. To the 1898 cyclist, the condition of the road surface was the most important information needed for a productive ride.

Of course the ordinances were important as well — and they were quite simple. We especially like the ordinance permitting businesses to have bicycle racks.

From the Official Guide:

Read the rest of this entry »

A cycling perspective on Detroit’s EFM

March 3rd, 2013

Detroit EFMOn Friday, Governor Rick Snyder announced his plans to install an Emergency Finance Manager or EFM in the city of Detroit.

There are many varied opinions on this, but we’ll just look at it from a cycling and trails perspective just as we did with the earlier consent agreement.

The Mayor’s office and City Council have been very supportive of making the city more bike friendly and more walkable. There’s not another city in Metro Detroit that’s doing more. So from a high-level perspective, an EFM reduces their influence and could potentially derail some of this positive momentum.

Will that happen? Probably not.

The EFM will likely focus on general funding issues. Most of the bike and trail work is funded through grants, philanthropy, and the city’s road fund, which comes from the state and federal government. General funds are not used to build bike lanes or trails. The state and federal road funds cannot be spent on anything but transportation according to Michigan’s Constitution.

However, general funds are used to maintain city parks, through which some trails pass. Those park services were severely cut after the failed Belle Isle lease proposal. The park closure most directly affecting trails is Maheras-Gentry. The Conner Creek Greenway would remain open, but the park entrance maybe closed to motor vehicles.

According to the Detroit Free Press, public transit, lighting, and public safety are more likely to be affected. Certainly these all affect bicycling and walking as well. Deeper cuts to public transit could force more people to seek alternative travel options, like biking. And, Detroit surveys say that adequate lighting and public safety are key requirements for residents to walk and bike more, especially at night.

One area of concern is will key city employees seek other employment during this tumultuous time. Traffic Engineering recently lost two designers to other opportunities. At least one will be able to be rehired. But again, Traffic Engineering doesn’t rely on the general fund. Filling other vacant staff positions under an EFM might not be challenging.

There is one EFM rumor that we know is false. Detroit’s EFM will probably not be the young cyclist with training wheels shown on the Governor’s EFM brochure.

What are your thoughts?

The $1 billion Bloody Run Creek Greenway project

February 18th, 2013

BloodyRunIt’s been talked about for decades, but these conceptual plans makes the Bloody Run Greenway seem slightly more possible.

And yes, it does have a $1 billion total price tag. However, breaking the project into smaller phases makes it a bit more palatable.

Besides, how amazing would it be to have a creek running next to the Dequindre Cut?

Or a waterfall next to the shipping container hotel proposed for the Cut?

Are the recent demolitions east of Eastern Market related? We’re not sure, but both the demolitions and the Bloody Run project have Kresge Foundation funding.

Dequindre Cut Extension

While we don’t have any recent updates on the Dequindre Cut extension, the project must be out to bid by July of this year. We have seen the construction drawings and it looks phenomenal.

Keep in mind that this project will:

  • Extend the Cut under Gratiot and on to Mack Avenue
  • Add bike lanes from end of the Cut to Hamtramck
  • Add an Eastern Market connector trail just north of Wilkins
  • Add bike lanes and sidewalks from Eastern Market to Midtown
  • Add bike parking in Eastern Market

If Hamtramck receives grant funding this spring, they could build their bike network by next summer.

Current the Dequindre Cut is mostly undeveloped except for a rail car spur. That has been captured in this movie by Michelle Andonian entitled “The Cut.” That’s a living project that will evolve as the trail does.

 

Is Governor Snyder’s Belle Isle to Wisconsin Trail for bikes?

February 11th, 2013

Last November, Governor Rick Snyder lauded Michigan trails during a speech called “Ensuring our Future: Energy and the Environment.”
Belle Isle to Wisconsin Trail

Michigan has more total trail miles than just about any other state. Much of the credit goes to volunteers who have shoveled, raked, trimmed and groomed these trails on their own time and often at their own expense. This shows the real appetite Michiganders have for quality trails, and points to the opportunity we have to be the number one trail state.

We can reach that goal much faster together. I am directing the DNR, Michigan Snowmobile and Trail Advisory Committee, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the MEDC, the MDARD and the MDOT to align and prioritize their efforts to support and create trail connections. All these entities will reach out to local communities as partners, helping them to maximize the economic return from trail use. We can and will seek to make Michigan the Trail State.

He then committed to a new long distance trail.

As the Trail State, we will need a showcase trail that celebrates these efforts and pulls together private and public trails into a signature Pure Michigan experience. With the addition of approximately 200 miles of additional trails in the Lower Peninsula and the UP, we could hike or bike from Belle Isle to the Wisconsin border. Today, I am directing DNR to focus on connecting those trails, through cooperation with private and non-profit partners and the use of their own resources.

The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) helped with the trail routing — primarily bike lanes and sidewalks — through the city of Detroit and further north.

What’s odd is that the Midland to Mackinaw Trail is not fully open to bicycles. The same is true for some parts of the North Country National Scenic Trail which is used across the Upper Peninsula. The parts of that trail along Pictured Rocks and in the Ottawa National Forest are not open to bikes.

Reading the Governor’s text, it appears the trail should be open bikes.

What’s interesting is the latest State Trails Plan calls this trail a hiking trail. Certainly not all hiking trails are hiking-only trails, but it does make one wonder if the intended trail usages have changed since the original announcement.

We’ll trying to find an answer.

Continue the trail to Canada

The Governor has been a vocal champion of the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

To us, it makes perfect sense that his proposed trail get extended to the new bridge and connect with Canada. This is another reason why we need bike and pedestrian access on this bridge.

In an informal conversation with the Governor, he seemed supportive of having this access on the bridge. In a followup email, he recognized that the approved plans do support bikes and pedestrians, but they also say it is up to U.S. and Canadian border security to approve it.

MTGA contacted Senator Carl Levin for assistance in working with Homeland Security. The Senator wrote Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security in support of bike and pedestrian access on the bridge.

“There are many benefits of a year-round cycling connection between Detroit and Windsor, including by bolstering the cycle tourism in the region.”

This support is already helping to legitimize the importance of this issue on both sides of the border — and we look forward to more positive news in the coming months.