Posts Tagged ‘Alliance for Biking and Walking’

Faye Nelson: Leading the RiverWalk effort

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Continuing the topic of woman leading biking and walking improvements, BLAC Detroit magazine has this article on the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy‘s director, Faye Nelson.

One most impressive aspects of the RiverWalk is its public-private partnership model. We wouldn’t be able to bike or walk along much of the river if not for the Kresge Foundation, General Motors, DNR, MDOT, and many others. This is touched on during Nelson’s interview.

How do you respond to people who feel the focus on the riverfront is at the expense of other parts of the city?

No city tax dollars have been used. The Conservancy is a non-profit that has formed a public / private partnership. Private partnerships include the Kresge Foundation and its $50 million grant. There is the public collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources for Milliken State Park and Harbor, just to the west of Chene Park, the first urban state park in Michigan. Then there are the corporate contributions, like General Motors that spent $500 million renovating the Ren Cen, including building a riverfront plaza that it then donated to the Conservancy.

There is research showing the RiverFront is attracting people downtown, and they spend money downtown. Development is attracted to downtown by the RiverFront. We’re proud to say this project is helping to revitalize and sustain the entire city.

There is a minor downside to being so successful in getting private funding for biking and walking trails. When groups like the Alliance for Biking and Walking compile funding numbers to compare cities, they ignore private funding. That $50 million Kresge RiverWalk investment? General Motor’s $25 million RiverWalk investment? The Alliance purposely does not include that funding in their report and it makes Detroit look bad. That’s just one reason why groups like MTGA and others have declined to participate in their future reports.

Detroit: There are no accurate bike counts

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

How many people in Detroit bike? How has this changed over time?

They’re very popular questions. The truth is we don’t know. Nobody does.

And that same answer is true for most American cities – accurate bicycling data does not exist.

That hasn’t stopped some groups from pretending that it does.

If you read the recent Huffington Post article on Detroit, you may have seen this.

A 2012 report by the Alliance for Biking & Walking found the number of bicycle commuters in Detroit rose 258 percent over the last two decades.

Sounds good, right? The Alliance report says Detroit had 340 daily bicycle commuters in 1990 and 1,217 in 2009.

What the Alliance report fails to tell you are the margins of error, which really give you an idea how inaccurate these numbers are.

That 2009 number is 1,217 plus or minus 803. Yep, the Census says the actual 2009 number could be as low as 414, likely within the 1990 number’s margin of error.

Another thing to consider: The 2009 numbers are based on a Detroit population of over 900,000, which is off by couple hundred thousand people.

And while everyone acknowledges Detroit’s notable increase in cycling activity last year, the 2010 Census numbers show bicycle commuting dropped nearly in half to 651 plus or minus 424.

If this hasn’t convinced you these numbers are quite worthless, there’s more.

The Census numbers only includes those who are working and 16 years or older. The Census doesn’t count most people who combine modes (e.g. use the bus bike racks) or who bike only a couple times a week.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking were made aware of these Census discrepancies for Detroit, but for the most part they did not address them. That’s why Detroit chose not to participate in the most recent report.

Other cities

Other cities are making big strides in understanding bicycling trends and counts. They’re doing travel surveys and bicycle counts — both automatically and manually — at key bridges and intersections.

And in cities like New York, they’ve found their counts don’t match the Census numbers either.

Detroit’s done some bicycle counts around Woodward, in Southwest Detroit, and on the RiverWalk, but not enough to draw any major conclusions. It would great if some future bike lane projects (looking at you, E. Jefferson!) could get some automated counters.

Until then, there just aren’t any good answers.