Our Built Environment work group has decided to focus on designing and building accessible and safe streets and sidewalks for walkers and bikers in Detroit using Complete Streets guidelines. As the Detroit Greenways coordinator for the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, I believe this is a great place to put our energy. Here are three examples of how we’re changing policy, making progress, and thinking big about safer and greener streets in our city.
1. Policy Change
Right now, we’re meeting with the City of Detroit Health & Wellness Promotion Department on the Complete Streets project. The department received a grant, and we’re working together to get an ordinance passed at the beginning of early next year that would require future street construction to have all users in mind, including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Getting this rolling through City Hall will be monumental for our city, and a great way to not only change accessibility for Detroiters, but also change attitudes about mobility in a city that has long relied on the automobile as the be-all, end-all means of transport.
2. Tangible Progress
The first street to officially be called a Complete Street will be on the Wayne State University campus on Anthony Wayne Drive, a road heavily trafficked with bikes, cars and pedestrians. By the end of this year, improved crosswalks will be updated for pedestrians, and four lanes of roadway will be reduced to two lanes to add bike lines and parking. The quarter-mile long project will be completed by the end of this year.
3. Big Plans for the Future
We are working on adding bike lanes throughout Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods. This project is huge and will eventually add 24 miles of bike lanes, including lanes along busy stretches of Vernor Highway. A neighborhood CDC received grant funding for the project, hired an engineering firm to design the Complete Streets, and we are working with the city to get approval for the project, which should start construction next year. Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative is also working with MDOT to get 5 miles of bike lanes added to Michigan Avenue. Those should be in by the end of this year.
While these are three notable projects, there is more activity around Complete Streets happening in neighborhoods like New Center, Midtown and Conner Creek on Detroit’s eastside. I’ll continue to update you on our progress in these pockets of Detroit.
Let me close with this thought on the chain reaction caused by Complete Streets. Improved infrastructure leads to more physical activity, less reliance on motorized vehicles, improved access to city recreation areas and parks, and improved access to fresh foods. End result: the more we move, the healthier we’ll be – and that’s what Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative is all about.