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Detroit Greenways Coalition releases 50-year vision for Bicycle Thruways

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A spoke road in Detroit, 50 years from now
Drawing by Albert Kahn Associates

How will we be getting around Detroit in 50 years? How will our major streets incorporate different modes of transportation? Lately, we’ve looked how we could be sharing the streets in the short term, especially with the start of the Detroit Bike Share in the spring. The Detroit Greenways Coalition has recently released a 50-year vision for what Detroit’s future could be.

Todd Scott of Detroit Greenways has been working with neighborhood groups, focus groups, bike riders, and residents who don’t ride bikes to come up with this plan. With the help of the Greenway Guy Tim Springer and Albert Kahn Associates, the coalition has some innovative ideas for Detroit’s main corridors.

The planning is divided into different types or roads and thruways, including busy streets like Jefferson (a spoke road) and railroad corridors, seen above.

A full report on this vision identifies the opportunities we have with the amount of land and roadways we already have, envisions non-stop bike travel through the city, and shows how main roads and railroad corridors should be used so bike riding is efficient through the city.

The report also notes that the public mindset will take years to change to make this happen, but there is much positive energy moving toward these ideas right now. Also, no displacement of residents would occur with this plan, as we would use the street assets we already have.

Scott says much of the city planning happening now is working to address the short term, but with the increasing bike culture here and the already wide streets, we have opportunities to implement components of long-term goals into the short-term plans.

One of those components could be how car traffic intersects with bike lanes. If we start implementing more trails that come up to the road level, motorists entering those areas should be more cautious. In the following drawings, we see bicycles having priority in a multi-use street and crossing a bridge over a busier street.

Considering the opportunities available in Detroit, Springer says, “The main physical assets are publicly owned rights of way (roads) that are far wider than needed for current traffic volumes, thereby providing the opportunity to re-purpose significant swaths of land for bicycle thruways with ped lanes and strips of green. Also, the super flat terrain and well-connected grid are somewhat unique. The social assets are the passionate committed people in the community and City Hall, and the budding trends to see bicycles and sustainability as cool and important.”

With greater greenway planning efforts underway already in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, some of these ideas may come to fruition in the near future. Scott also noted that stormwater management could be implemented into these plans in the short-term planning, which would not only help the environment, but lessen drainage fees in adjacent properties.

More information on this vision can be found at Envision Detroit Greenways, including a video and a full written report outlining the plans.