Detroit’s bike plans include new east-side trails, lanes on new bridge to Canada

Two new dedicated bike and pedestrian pathways connecting east-side Detroit neighborhoods to the riverfront highlight the city’s ambitious plans to develop bike-friendly infrastructure in 2017 and coming years.

Also planned is a trail on a former sunken railroad line connecting the west riverfront to the Michigan Central Depot and dedicated bike lanes on the forthcoming Gordie Howe Internal Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

I recently invited Todd Scott, the executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition, to my workplace for a lunch & learn on bicycling infrastructure plans in Detroit. What follows is from his presentation. Some projects I covered in a previous blog post.

New east side trails

Scott said two new projects are planned to the east of and parallel to the Dequindre Cut: the Beltline, a former at-grade railroad line that will connect the Mt. Elliott splash park on the riverfront to Gleaner’s Food Bank near Beaufait, and the Campau Greenway, a walking path that will improved from the riverfront to East Vernor.

The Beltline would have agricultural features and stormwater-management infrastructure, and it would feature a connector trail to historic Elmwood Cemetery. The city is doing conceptual designs to one day extend it all the way to Gratiot Avenue, Scott said. “It’s going to be an interesting place to walk and ride a bike,” he said.

The Campau Greenway will improve upon a walking path that replaced dense city blocks during the urban renewal era, with new lighting, security features and landscaping.

“You’ll have the Dequindre Cut, Campau Greenway and the Beltline all there connecting the neighborhoods down to the river,” Scott said. “They’re expecting to start on this in 2019. The Beltline will start construction in 2018. The city has pledged funding to actually get it built.”

A rendering of protected bike lanes proposed for downtown Detroit. | Downtown Detroit Partnership

Bike access to Canada

This has been previously reported, but the new Gordie Howe International Bridge will feature dedicated bike lanes running on the same level as vehicles on one side of the bridge. Construction is estimated to be completed in 2022.

That will help connect Detroit to the numerous bike trails and Underground Railroad sites in Windsor. It will also allow cyclists to ride to Ontario wine country.

“This will be the biggest bike hill in Detroit, of course, but it’ll be amazingly scenic. This is something people will come to Detroit from all around the world to do. This will be something special”

Rail-to-trail

Another rail-to-trail project would utilize the abandoned tracks that run above the (also abandoned) railroad tunnel that goes underneath the Detroit River. It would connect the West Riverwalk to the train station. Scott said his organization has submitted grants with the Riverfront Conservancy to design it.

“It’s like the Dequindre Cut: It’s all below grade, so there’s no cars,” he said.

Highland Park

A map of the proposed Inner Circle Greenway. | Detroit Greenways Coalition 

Scott says Highland Park city officials are keen on getting in on the bicycling action and are working to get bike lanes built on Hamilton Avenue as a way to connect the New Center to Palmer Park.

In addition, the Inner Circle Greenway, a 26-mile loop that will also traverse Detroit, Hamtramck and Dearborn, is seen as a major boon to efforts to redevelop the long-suffering city, which was once considered as nice as the Grosse Pointes.

Detroit is still negotiating with ConRail to acquire portions of the former railbed and trying to find funds to get the trail built.

“For runners it’s a great opportunity to do a marathon,” Scott said.

Other projects

  • Crews will this year install protected bike lanes on Cass Avenue from the Riverwalk to West Grand Boulevard
  • Also coming are kiosks that will count bikes and pedestrians along Cass and display the numbers in real time, as I previously reported
  • Wayne State University, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Riverfront Conservancy and Capuchin Soup Kitchen are either installing or have already installed bike repair stations around the city
  • Protected, two-way bike lanes are coming to downtown. “This is kind of like building a trail through the downtown, physically separated from cars,” Scott said. “This is going to be a challenge because some of these are going to intersect with each other and a lot more education needs to happen.”
  • And of course, the Detroit Bike Share — called MoGo Detroit — will launch sometime in May.

Photo via gregezzo

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