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Interested in making your neighborhood or community a more pleasant place to walk? The Michigan Department of Transportation is offering a series of walkability reviews in six communities around the state, designed to teach the basic principles of walkability from a non-technical perspective.
The Walkability Reviews are designed to help local administrators, officials, engineers, planners, business owners, residents, and other community stakeholders learn the benefits of providing a safe and attractive environment for walking.
Toole Design Group experts Hannah Remtema, Carol Kachadoorian and Peter Lagerwey, who have extensive experience in pedestrian planning, will be conducting the walkability reviews. Participants will learn how to identify and assess factors that contribute to walkability.
Walkability Reviews will be conducted from Aptil 21st to 25th. To see the list of communities and register, click here.
The Michigan Department of Transportation recently released a glossary of Bicycle and Pedestrian Terminology, a must-have resource for transportation advocates, citizens, and planners. Many non-motorized terms are similar, and some tend to be confused or misused. For example, could you state the difference between a bike lane, bike boulevard, and bike route? This glossary brings clarity to non-motorized discussions and when used, will help improve the conversation around pedestrian and bicycling issues.
From Safe Routes to School National Partnership: Contact your members of Congress to push for Complete Streets!
Around the country, more than 600 communities and states have adopted local Complete Streets policies—helping ensure that transportation plans and projects address the needs of all users.Now you can ask your Members of Congress to join the push for Complete Streets. Senators Begich (D-AK) and Schatz (D-HI) have just introduced the Safe Streets Act (S. 2004), joining Reps. Matsui (D-CA) and Joyce (R-OH) who previously introduce the Safe Streets Act (H.R. 2468) in the House.
The legislation would ensure that state Departments of Transportation and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) implement complete streets policies and laws for federally-funded projects—making the streets safer for everyone using the streets, whether walking, bicycling, driving or taking public transportation.
The bill does not require any new federal funds, and takes a common sense approach to planning transportation projects and systems for all users from the start—rather than having to go back after a project has been built to add sidewalks, crosswalks and other accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Bicycle and pedestrian fatalities continue to increase, and now make up 16.3 percent of all traffic fatalities. It’s time to ensure that our transportation systems are designed and built to be safe for everyone.
Please contact your Senators and Representative to ask them to co-sponsor the Safe Streets Act.
Thank you for your support!
Transportation for Michigan and the League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) have partnered together to launch Share MI Roads! The campaign continues to develop educational resources that will reduce bicyclist injuries and fatalities, foster goodwill between drivers and bicyclists, and create a greater understanding and awareness of the rights and responsibilities that drivers and cyclists need to know to make our roads safe for all users.
“We are really excited for this new campaign and the opportunity to engage Michigan motorists and bicyclists from across the state about roadway safety. The goal is to fill the void in the training roadway users receive about how to safely share the road with one another,” said John Lindenmayer, Advocacy and Policy Director for LMB.
Michigan bicyclists are involved in less than 1% of traffic crashes, yet proportionally they represent a much greater number of fatalities compared to other roadway users. In 2012, there were 20 fatalities from bicycle-vehicle crashes and 1,636 injuries. While Complete Streets policies are creating safer roadways through engineering and planning solutions, more must be done to educate drivers and bicyclists on how to safely interact on the road.
The Share MI Roads team is actively building education and outreach resources not just for bicyclists and drivers, but also for driver’s education instructors and law enforcement. Resources range from general skills and tips, essential bicycling knowledge, and rules and regulations relating to bicycling. More are being developed for driver’s education instructors and law enforcement, Lindenmayer said. Team members include transportation experts, bicycling advocates, and state agency representatives. The diversity of the team provides unique perspectives and innovative ideas on how to best educate drivers and bicyclists to safely share the road.
In addition to educating yourself through the campaign’s resources, you can make an immediate impact by taking our Share the Road Safety Pledge. It is a great way to show others you are serious about making Michigan’s roads safe for all users, provide input on what you think is the best way to achieve safer roads, and stand with others in your community who want to foster goodwill between drivers and bicyclists.
By Jeff Prygoski, Fellow, Transportation for Michigan
We know that biking is good for us—but is it good for business? Let’s distill a blog series by People for Bikes and Triple Pundit to take a closer look at reasons why employers and governments should be supportive of cycling when planning infrastructure and promoting towns, cities and regions.
In recent years, bicycling has gained traction as a viable transportation option for commuting and reaching destinations around town. Nationally, bike commuting has increased by 10% since 2011, and more than 61% since 2000. Businesses and government have a prime window of opportunity to capitalize on this trend, not just as a matter of social responsibility but as a boon to the bottom line.
Bicycling to work can help enhance employee health, thereby lowering health care costs for their employer. The blog series mentions several health benefits of bike commuting, including improved cardiovascular health, better mental health, and stronger immune systems. As health care costs continue to rise, encouraging bicycling commuting is a proactive step to lower costs. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that employees bicycling to work could save employers 5-12% on health care costs.
Bicycling to work can also help increase employee productivity, contributing to a more efficient workforce. Author Bob Siegel makes a strong case that promoting biking is an investment, and increased productivity will offset infrastructure costs the employer may incur. Benefits mentioned include:
- Exercising before work raising an employee’s productivity by an average of 15 percent.
- Cyclists taking 15 percent fewer days off work due to illness.
- Statistics that show non-cyclists take two more sick days per year.
- Studies that show a 4-15 percent increase in productivity, and 27 percent fewer task errors for physically fit employees.
For Michigan employers looking for an extra edge (not to mention healthier employees), encouraging bicycle commuting is an innovative way to boost productivity.
What can early adopters do to encourage bicycling to work? The League of American Bicyclists lists several strategies for businesses participating in its Bicycle Friendly Business program. Employers can provide cash incentives for biking to work, secure bicycle parking, reimbursement for purchasing bicycling gear, and provide locker or shower accommodations. Management can work with local cycling groups and city officials to make bicycling more user-friendly, and can provide employees with bicycling education, such as maps or safety literature. In Michigan, 14 businesses are certified by the League as Bicycle Friendly Businesses, including Trans4M membersMichigan Fitness Foundation and the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
Michigan governments have even more incentive to promote bike commuting and invest in bicycling infrastructure. As employers, Michigan governments reap the same productivity and health care benefits as private and non-profit entities mentioned above. Further, bicycling infrastructure has positive effects on the city as a whole. Increasing ridership numbers show the public’s affinity for using bicycles as a serious mode of transportation. At the same time, fewer Americans are driving cars, especially younger people. These trends point to residents wanting to live in cities that accommodate biking and other nonmotorized modes of transportation. Having bike-friendly infrastructure contributes to healthier communities, less traffic congestion, and is a great way to attract millennials and the younger “creative class” that provide aneconomic and social boost to communities. Biking infrastructure fits in perfectly with various placemaking efforts underway in Michigan communities. Bike sharing programs accomplish the same result, increasing a city’s attractiveness as a place to live and visit. Michigan’s fledgling bike-sharing infrastructure is set to take a great leap in 2014, with bike-share programs operating in Detroit, Lansing, and Traverse City, and programs planned in Ann Arbor and Mount Pleasant.
From an economic standpoint, bicycle infrastructure improvements can be a driver of economic development. In Portland, Oregon, the City Club of Portland completed a first-ever cost-benefit study of bicycling investments in a U.S. city, and found that for every dollar spent on cycling-friendly projects, between $1.20 and $3.80 was returned in health and fuel savings. Local businesses benefit from increased biking and pedestrian traffic, especially when the businesses are located near bike racks. Cyclists riding in the city frequent retailers more often than drivers and spend more money on average, and Realtors often see bike infrastructure as a selling point for properties. In Indianapolis, homes close to the city’s Manon trail are worth 11% more than homes a half mile away, with all other variables controlled.
Bicycling advocacy and infrastructure make good economic sense for Michigan businesses and governments. Continued advocacy by employees and residents will help get programs and improvements where they need to be, benefiting both the employee and employer. Bicycling infrastructure will facilitate local business and help make bike-friendly cities desirable places to live, work, and play. Bicycling is on the rise in Michigan, and those who capitalize on the trend will reap the benefits.
Written by: Jeff Prygoski, Fellow, Transportation for Michigan
Cover photo credit
This post continues an ongoing blog series highlighting various complete street elements, their benefits, and use in Michigan communities. Check back often to catch future posts, and keep a lookout for mid-block pedestrian crossings in your community!
What are Mid-Block Pedestrian Crossings? Mid-block pedestrian crossings are marked crosswalks placed between intersections. They look similar to intersection crosswalks, but often incorporate several design features to increase safety. Mid-block crossings frequently include pedestrian islands, which provide a safe refuge for pedestrians crossing two-way traffic. Users can check traffic one way, cross to the island, and check traffic in the other direction before continuing to cross. Yield lines can be set back to require vehicles to stop farther away from the intersection. Bulb-outs that narrow the roadway can be used to calm traffic by slowing speeds, and can make pedestrians more visible to drivers. Where traffic volumes are heavy, mid-block crossings can be signalized to further increase safety and comfort.
Why Use Mid-Block Pedestrian Crossings? Many people do not go out of their way to cross at established intersections. Instead, they choose to cross the street using the most direct route, even if that means crossing several lanes of busy traffic. Mid-block pedestrian crossings decrease random and unpredictable crossings associated with a high risk of collisions, especially in areas that are heavily travelled by pedestrians or where block lengths are long.
When to Use Mid-Block Pedestrian Crossings: An engineering study should be completed to determine the need for a mid-block crossing, which incorporates roadway width, traffic volume, traffic speed and type, desired lines for pedestrian movement and adjacent land use. Heavily traveled areas that have high incidences of random crossings are good candidates for mid-block crossings, including schools, shopping centers, transit centers, and college campuses.
The above factors also determine whether bulb-outs, pedestrian islands, and signals should be incorporated into the mid-block crossing design. In general, local roads with low speeds and low traffic volumes are less likely to need these additional elements. As speed limits, number of lanes, and traffic volumes increase, these additional traffic calming and safety elements become increasingly necessary.
Safety Benefits: Mid-block locations account for more than 70% of pedestrian fatalities. Mid-block pedestrian crossings increase safety by decreasing random and unexpected pedestrian crossings. As stated before, people tend to cross where it is most convenient for them to cross, creating a high risk of collisions. Mid-block pedestrian crossings consolidate pedestrian traffic and allow drivers to predict and expect pedestrian traffic. Around 83% of pedestrians surveyed in an East Lansing, MI study changed their crossing behaviors where mid-block crossings were present. Where pedestrian islands have been included in the crosswalk design, pedestrian crashes were reduced by 46% and vehicle crashes were reduced by 39%. Because mid-block crosswalks can be difficult to use for individuals with visual impairments, adding a crosswalk signal to the crossing will help make the treatment safer for all users.
What Drivers Should Know: While mid-block pedestrian crossings help drivers know where pedestrians are most likely to cross, some pedestrians may still choose to cross at random points along the road. Accordingly, drivers should remain alert for pedestrians crossing outside of the crosswalk. Be aware of signage that will signal a mid-block crossing is approaching. When coming up to unsignalized and signalized mid-block crossings, drivers should prepare to yield in anticipation of pedestrians crossing. Where a pedestrian is on a crosswalk or when alerted by signal, a driver must stop behind the yield lines that proceed the crosswalk.
Cost Considerations: Costs for mid-block pedestrian crossings can vary significantly with mid-block characteristics and the need for pedestrian islands, signals, or bulb-outs. Additional treatment costs include Bulb-outs, which can cost between $5,000 and $25,000 per corner, pedestrian islands, which can run between $4,000 and $30,000, and countdown/crosswalk signals, which can cost between $5,000 and $15,000. More Expensive Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons can be included if deemed necessary. Adding these elements during planned construction will help to decrease project costs.
Mid-block pedestrian crossings are common in Michigan. A few examples include: East Lansing, which has a mid-block crosswalk that covers five lanes of traffic, and includes a pedestrian shelter; a short mid-block crossing between Michigan and Allegan along Washington Street’s business district in Lansing; and a crossing outside Frost Elementary School in Jackson.
Have mid-block pedestrian crossings in your community? Let us know.
Check out these resources for more information:
Best Design Practices for Walking and Bicycling in Michigan (Pages 26, 27, 29, and 32)
Next Topic: Road Diets
Previous Topic: Contra-flow Bike Lanes
By Dennis Pelham
Daily Telegram Staff Writer
Posted Jan. 11, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
Philosophical opposition to state government influence to create local bicycle and pedestrian paths gave way to concern for economic growth in Lenawee County.
The county commission overrode opposition from the county parks commission, the road commission and several townships to vote support Wednesday for the state’s Complete Streets Initiative. A resolution titled “comprehensive transportation systems” passed by a 6-2 vote.
Two citizens spoke against supporting Complete Streets before the vote.
Kathy Klumpp of Franklin Township said the parks commission voted against a Complete Streets resolution in July after debating the issue for four months.
“I am surprised that you commissioners are taking up this issue again so soon, and would like to know who or what is influencing you to possibly do an about-face?” she said Wednesday, reading from a prepared statement.
“Will you stand up and defend my private property rights if I am faced with claims of eminent domain because of a Complete Streets mandate?” she asked.
Chip Conin of Morenci said he believes Complete Streets is part of a government social engineering effort to force a reduction in automobile use.
“It’s time we look forward,” said commissioner Cletus Smith, R-Madison Twp.
He asked to put the resolution on Wednesday’s agenda, he said, because he believes it is needed to advance economic growth efforts in the county. The measure will improve grant opportunities for businesses and local governments, he said.
“I’m having a real hard time with this,” Smith said. He still believes the county should not try to dictate how the road commission and local governments spend their road money, he said, but he also believes economic development is a higher priority.
County administrator Martin Marshall said the resolution does not mandate local governments and other agencies to do anything.
“What you are resolving to do is comply with state statutes,” Marshall said. State law already requires the county’s master plan and parks plan to consider bicycle paths and other non-motorized transportation options.
“You don’t have to do them,” Marshall said.
State law already requires that all transportation options be considered in government plans at all levels, said commissioner David Stimpson, R-Tecumseh.
“You don’t have an option,” he said. “That’s what the law says.”
Commissioner Terry Collins, R-Adrian, said local governments are aware of all the costs and requirements involved in grants when they apply for them. And pedestrian and bicycle paths are an asset for communities.
“There’s a quality-of-life issue that has to be addressed here,” Collins said.
Commissioner Jim Driskill, R-Hudson, said he enjoys using a bicycle path the city of Hudson has developed and is in the process of expanding.
“I for one would have to support the Complete Streets because of what I’ve seen,” he said.
“I believe this is very important,” said K.Z. Bolton, D-Adrian. The resolution will enhance local governments’ ability to provide options such as bicycle and pedestrian paths and urged a vote “to open the door for the community with this tool.”
Voting against the resolution were commissioners Chris Wittenbach, R-Clinton, and Jack Branch, R-Onsted. Commissioner Ralph Tillotson, R-Adrian Twp., was absent.
Wittenbach said he was voting no because of opposition votes by the parks commission and boards of three townships in his district.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Telegram on January 11th, 2014. Used here with author’s permission.
“… may include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.”
Nestled in this “more” category are street trees, an often underappreciated asset with a significant impact. On its face, the appeal is obvious: wouldn’t you like to walk down a sidewalk buffered by stately oaks rather than concrete slabs? Look a little deeper, though, and several benefits of properly placed street trees emerge. Street trees may be more important than we give them credit for.
Street trees make pedestrians safer. Ample research has shown that drivers reduce speeds when trees are present, and crashes tend to be less severe. Wide spaces on either side of the street give drivers the perception of a greater room for error, which contributes to higher speeds. Restricting this space and providing a visual edge to the street makes drivers more cautious and drive at lower speeds. Street trees alsocreate a barrier between sidewalks and the road, which gives pedestrians a real and perceived boost in protection.
Street trees also encourage people to walk by creating a more pleasant, aesthetic environment. Often, people walk farther on tree-lined streets because distances seem shorter when walking along greenery. Trees also give scale to urban areas often built in conflict to human dimensions and lend interest to blank sides of buildings. Trees provide shade for pedestrians when walking, shopping or conducting business. The impact on pedestrians frequenting businesses is significant: in one study,businesses on streets lined with trees had a 12% higher income stream than those not lined with trees.
Pedestrian’s physical and mental health also benefit from street trees. The link between time spent in nature and reduced ADHD symptoms has been well explored, but even a walk down a tree-lined street will alleviate symptoms. Street trees have been shown to contribute to decreased obesity rates and improve cardiovascular health by encouraging walking, and parents are more likely to let their children walk to school when sidewalks are tree lined.
The value of street trees in complete street design greatly increases when some of these less-conspicuous benefits are considered. Residents of communities considering adopting complete streets policies should use these benefits as leverage to ensure decision-makers take advantage of trees in complete-street designs.
Written By: Jeff Prygoski, Fellow, Transportation for Michigan
Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) plans for moving forward with an internal all-out effort on Complete Streets were presented in what was likely the last meeting of the state’s Complete Streets Advisory Council (CSAC) on Thursday, December 5th. The update was another indication that a positive culture shift continues within the agency in regard to planning streets for all users.
Michigan’s Complete Streets Policy implementation plan is nearly finished. The department’s Complete Streets Internal Team is on track to meet its December 31 deadline for rollout of the policy implementation plan, which revises relevant MDOT procedures and guidelines and includes an exception process for projects where policy criteria might not be appropriate, said Brad Peterson of MDOT. Peterson emphasized that outreach will be a major component during the policy’s implementation, including notifications through MDOT’s social media, updated presentations, and a public MDOT Complete Streets webpage tentatively scheduled for early spring 2014.
Brad Peterson of MDOT updates the council on Complete Streets progress
The plan focuses on project tracking and reporting, and will list MDOT’s Complete Streets accomplishments to date. During policy implementation, MDOT staff will receive training on the policy. Several Advisory Council members thanked Peterson and other MDOT representatives for the Department’s positive culture change regarding Complete Streets.
In addition to the implementation plan, MDOT’s Multi-Modal Design and Delivery (M2D2) project is another avenue the department is using to change its internal culture around Complete Streets and multi-modal transportation.
Roger Millar, vice-president of Smart Growth America and director of the Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, presented an overview of the project. “The project will improve MDOT’s institutional capacity to plan, design, construct, operate, and maintain Michigan’s transportation system for Complete Streets and multiple modes,” Millar said, noting that it was MDOT managers who approached Smart Growth with the desire to create better multi-modal outcomes. M2D2 will result in updated standards that consider multi-modal travel on state trunkline highway facilities, and will provide MDOT staff with the knowledge and tools to effectively implement multi-modal travel. An MDOT staff stakeholder group will be matched with national and in-state experts to better understand barriers, gaps, and opportunities in MDOT’s practices and procedures. From these meetings, Millar said a curriculum will be developed in early spring, workshops will be held in the summer, and recommendations for implementation will be ready by the fall. MDOT plans on communicating lessons learned to other state agencies, regional and local governments, advocacy groups, and the general public.
Roger Millar of Smart Growth America presents on MDOT’s Multi-Modal Design and Delivery process
The meeting ended with a discussion of whether the council should continue to meet. CSAC was legislatively created with the passage of PA 135 2010, and charged to assist the State Transportation Commission with the development and implementation of the Complete Streets Policy. With the policy done and the implementation plan nearly complete, the council has met it charge. Members of the CSAC voted to send a letter to legislative leaders recommending they sunset the Advisory Council. Barring a new charge or further instruction from the legislature, it seems that CSAC will be dissolved, with members continuing to work on Complete Streets through their respective organizations.
The Complete Streets Policy implementation plan and the M2D2 process are signs that MDOT is continuing its culture shift towards accommodating all legal users on its roadways—not just cars. We look forward to the results of these two initiatives and potential benefits to Michigan communities.
Written by: Jeff Prygoski, Trans4M Fellow
This post continues an ongoing blog series highlighting various complete street elements, their benefits, and use in Michigan communities. Check back often to catch future posts, and keep a lookout for contra-flow bike lanes in your community!
What are Contra-flow Bike Lanes? Contra-flow bike lanes allow legal bicycle access to riders wishing to bike in the opposite direction of traffic flow on one-way streets, creating two-way bicycle access on a one-way street. Contra-flow lanes are placed on the right side of a one-way street (from a bicyclist’s perspective traveling against traffic; from a motorist’s perspective, the lane would be on his or her left). A double-yellow line separates the contra-flow lane from traffic. Because the lanes take bicyclists in the opposite direction of traffic, signage plays an integral role in maintaining safety. “Do Not Enter” and “Bikes Only” signs should be placed at intersections to ensure vehicles do not travel the wrong way.
Why Use Contra-flow Bike Lanes? Contra-flow bike lanes increase connectivity for bicyclists and reduce dangerous wrong-way riding on one-way streets. A great example of how contra-flow lanes accomplish these goals is MDOT’s Martin Luther King/M-99 contra-flow lane. Josh DeBruyn, MDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, reports that prior to installation “cyclists would either cross the road illegally, transition to sidewalk, or travel nearly 10 times the distance while navigating 6 lanes of traffic to make a “Michigan left” to avoid the one-way street, when in reality the bicyclists simply wants to travel straight 150 feet.” In the right situation, contra-flow lanes can be extremely beneficial.
When to Use Contra-flow Bike Lanes: The appropriateness of contra-flow lanes is dependent on bicycling traffic volumes, incidences of wrong-way riding, nearby destinations, vehicle traffic volumes, and road characteristics. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) lists several scenarios where contra-flow lanes may be appropriate:
- On streets where large numbers of bicyclists are already riding the wrong way.
- On corridors where alternate routes require excessive out-of-direction travel.
- On corridors where alternate routes include unsafe or uncomfortable streets with high traffic volumes and/or no bicycle facilities.
- On corridors where the contra-flow lane provides direct access to destinations on the street under consideration.
- Where two-way connections between bicycle facilities are needed along one-way streets.
- Work best on low-speed, low volume streets to minimize the risk of dangerous crashes.
Because contra-flow lanes are counterintuitive to drivers, education and outreach efforts are vitally important at the time of installation. Extra signage at driveways and minor intersections will help improve safety. Installing “No Turn On Red” signs at signal-controlled intersections is recommended by NACTO, and would increase safety for bicyclists where drivers make left turns.
Safety Benefits: Because contra-flow lanes formalize wrong-way riding on one way streets, drivers are better notified of bicyclists’ presence. Contra-flow lanes also allow bicyclists to avoid high-traffic detours, where crossing over multiple lanes poses a significant safety risk.
What Drivers Should Know: Drivers should expect to encounter bicyclists in both directions. When making left-hand turns, drivers need to make sure the contra-lane is clear of bicyclist traffic. Passing other drivers in contra-lanes is prohibited, and drivers should be careful not to cross the double-yellow lines.
Cost Considerations: Installation of contra-flow bike lanes should be done in conjunction with road resurfacing, where possible, to reduce costs. Costs will vary greatly depending on the length of the proposed bike lane and the extent of signage needed.
Contra-flow bike lanes are relatively new in Michigan. The Martin Luther King/M-99 contra lane was the first one put in by MDOT. If you have a contra-flow bike lane in your community, please Let us know!
Check out these resources for more information:
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Previous Topic: Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (HAWK Signals) Explained