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Mayor Heartwell reads the proclamation.

At a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 13, 2010 Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell opened the first Complete Street in Grand Rapids.

Among those present at the event were members of the disability, bicycling and transit communities, as well as the environmentally astute and representatives from the Dyer-Ives Foundation, The Grand Rapids Foundation, and five of Grand Rapids’ seven City Commissioners.

Here is a short video of Mayor Heartwell reading the proclamation that, among other things, expressed strong support for Complete Streets policies.

Other speakers at the event included Kevin McCurren from the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, Clark Goodrich from Concerned Citizens for Improved Transportation/Disability Advocates of Kent County, and Conrad Venema from The Rapid.

...and the ribbon is cut!

Grand Rapidians have expressed a strong desire to improve the walkability of their streets, establish a visible presence for cyclists with bike lanes and paths, and support transit use through various planning initiatives such as the 2002 Master Plan and Green Grand Rapids. Lake Drive is the first street in the city to be officially recognized as a Complete Street because of the addition of new on-street bike lanes and sharrows, pedestrian crossings at every intersection, enhanced bus stops with seating, and newly repaved vehicular travel lanes.

This is great first step in working towards completing Michigan’s streets, thanks and congratulations to Grand Rapids for being a leader on implementing policies that make our communities, and our state, more walkable, bikeable and livable!

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Katie Birchmeier (10) and Conor Waterman (9) before adressing the Michigan Disability Caucus on June 23.

On June 23 children with disabilities shared their transportation needs with members of Michigan’s Senate and House. These brave youth addressed the Michigan’s Disability Caucus in the Speaker’s Library of the State Capitol. Katie Birchmeier (10), Conor Waterman (9), James Kleimola (18) and Chris Mistopoulos (25), provided personal stories about their ability to access the community and the challenges they have faced while walking and biking in Michigan.

In addition, PEAC (Programs to Educate All Cyclists) addressed the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Michigan Legislative Disability Caucus. During a one-hour presentation PEAC focused on educating the Caucus about their mission and programs, and advocated for greater state support of cycling by persons with disabilities. PEAC is a Michigan based nonprofit that is recognized as the national leader for cyclists with disabilities.

Representative John Gleason and Senator Randy Richarville with PEAC supporters in the Spearker's Library of the State Capitol.

The ability to travel in active modes of transportation is essential to access our community for all individuals.  Bicycling can become the primary mode of travel for individuals who cannot get a driver’s license.  A key component of the Complete Streets legislation that recently passed the Michigan House, and that is currently being considered by the Senate, is ensuring that streets meet the “varying mobility needs of all legal users of the roadway, of all ages and abilities.” The ability to travel independently is not just an access issue, but an issue of human dignity.  Individuals forced to rely on family and friends to meet all transportation needs reinforce ideas regarding inabilities, burden to others and second class citizenship. Clearly, passing Complete Streets legislation would go along way towards establishing a statewide policy regarding equal access issues. Read the rest of this entry »

click on the image to launch the infographic

Here’s a cool blog post and infographic from good.is on the rising popularity of people powered transportation. With the Michigan House of Representatives scheduled to vote on the Complete Streets legislation, this is particularly timely. Passing the legislation will make it even easier for Michigan citizens to continue to increasingly choose walking and biking over automobiles.

“It’s summer, and you may be seeing more people out on the street walking and biking. But it’s not just because the weather is nice. There are more people walking and biking year round, and the Department of Transportation is responding by dramatically increasing the amount of money spent on projects for pedestrians and cyclists.”

The infographic is derived from the 15-year Status Report, which is the third status update to the National Bicycling and Walking Study, originally published in 1994 as an assessment of bicycling and walking as transportation modes in the United States. The report gives an update on the two main goals of the 1994 study: reducing fatalities and increasing the number of trips made by walking and biking. The good news is that improvements were made in both, but funding for these alternatives to automobiles still accounts for only about 2% of transportation funding, so there’s still some work to do. The report also notes that “one of the fastest-growing efforts to promote bicycling and walking is the adoption of Complete Streets policies.”

R to L: A panel of supporters including the County Road Association of Michigan, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Fitness Foundation, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, AARP and Representative Jon Switalski testifying in support of HB 6151 and 6152.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to pass  HB 6151 and HB 6152 out of committee, with recommendations. This is a big success for Complete Streets, and the Coalition would like to thank all of the stakeholders who worked hard to negotiate a bill that was eventually able to garner such strong support. We would especially like to thank Rep. Wayne Schmidt for his leadership on this issue, as well as Rep. Pam Byrnes, Rep. John Switalski and their staffs, who put a lot of effort to achieve this victory. In hectic fashion, the final drafts of the bills were being revised right up to the last minute, modified to reflect the negotiations made between all parties involved. As Chairwoman Byrnes said, reflecting on the compromises reached, “This bill is not what everybody wants, but it’s a good step forward.”

As the result of negotiations MML, SEMCOG, MDOT and CRAM, many of whom had previously only supported the bills in concept, are now strong supporters of the legislation. The support of these organizations, in addition to the support of most of the GOP members of the committee, bodes well for the future of the bills.

The final revision of the bill no longer requires local road agencies or municipalities to pass their own Complete Streets policies. MDOT, however, is still required to pass a Complete Streets policy, along with a ‘model’ policy for municipalities and counties. As Rep. Switalski said, this version of the bill gives “cities, and locals more say when dealing with transportation policy.” The final bill also gives the Complete Streets Advisory Council a much stronger role in the planning process, allowing them to advise MDOT on the adoption of Complete Streets policies.

Bill sponsor, Representative Jon Switalski, makes the case for Complete Streets in Michigan before the House Transportation Committee on June 24th, 2010. The Committee went on to vote unanimously in support of the legislation.

Felicia Wasson from AARP used her brief testimony to rightly note that this is “only the beginning – a first step” for Complete Streets. According to the revision, Complete Street policies must consider the “varying mobility needs of all legal users of the roadway, of all ages and abilities.” This language does indeed represent a great first step towards ensuring that everyone is entitled to use roadways safely and conveniently.

The bills will now be referred to the House floor for a second reading, followed by a vote by the full House of Representatives. Rep. Byrnes expects that the bills will be voted on by the House relatively soon.  After that, they are on to the Senate committee. It’s important to keep the energy and enthusiasm alive as the bills move forward – look for an updated action alert on our Take Action page in the next few days.

(For a complete look at the process the bills will follow as they become law, download a PDF copy of the Michigan Citizens Guide to State Government)

The Coalition would like to once again thank everyone who has worked with us to see that these bills get passed. Let’s use today’s success as a springboard to redouble our efforts, and push these important bills out of the House and through the Senate!

Additionally, League of American Bicyclists, Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the National Complete Streets Coalition all featured the efforts of Michigan’s Complete Streets movement on their blogs today.

Many more organizations and individuals provided testimony in support of Compete Streets that was entered into the record at the committee meeting as well. The following is list of links to .pdfs of those testimonies.

Michigan Complete Streets Coalition member, Norm Cox of the American Society of Landscape Architects used his testimony to state that HB 6152 and 6152 is "working to make amends for the lopsided transportation investments of the last 50-60 years," adding, "it's not taking money away, but redistributing it based on changing priorities."

The second House Transportation Committee hearing on Complete Streets legislation,  HB 6151 and 6152, saw the room once again packed with supporters of the policies. The legislation – which seeks to move Michigan away from auto-centric road designs and meet the needs of all roadway users – has attracted strong support from a broad range of advocates. A few of the groups represented at today’s hearing included: The American Heart Association, Crim Fitness Foundation and Citizens for a Safe Community.

The coalition would like to extend thanks to all those who spoke at the meeting today, as well to those that offered written testimony. Chairwoman Byrnes (D – Dist. 52) indicated she plans to hold a vote on the bills next week, and with some organizations like SEMCOG and MML still supporting the bill in concept only, it is important that the committee members continue to hear vocal support for these specific policies.

Read the rest of this entry »



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