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This week the Washtenaw County Road Commission approved road diets (turning a four lane road into two traffic lanes, a center turn lane and bike lanes) for Golfside Road in Pittsfield Township and Ford Boulevard in Ypsilanti Township.

At the meeting opponents of the Ford Boulevard road diet argued that such a configuration would put them out of business, and that the number of crashes on Ford Boulevard were not all that many. Road Commission staff, however, pointed out that Ford Boulevard’s crash rate is much higher than it should be and that study after study has shown that road diets reduce crash rates.

Supporters of the road diets included League of Michigan Bicyclists, Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, Bike Ypsi and Friends of the Border To Border Trail, all Michigan Complete Streets Coalition partners.

Construction on Ford Boulevard is expected to take place in 2011.

Road Diets are a cost-effective tool to calm traffic and reclaim street space for other roadway users such as bicyclists. With many Michigan roads built for to carry a larger amount of automobile capacity than they actually do, road diets are low hanging fruit opportunities for Complete Streets advocates to push for in their own communities.

Road diets, however, do not always go over well with the auto-centric public, as has been seen recently in Williamston and Jackson.  It just goes to show why nonmotorized plans and Complete Streets policies are so important so these battles do not happen on a road by road basis.

We salute the Washtenaw County Road Commission for supporting the concept of road diets.  They may find that adopting their own Complete Streets policy, as the Ingham County Road Commission recently did, may help demonstrate to the community a long-term commitment to building active transportation infrastructure.

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