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Posted on Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 5:55 a.m.

Community taking smart approach by addressing pedestrian and bicycling issues

By Staff


Ryan J. Stanton |

Recently, members of the public were invited to weigh in on the "Reimagine Washtenaw" initiative, a proposed remaking of the corridor that may include things like new "buffered" bike lanes and pedestrian improvements.

This multi-jurisdiction project is just one of a series of similar efforts in the Ann Arbor area. The city is working to develop a vision for the South State Street corridor; a task force is discussing ideas to improve the North Main / Huron River corridor; and a proposed "road diet" for Jackson Avenue remains in play. Running parallel to and in conjunction with these efforts, earlier this spring Ann Arbor released a draft update to its Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. Meanwhile, some of the same concerns are being kept in mind as Ypsilanti reconsiders its master plan.

Taken together, it can all seem overwhelming. And in fact, all the ideas and proposals do represent an awful lot of potential change.

But these projects are vital parts of maintaining the vibrancy of the Ann Arbor community. In particular, the emphasis on keeping the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and mass transit in mind, as well as individual drivers, should serve the community well as we move into the future.

As the nationwide "Complete Streets" initiative has noted, for decades, infrastructure improvements in the U.S. focused largely on efficiently moving individual automobile traffic, all too often at the expense of other types of transportation. In recent years, however, a realization seems to be taking hold that maybe a somewhat more balanced perspective would improve our communities.

Make no mistake: Despite the sometimes over-the-top objections to the recent transportation ideas here and elsewhere, nobody seriously suggests individual automobiles should go away, or even that their needs shouldn't be considered and accommodated. We as a society do a lot of driving, and we're going to continue to do so. Most of us drive to work every day, and to the store, and to leisure-time activities.

But most of us walk, too, even if only after parking our cars. And an increasing number get to work by bicycle. In Ann Arbor, census figures indicate more than 20 percent of the population either walks or bikes to work. The city's Nonmotorized Transportation Plan update notes that bicycles rose from from 2.4 to 3.5 percent of total commuting trips between 2000 and 2006. And test counts of bicycle use before and after new bike lanes were added at two locations (Liberty and Seventh, Miller and First) showed increases of 38 and 30 percent from 2006/2007 to 2011.

With gas prices stuck at historically high levels and shifts in attitudes toward commuting alternatives, it's hard to imagine these numbers doing anything other than rising in future years.

Not every idea now being considered will become reality. Some will probably happen soon; others years from now; others never. That's appropriate. The important thing is that the conversations are taking place, and taking place now. The country is changing, and our community will be better served by leading than by following.



Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

It amazes me the level of confusion about who is using the washtenaw corridor and the jackson ave .....these are commuters traveling from places that require a car because they live out of town or far out of buses reach. In most places the roads leading to freeway entrances are larger because they need the extra space for all the commuters who are leaving town to go home or coming to town. This is true about ann arbor as well. This is also a fact that won't change. This is not about the wave of the future and following or setting trends. This is about the consequences that happen when a city becomes a go to area because of dense employement zones. The u of m has 30,000.00 plus employees that come and go every day of the week. I need not say what a large # of people that is. Many of them car pool, many of them go to park and rides. However they still must come in on freeways and thus thru some of the corridors.This is just one employer. There are many others and many commute. There is an perception that many who work here live here......That is not the case. In planning for the furture maybe how many people commute from out of town needs to be know. Then we have a clearer picture to plan for. As it stands now it is mostly unclear what is needed. There are daulty assuptions at play. One being that more people would ride bikes down wastenaw if it were user friendly. Most adults of middle age are unwilling to dedicate the energy it would take to ride a bike to work or shop. many have multiple stops they make on some days from one location to another with bags in tow, kids to pick up ,etc. In large cities like New York having a car is not helpful. But they have subways, cabs and buses that all deliver fairly rapid service. Ann Arbor is not New York. Ann Arbor doesn't have any structures coming to town that would allow commuters to ride, for example. Any plan must include the reality on the ground not the pipe dream that lives in some ones head.

Jim Walker

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 5:05 a.m.

For cab55: All true. Jackson Avenue, Washtenaw, Main Street, and some other entry/exit corridors have been the major commercial and travel routes from before the time cars existed in Michigan. They became state trunk lines (numbered highways) and Interstate Business Routes because they were the existing main corridors for commerce and travel, in some cases two hundred years old. Designating them as trunk lines and business routes is part of the proper planning process of channeling the heavier traffic flows to the more main roads designed for that purpose, to keep them off the more minor roads and residential streets. The City Council and some residents would like you to believe that Jackson Avenue is a "residential area". It is not. It is an Interstate Business Route and a state trunk line highway that has carried significant commercial traffic from before the automobile era. Yes, some people have houses there, but that was THEIR choice to move onto a main business highway. Putting a 0.6 mile choke point with half the through traffic lanes plus bike lanes in the middle of the longer segment between Stadium and the Dexter split is nonsense. I doubt that you will see many bikes there, they have no safe way to get to and from those discontinuous 0.6 mile long short lanes using roads. You might draw more bicycles to the Jackson corridor, but when they have to use some of the very narrow sidewalks for their own safety east or west of the discontinuous 0.6 mile bike lanes, the area pedestrians will not be amused. Again, if it works I will apologize. But I predict gridlock and great dissatisfaction leading to a return to a 4 lane roadway. James C. Walker, National Motorist Association, Ann Arbor


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

20% of people walk or bike to work, are you kidding me! I doubt 20% of city and university employees even live within the city lijmits( if you take away student employees). Why are you concerned with north main st. It's only a connector to a major expressway for vehicle traffic, or is it a bigger concern of the spandex clad bicycle riders to get to huron river drive. Priorities are for the few not the mass.

Kevin McNulty

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

There are several reasons why communities have to consider bike/walk alternatives to automotive transportation. The volatile nature of gas prices, the cost of autos increasing drastically due to Corporate Average Fuel Economy (and all the hi tech gizmos) and a good way to get and stay healthy at a time when health care costs are staggering. And improving air quality. I like A2's efforts but I am not impressed with their planning of many bike lanes. They should be not be on high vehicle traffic streets like Huron/Jackson if there is a nearby parallel street with less traffic. Also I would like to see UM and A2 do what Portland, Or., is doing, recommending shower/locker facilities in building codes for people who wish to bike to work in new construction. Finally A2 and UM should also participate in the federal tax credit benefit for bikers:


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 9:18 a.m.

Just make the sidewalks wider so that the bikes can ride down one half and the peds can walk down the other. Then they aren't driving 5mph in the middle of rush hour trafic...

Erica Briggs

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 1:59 a.m.

I can empathize with the concerns many have regarding congestion in A2. However, I think the concern over Ann Arbor's move to Complete Streets (streets that can work for everyone in our community --motorists, kids on bikes, adults on bikes, people walking to work, individuals with disabilities, etc) will come at too high a cost... a delay for motorists... is misdirected anger. I have found City and State engineers to be very concerned with congestion and unwilling to perform road diets unless traffic data supports a transition. North Main, for example, would not get approval for a road diet under current engineering standards. Traffic data on Jackson Road, on the other hand, found that it would not cause delays. However, as Jim Walker pointed out the number of commuters coming into Ann Arbor is great and unlikely to drop significantly in coming years. So what's the answer, widen our roads into oblivion and make them impassable for anyone? Traffic studies have shown that if you widen roads more people drive and fill them up and congestion continues. Jim is also correct that people are not going to bike these long distances, BUT plenty more people will begin biking in Ann Arbor if we have continuous, safe bike routes for people to travel on. Because transportation studies have also found that the same thing that is true for highways is true for bike networks... "build it and they will come." Where I wish people would start directing their anger is at the State. It is a disgrace that people are forced to commute to Ann Arbor by car. Michigan hasn't invested in mass transit and it is now paying the price. We are a country that loves our freedom, but we fail to realize that our policy makers have trapped us in our cars. I like my car, but I'd love to have the option not to drive it too. So I hope people stop yelling at the creation of a bicycle network and start yelling FOR mass transit. ~Erica Briggs WBWC Board Member

Jim Walker

Tue, Jun 4, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

For Erica Briggs: What disturbs me about putting 0.6 mile long choke points on Jackson Avenue between Stadium and the Dexter split are: 1) The bike lanes will connect with nothing east or west of the 0.6 mile isolated part. There was no attempt to link these short discontinuous bike lanes with anything else. 2) The traffic counts exceed the maximums to forecast serious delays at peak hours on Jackson Ave. The study MDOT funded says this. 3) MDOT engineers gave Ann Arbor what they wanted on Jackson Avenue, with a poorly advertised first meeting that then had only a tiny attendance, and then failed to put up the changeable message signs as promised on the Jackson Ave. corridor to advertise the second meeting to commuters who don't read local papers. The signs were on Maple Road near the meeting location, WAY apart from Jackson Ave. And the second meeting was an informal forum, NOT a formal meeting where questions and answers were required to be recorded and dealt with. 4) I think we are almost certain to get serious traffic diversion to Liberty, Dexter, Miller, Pauline and maybe smaller city streets to avoid the total gridlock that is likely to occur on Jackson Ave. - particularly in the PM rush hour. Those residents on those lesser non-Interstate Business Routes will have a VERY different view of road diets for Jackson Ave. 5) Anyone who moved onto Jackson Avenue or very nearby areas in the last 50 years knew it was a key commuting and commercial Interstate Business Route. To then complain about traffic is like buying a house off the end of an airport runway and then complaining about aircraft noise. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

As long as we remain segregated in Metro Detroit (including Ann Arbor), we won't have an effective public transportation system. There are legislators in Lansing right now attempting to pass bills that would permit municipalities to opt out of Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (HB 4015). You'll notice in Oakland (maybe Wayne, too) that there are limits to the SMART Bus' route, like Haggerty Road, which serves as a border between Novi and Farmington Hills.

Basic Bob

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 2:27 a.m.

Thank you. Many of the more densely populated urban areas are unserved by public transportation. Yet there is a conscious effort from civic leaders to deny funding for public transportation to middle class neighborhoods for fear of the wrong elements it might attract. They should not be concerned. Very few criminals take the bus to work.

Jim Walker

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

The simple fact is that Ann Arbor has something like 70,000 commuters, many of whom live far beyond any possible bike riding range, either by choice or because of income and affordability reasons. The city will never have enough appropriate housing for many of them to ever consider moving into town. So even the thought of deliberately creating choke points on Jackson Avenue, Main Street, and Washtenaw to neck down some of the major commuting arteries enough to create gridlock at rush hours makes no sense for Ann Arbor. James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor

Jim Walker

Wed, Jun 5, 2013 : 5:14 a.m.

In Jim's world, some roads are designated as state trunk lines (numbered highways), some are designated at Interstate Highways, some are designated as Interstate Business Routes, some are county roads, some are urban collectors (Liberty, State, Newport, Pauline, Stadium, etc.) and some are residential streets. Jackson Avenue/Huron Street is an Interstate Business Route and a state trunk line highway. It is the principal commercial and commuting corridor to and from the west of the city and has been so from before the time automobiles existed. Would John Q and others prefer the heavy commuting and truck traffic flow to be on Liberty, Dexter, Miller, Pauline, and Washington Streets? Or is it better to keep it on Jackson Avenue/Huron Street as the state designations require? James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, Ann Arbor

John Q

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

In Jim's world, every road should be a superhighway so he can get wherever he wants as fast as he wants - as long as it's in a car.


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 12:37 a.m.

i.e. cars rule!! Now get ta heck outa my way or I'll run over ya!!


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

what they need is more signs saying bike path on the curbs. maybe it is hard to understand when we have lines that are supposed to be inside for bikes.

Steve Bean

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

Actually, gas prices have been moving essentially sideways since the peak in 2007 and are generally trending downward ( I wouldn't be surprised if they go below $2/gallon by the end of the year. They will deflate along with everything else in the next few years, though that won't mean that gas will be more affordable. Soon thereafter they'll rise to new highs unaffordable by most. Nicole Foss ( predicts that most consumers won't be able to afford any petroleum products five years from now. Our oblivious conversations about transportation today will seem pretty odd at that point.

Are you serious?

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

30 years ago I biked from the Pioneer HS area to my job by Plymouth Rd & US 23. This was in the days before any type of bike lane existed. I mostly rode on side streets and sidewalks and never had any problem. I like the idea of intelligent use of the roadways, particularly in the downtown area where most of the bicycle and pedestrian traffic. However speaking as someone who now commutes by card from from AA to and from YPSI the entire length of Washtenaw several times a day, the idea of bicycles riding in a lane next the 45 - 50 mph traffic is ludicrous. Put in bike paths/sidewalks that can be shared. This corridor in not one that anyone drives down slowly so they can look at the scenery.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:54 p.m.

If the bikers are going to continue to use existing roads, and now new roadways built to accommodate them, it is only fair that the bikers must take a bikers ed class, pay to get a license to operate on roadways, pay insurance so when their 20 lbs vehicle is in an accident with a vehicle that weighs 100 times more (paying for an additional insurance rider if they don't ware a helmet) and they must pay for for a registration plate every year. Once that happens we can pass manufacturing laws that require bike makes to install air bags and other safety requirements that drive up the price of the bike. Then they can ride on the road, even though the road was not ever designed for them, just like the rest of us.

John Q

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

Roads came before cars because bikers advocated for them. But don't let the facts get in the way of your rant.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 6:08 p.m.

Or maybe you could just move your car over a few feet and please not run into me when you drive by?


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

You may a2cents but your agenda makes no sense.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

I have the license, the insurance, the helmet, pay taxes, and my bicycle is worth more than the average car. Move over!


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

"But these projects are vital parts of maintaining the vibrancy of the Ann Arbor community. " Yeah, sure. Boilerplate fluff.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

If this is a smart approach, what does that say for AAPS plan to eliminate public transportation for the majority of its students?


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

We are significantly underfunding education in Michigan, so schools are forced to choose between transportation and teachers. Most of today's taxpayers were educated in public schools that were far better funded. And yet, they don't seem willing to pay it forward.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

It would be novel if the transportation funds were paid directly to those students who bicycle or walk (and perhaps an offsetting fee for drivers and bus users).

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

American values are all about owning a car and to an extend our infrastructure is designed around the automobile. While I applaud Ann Arbor's recent initiatives to make the city more bike and pedestrian friendly, I don't see how this is really actionable as long as automobiles, semi-trucks, and the ever present diesel buses continue to get carte-blanche in downtown.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

This is a learned value because people take short sighted actions regarding cars and picked a suburban home 45 miles from where they worked... and they sacrificed having a community in order to do so... Ann Arbor is awesome because we have a sense of community already due to the downtown area and nearby neighborhoods (expensive of course, I wonder why) as a natural gathering place Free flowing traffic isn't a a right just because you are traveling on a road... The most desirable neighborhoods in the world have the narrowest and slowest traffic moving through them... Beacon Hill Boston, Backbay Boston, Georgetown, D.C. Alexandria Virginia...

Jim Osborn

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

"nobody seriously suggests individual automobiles should go away, or even that their needs shouldn't be considered and accommodated" Actually, many who have commented on have stated that if travel for automobiles is made more difficult, only then will drivers begin to consider other forms of transportation. The "road diet" for Jackson Road is a perfect example of this mindset. It already is extremely crowded during rush hour, and reducing it to a single lane in each direction, with this single lane blocked at times by a bus that stops to pick up passengers will only exacerbate an already bad situation. If a pedestrian is crossing a side street, and a car wished to turn right, all traffic stops. When I rode a bike along this location, I chose side streets for safety and beauty. Likewise, North Main needs a bike path, but not along a road with vehicles that are traveling at 45 MPH. The answer is a scenic pathway along the Huron River and a new railroad crossing near M-14. I like bike pathways, but not those with cars inches away. Small children cannot use that type, while they can use separate pathways. Lets build pathways that can be used by entire families, not just a select few.

Jim Osborn

Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 10:52 a.m.

Hey "golfer" or whatever your real name is. Read my last paragraph, It appears that you did not. Where did I adovocate bikelanes that share the road with cars, where a 6 year old can stray into the path of a car? No, I didn't. I prefer segregrated bike lanes, such as the ones along Huron Pky Between Washtenaw and Gallup Park, that then connects with that wonderful one. Or the one along Washtenaw. I do not care for the one alng Division that suddenly ends, dumpiing the bike rider into traffic. Steve is telling people to move elsewhere is they do not like his vision of road diets and slow moving traffic jams. How noce of him. At least he is open about his intentions.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

gee Jim. how about the bikes that go over the line and get into the car lanes? how about the bikes that just drive up to the front of the light instead of doing what they are supposed to do. wait in line. bikers need to obey the law like they are supposed to do. I do not see very many do this. they are in world of "I biker"


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

Paths equate to dangerous, poorly maintained and poorly documented/mapped in my experience. When constructed, drivers then complain about the waste of money that could have been spent on "their" roads. Having ridden thousands of miles on public roads I chuckle at your shouting "...45 MPH...". Our perspectives are vastly different.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

When you segregate uses... like bike trails and beauty all along the rive only... you get a classic suburban "park and ride' model where you have to drive to your parks.. People come to A2 to visit and enjoy because it is much more integrated and supports a community feel way more than most other cities in the United States... Cars over here.. Bikes over there... just doesn't work.... as does Houses here.... Businesses over there... It's called Suburban Sprawl... You obviously care about the quality of life of Ann Arbor... its just that you need to integrate various modes of transportation into a major city road.... so .. when people advocate road diets... it's not popular... but its effect benefits everyone.... yes.. slow car traffic in a city (it's not an interstate) is desirable... it makes people want to live here.... if you like fast moving traffic.. then there are tons of cities and towns that can accommodate those that prefer car dominance over people dominance...


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

As is usual under the dome ..inconvenience the majority to placate a minority.....the tail shaking the dog...


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

more bubble-babble


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

As one who commutes daily from Ann Arbor to northwest Detroit suburbs, I see such a contrast and am thankful of the growing vision here in Ann Arbor. A good percentage of my coworkers from there express their wishes Oakland County were more like Ann Arbor as far as pedestrian / bike friendliness, and some even travel here to use the b2b trail and hang out downtown. I think these visions will pay even bigger dividends in 20 -50 years as space becomes more premium, so keep up the fight.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 10:26 a.m.

When are we supposed to get jetpacks?


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

You know, transporters are probably a step up from jetpacks, but jetpacks seem like so much fun that I'd like to use those until the fun runs its course. Then by all means, beam me up (or over/around/whatever).

Ryan Bowles

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

And transporters!


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 10:17 a.m.

Every person on a bike or a bus is one less car to impede the flow of other cars. As Ann Arbor grows, we don't have room for right-of-ways to double the size of every major road, and that has been proven not to work anyway. Figuring out how to get more people through the same width ROW is to everyone's benefit, whether they chose to drive, bike, walk, take mass transit, or some combination thereof. Moreover, making such changes is not a zero sum game ... making accommodations to ensure the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers and to speed to flow of mass transit does not need to impede the flow of automobiles, to accomodate those who chose to drive.


Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

Where appropriate, road diets benefit cars as well. They reduce the incidence of crashes and tend to curb reckless driving.

Jim Osborn

Sun, Jun 2, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

It is a "zero sum game" when "road diets' occur.