New $836,000 Bikeway Plan For Grand Rapids

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The way people ride bikes in Grand Rapids may be changing.

City leaders are pushing for a safer ride, and have a new $836,000 idea to make it happen.

The idea for a  new bikeway started as a project to alleviate traffic jams near the corner of Michigan Street and College Avenue on the city’s Northeast side.

“That left turn (onto College Avenue) in the p.m. backs up well past McDonald’s,” explains Christopher Zull, Grand Rapids Traffic Safety Manager.  “And the right turn in the morning (onto Michigan Street) backs up to the freeway every regular work day.”

In an effort to build what city leaders are calling a “complete street,” where pedestrians, bicyclists, buses, and cars can all move efficiently, the city would need to widen Michigan Street.

Zull says that’s not going to work, especially in this down economy.

“We’re not aren’t able to build out way out of this problem, without very expensive fix: grade separation, knocking down buildings, buying right-of-way.”

One idea would move the two-wheeled commuters a couple blocks south to Lyon Street NE, and retrofit the corridor into a new bikeway, stretching roughly 2.6 miles from Plymouth Avenue NE all the way to the river downtown.

“(The idea is) using the existing footprint of the road, so we’re not widening the road, we’re removing a travel lane for vehicles and essentially repurposing it for bicycles,” Zull says, adding that parking on both sides of Lyon Street NE will stay.

The $836,000 proposal is a wish-list of sorts: including state-of-the-art traffic signals for cyclists, and colored pavements.  If fundraising efforts fall short, Zull says the project will be scaled back.

To cover the cost, the city is applying for a grant of about $250,000 from MDOT, but ultimately, it’s the community that will give the bikeway the green light – by giving their greenbacks.

“If the community wants this (project) to happen, then we’re going to need to find community dollars to do it,” Zull says.  “The city is not going to reach into its back pocket and say, ‘oh I’m not going to pave that road, I’m going to build this bike lane instead.’”

If the city is able to get funding for the Lyon Bikeway through a grant and/or private donations, completion is expected in 2015.

As part of Grand Rapids sustainability plan, city has set goals for becoming more bike friendly, including: having 100 miles of street bikeways by June of 2014, and to add a painted bike lane to all new road construction projects.

In the city’s central business district, it is against the law to ride a bike on the sidewalk.

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  • idunno

    Get ready for the TRAFFIC JAMS wrecking our styreets for non existent BIKERS, turning 4 lane streets itno 2 LAME wait for the buss NO PASS traffic NIGHTMARES……… And what about the KIDS are these BIKE LANES for them to get SLAUGHTERED W/the DRIVERS LIFE WRECKED!!!!!!! What an insane waste of TAX PAYER $$$$$$$$. Somebody needs to be FIRED……. A.S.A.P.

    • Tamara Steil

      Bikers are not non-existent. We are everywhere and would use our bikes even more for commuting if there were more and safer ways to do it. The Medical Mile is bringing in all sorts of green and health oriented people and Lyon is in a perfect location for its proximity as a corridor to downtown and proximity to the Mile. Bikers come in all ages and care about subtracting from their environmental footprint and burning some cals as they commute about town. There are plenty of us older people who have figured this out and plenty of younger ones wanting to come in and use safer proper biking venues. Get out to the Kent Trails and Millenium Park bike paths and see the extremely high usage they are getting. This surprised plenty of people and that's why the trail system is burgeoning. It's a problem that when they get to downtown there is not much safe territory to ride in. More bikes on the road = less cars.

  • Dan Sullivan

    Is an accurate quote? "We’re not aren’t able to build out way out of this problem, without very expensive fix: grade separation, knocking down buildings, buying right-of-way.”

  • Tamara Steil

    The bikers seem non-existent because they avoid this super-busy unsafe-for-bikers area. Many of us us Lyon, but for a much cheaper cost, Lyon could be made a great deal safer and biker-friendly. We will never have the bike traffic we could have unless our streets are made biker-friendly. We want to attract "new blood" to GR, one of the new cool cities, and it will take youth- and health- and environmentally-friendly solutions to keep up this attraction!

    • Rob

      "New Blood"? Cool City? I think you are mistaken here. I lived and worked in this area for 26 years and the best thing to ever happen was packing and getting the heck out of there. There are far better options out there.

      • Tamara Steil

        I've been here for almost 60 years and am thrilled to see what is happening with our downtown. There are hundreds of people coming here for the Miracle Mile and other wonderful things happening. We are a picket of growth in a struggling economy. It is a relatively safe place to raise kids and that will attract young families. If we are to continue to attract and hold new people we need to be greener and more commuter-friendly. There is new blood and this is a very cool city. I'm proud of it. You are not proud of it, so it is good you packed up and left because you do not appreciate the amazing strides we have already taken and you are not willing to be a part of it. Good-bye and take your negativity away with you.

  • Scherzerfan

    This is nuts. Grand Rapids is not small town USA. There are way too many emergency vehicles; service trucks, buses, and cars; and a multitude of drivers that are just happy to get through traffic without running red lights or stop signs because of all the distractions. With the attitude that drivers, pedestrians, and bikers have of "here I am, watch out for me;" it won't be long before we have even more ambulances taking over the roadways. I am wishing good luck on the suckers that think they will be safe out there. What a joke. I prefer to stay healthy to watch the next ball game!

    • Tamara Steil

      More bikes = less vehicle traffic. There are plenty of large towns and cities with navigable space for all types – pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles. Share the road. Of course all of these commuters have to watch out for each other. It's the law and all have equal rights to be there. Not just vehicles.