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Street signs

Friends and foes of 'complete streets' bill square off in Lansing

 

Published 6/16/2010

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Legislation that would require road maintenance or construction projects to consider all users and not just motorists — a design approach known as "complete streets" — is winding its way through Lansing with opposition driven by the county road commissions.

The House transportation committee, chaired by Pam Byrnes (D-Chelsea), a bill sponsor, had a second day of testimony about the proposal June 10. Byrnes says she hopes to vote it out of committee by the end of the month and let the full House consider the measure to direct the state Department of Transportation to consider features like pedestrian islands, bike lanes and space for public transit stops in roadway design.

Supported by senior groups, the Safe Routes to Schools group, environmentalists, cyclists and others, the legislation is opposed by the County Road Association of Michigan.

In general, opponents call the bill an "unfunded mandate" that would increase the cost to build roads. Supporters say it would create safer routes for pedestrians, skaters and cyclists — green alternatives — and for people who rely on public transit. "Complete streets" features can be done at little cost, they say.

Several Michigan communities have formalized support for the concept. About 40 people showed up June 9 to hear preliminary plans in the Grosse Pointes to create bike lanes on many streets in an effort spearheaded by the chamber.

And the Ambassador Bridge temporarily added a bike lane Sunday, June 13, for 180 riders. As part of the "Bike the Bridge" event, the U.S.-to-Canada lanes were closed for the pack to ride across — though, to the bikers' chagrin, bikes had to be trucked back. Unless they're packed onto cars, cycles can't cross the border — even the tunnel buses require bikes to be dismantled and put in luggage — except for at this event, now in its second year.

"I say half-jokingly that it was easier for freedom seekers to get to Canada that it is for cyclists," says Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. "Imagine the tourist draw if you could ride to Canada as part of a Great Lakes route."

News Hits was written by Metro Times staff writer Sandra Svoboda. You can reach her at 313-202-8015 or ssvoboda@metrotimes.com.

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