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New $836,000 Bikeway Plan For Grand Rapids

Posted at 10:52 PM, Apr 10, 2013

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.