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City embarks on 26-mile expansion of its urban bike network | News

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City embarks on 26-mile expansion of its urban bike network
News, Transportation
City embarks on 26-mile expansion of its urban bike network

City staff has announced a concerted effort to expand Grand Rapids’ urban bike network by 26 miles over the next 9 months. This aggressive bike facility expansion project is due to citizen demand for more bike-friendly streets. Work will be completed in two phases; the first phase will begin later this week and include approximately 16 miles of new bike facilities. The second phase will include another 10 miles to be implemented in the spring. Additional resources to expedite expansion of the network are currently being sought to leverage the funds appropriated in the FY2013 Fiscal Plan for this effort.

After two bike summits, bronze designation as a “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, creating 7-miles of on-street bike facilities, regular consideration of all modes of travel in street design, and priority placement in Grand Rapids’ Sustainability Plan, community leaders say that exciting progress is being made to establish a more robust biking culture.

Grand Rapids is working in conjunction with the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, a non-profit advocacy organization created during the City’s Green Grand Rapids Master Plan process, to design and implement new bike facilities. The City is responding to the group’s campaign: 100 by 2014: Bike Lanes Now!--to promote a vision of 100 miles of on-street bicycle facilities throughout metro Grand Rapids by the end of 2014.

"The City of Grand Rapids is taking a big leap forward by installing bike lanes on 26 miles of streets. Grand Rapids is fast becoming a leader among Midwest cities that are building bicycle transportation networks. These new bike lanes will expand daily cycling and increase benefits to the economy, public health, and the environment" said Tom Tilma, Interim Director of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition.

On March 22, 2011 city leaders adopted a Complete Streets resolution to encourage the creation of a transportation system that would serve all modes and all users. “Encouraging mobility and accessibility for all citizens and visitors is important to the economic vitality of our city,” said Mayor George Heartwell. “Many people who need to go to work or school do not own a car. Biking, walking and transit are lifelines for those who are too old, too young, or of limited income to access basic services that many of us take for granted. People also choose different modes for environmental and health reasons.”

The State of Michigan recently ranked fifth as the most obese state in the country, with 31.3% of the population considered highly obese, according to the Centers of Disease Control. Poor health leads to increased health care premiums to employers, higher worker absenteeism, and chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Quality public infrastructure, such as bike lanes and sidewalks, can make a substantial difference to promote active living.

“Healthy lifestyle choices combined with the basic needs of transportation make this project a win-win for the future of Grand Rapids,” said City Manager Greg Sundstrom, a proponent of the new urban bicycle facilities. He has spearheaded the effort to rapidly enhance and expand the bike network, citing it as a great example of community partners at the table willing to assist and a low-cost option to improve the quality of life in the city.

Grand Rapids has been installing signs, pavement markings, and bike parking since 2010 to embrace current transportation demands, while also taking into consideration future mobility needs. Partnerships, such as the one with the Downtown Development Authority to implement new bike parking facilities over the course of the next several weeks, are taking hold. Recent bike traffic counts in June by the Bicycle Coalition documented a rapid rise in cycling throughout the city. The City's first bike lanes on Lake Drive saw a 36% increase in the number of bicycle riders in the corridor from last year; almost 50 cyclists per hour were counted at the weekday afternoon rush hour.

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