Detroit Is Getting a Bike-Share Program
By Eric D. Lawrence
Detroit will get more than $1 million to launch a public bike share program, one of 14 projects tapped to get federal funding in the region, according to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.
In addition to Detroit, Sterling Heights will see $650,000 for the Dodge Park Bridge over the Clinton River and Lake Orion will receive more than $263,000 for the Paint Creek Trail connection to the village's downtown. "While these are 14 independent projects, they're part of connecting our region through a system of trails and bike paths. These are quality-of-life projects that impact us all," Kathleen Lomako, SEMCOG's executive director, said in a news release.
The projects represent more than $6.4 million in Transportation Alternatives Program funding for 2016 through the Federal Highway Administration.
For Detroiters, the additional money will mean the start of a public bike share program, possibly as early as the spring of 2016.
Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of Detroit Bike Share for the Downtown Detroit Partnership, said the program -- not to be confused with the system available to employees or affiliates of Dan Gilbert's companies downtown -- will likely begin with 350 bicycles at 35 stations around the greater downtown area. System details will not be finalized until after a vendor is selected, but users would likely be able to pay at the individual stations for daily or annual passes or something in between.
The system would be planned around the idea of short-distance trips to help keep more bikes in circulation with stations near transit stops and would not be designed to compete with bike rentals, Nuszkowski said. It would also offer a low threshold for ridership, helping encourage people who do not normally ride bikes to give it a try, Nuszkowski said. "I kind of view it as the gateway drug for biking and healthier living in general," she said.
Bike share programs have been cropping up in other cities, and Nuszkowski said Philadelphia's Indego program, which launched this spring with 500 bikes and 60 stations, offers a good example for Detroit.
Nuszkowski has been working to develop the program for the last several years. She was previously with Wayne State University, which hired a team of consultants in 2013 to study the feasibility of bike share in Detroit. Nuszkowski said the program is seeking corporate sponsorship, but that the Transportation Alternatives Program grant brings the money raised to date to more than $2 million.
In Sterling Heights, City Manager Mark Vanderpool touted the improvements envisioned by the Dodge Park Bridge project. It will be state of the art, handicap-accessible and alleviate a choke point on the statewide Iron Belle Trail, which uses existing trails to connect Belle Isle and Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula, Vanderpool said in the SEMCOG release.
"Needless to say, the public benefit is significant," Vanderpool said.
Ken VanPortfliet, Lake Orion Village president, predicted that the Paint Creek Trail project would bring more people to the village.
"This is great news for the downtown businesses and our community. It's also a piece of the statewide Iron Belle Trail that should attract trail users from beyond our area," VanPortfliet said in the release.
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