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Biking Shorts - March 18, 2013

GGRBC Supports Road Diet at Revision Division Meeting

By Barbara Schmid

A meeting about the Revision Division project was held on March 8 at Kendall College to update the public about a pilot study in which Division Avenue was converted from four lanes of motor vehicle traffic to three and bike lanes were added. The “road diet” from Michigan to Wealthy streets has been in place for one year.

Chris Zull, GR City’s Traffic Safety Manager, started the meeting by comparing the Division’s road diet to Plainfield Avenue’s. Plainfield was first met with concern, but as people became accustomed to it they embraced it, he said.

The Division Avenue road diet was created to reduce vehicle speeds and increase on-street parking. The idea was that this would improve the economic vitality of this commercial corridor, which is also a major commuter corridor. Adding bike lanes and sharrows would also accommodate the growing number of commuting cyclists.

In analyzing data from three years prior to the Division Avenue road diet against one year of post- road diet data, MDOT and its consultants looked at crash history, travel time, traffic operation and quality of life. They ultimately decided that more data collection is required before a determination is made about whether to make the changes permanent or not.

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Interestingly, pedestrian traffic picked up an average of 19% once the road diet was in place. It was surmised that people possibly felt safer walking along the street with less cars moving at slower speeds. No data was offered about bicycle traffic. Regarding traffic, MDOT was surprised that there were more car crashes after the road diet (total of 125, up from 83); most were rear end collisions. Severe head on collisions were reduced. Data also showed there was one more bike crash (5) and one more pedestrian crash (5).

“It’s difficult to know if more crashes were result of the conversion or if it was simply a year of more crashes. It’s too early to tell with only one year of data,” said Matt Hunter of CDM Smith, the Lansing firm that conducted the study. “The bottom line is that more data about crashes is needed and more feedback. So far, we have inconclusive results and a decision might not be made until 2015.”

The road diet received mostly positive feedback. Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition Interim Director Tom Tilma and board member and Advocacy Committee chair Josh Leffingwell thanked MDOT and the City of Grand Rapids for their efforts and supported the continuation of the study. Many respondents were business owners. Comments GGRBC has received have been positive. We appreciate all who contacted GGRBC to offer comments, which helped support our stance to keep the bike lanes in place. Here are a few comments posted on GGRBC’s Facebook page:

James van Dokkumburg - “Sorry I can't make it but wish to voice my strong support for the experiment you all put in place. Auto traffic was calmed yet not backed up. I rode my bike in the lane numerous times throughout the road diet phase, in both directions and along the entire section, and felt very safe and confident. Amazing what some paint can do to open up the corridor to those traveling by foot or bike. Made the sidewalk feel safer too with a buffer. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!!”

Thomas Terrill - “I use these bike lanes regularly, and I would like to see them stay. While bringing the number of traffic lanes down has caused traffic backups here and there (around rush hour), the "road diet" has really helped to slow down the speed of traffic on Division. Further, the addition of the bike lanes has reduced the number of sidewalk cycling, which greatly improves the safety of foot traffic.”

Kevin David Rau - “I have found the bike lanes on Division to be a nice asset when going downtown.”

We encourage you to submit your comments to Revision Division here.

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