Pilot program adds buffer between cyclists, drivers

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New bike lanes along North Division Avenue are part of an initiative to make Grand Rapids an easier city to get around in and a safer place to bike.

The lanes were installed last month through a partnership between the city and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. In addition to painted lines, bicyclists are separated from vehicle traffic by a series of posts between Michigan Street and Coldbrook Street.

“I love it. It’s a little extra separation from the traffic. You feel a little safer with those extra pylons in the middle,” cyclist Jason Smith said.

The lanes are part of the “A Better Bikeway” pilot program. They were designed based on public input DGRI and the city have received.

“Most people’s comments are they’re concerned about traffic safety and speeding and cars getting too close to them; just feeling very uncomfortable traveling so close to traffic,” Grand Rapids Transportation Planning/Programs Supervisor Kristin Bennett said.

The changes are already getting good reviews from some cyclists.

“Cruising around downtown, there’s lots of sights to see, but it’s nice to have a little bit of extra space, a little protection,” Eddie Johns told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

Bennett said the city picked North Division for the program based on traffic data, public input and the feasibility of making the changes to the road.

“North Division is a unique street in that it doesn’t have a lot of cross streets, we don’t really have transit routes running up and down. So it’s a fairly simple corridor,” Bennett explained.

She said it makes for “a good learning laboratory” in terms of how to design the bike lanes, operate them and maintain them year-round.  

Grand Rapids continues to see population growth and was listed as one of Forbes magazine’s 10 fastest growing cities in 2018. So why more bike lanes and not more roads?

“In the case of North Division, we actually have fairly modest traffic up there and so the ability to handle all the traffic that’s there now plus future traffic can be handled in those two lanes, and then we left turn lanes at the intersections,” Bennett said.

There could be more similar lanes in the future. The city will collect bike traffic data into next year and evaluate the lanes’ effectiveness. DGRI has posted surveys in English and Spanish on its website to collect feedback.

“We’re certainly looking for opportunities to provide a higher quality bicycling environment,” Bennett said. “It’s what we’re being asked for from the public, is we want a better connected system that we can use year-round, and something that has less conflict with motor vehicle drivers.”

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