KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Kalamazoo released new data on how bike-friendly changes to its street configurations earlier this year are affecting public safety.
The data looks at crashes on Michigan Avenue between Main Street and Harrison Street from August through October 2023. It compares the numbers to the same three-month period averaged out from 2013-2022. When it comes to overall crashes, 2023’s total of 22 crashes is 25% less than the 2013-2022 average of 28.6. City staff says crashes with injuries plummeted from the nine-year average of 3.5 to zero, since such incidents this year involved only property damage.
“That’s really important,” city traffic engineer Dennis Randolph said. “That’s less people to go to the hospital … less crashes for the police to have to come out and clean up.”
Overall traffic also rose from 14,000 to 15,000 vehicles daily. But Randolph added that the share of large trucks went down, suggesting the new layout is deterring them from using downtown as a thoroughfare and calling that a “positive thing”.
“I think people forget that this (Michigan Avenue) is our main street,” he explained. “Having gravel trains going 50 mph or any car … it’s not a main street.”
Signage posted on nearly every city block details the layout, how it works and how people should follow it.
Ryan Barber and Cory Playford of local bike shop Kzoo Swift believe the changes are improving safety but argue some of them are confusing and more can be done for the streets outside of the downtown core.
“I’ve noticed it’s a mixed bag,” Barber said. “There’s people that are all about it. Some people swear off it. I think a lot of people realize that there’s room for improvement.”
“Everything is not going to work right off the bat. What really ever does?” Playford added. “So we have a good starting point and let’s use that foothold to climb higher.”
Randolph agreed but explained the city is prioritizing immediate safety measures before reassessing layouts, especially those Park Street and Westnedge Avenue.
“We certainly are trying to fill in all the blanks in our neighborhoods as quickly as it can,” Randolph said. “I think we had a bit of a late start in Kalamazoo to do a lot of this, so we’re doing some catch-up. But we’re working constantly on it.”