VOICES: Cyclists and pedestrians will have their own Detroit River crossing

Do you like bicycling?  Would you be interested in bicycling across the Detroit River to Windsor on the new bridge?  
 
Well, if you do you just got your wish.  The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority just announced that the new Gordie Howe International Bridge will include a dedicated multi-use path that will accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.  How cool is that?

This event is the result considerable public input and advocacy from stakeholder groups in both the United States and Canada.  For example, in 2016 a U.S.-Canadian partnership developed a vision map to help make the case to connect emerging international greenways, trails, and bike lanes in southwest Ontario and southeast Michigan.  
 
Through this U.S.-Canada Greenways Vision Map, partners have championed connecting greenways in the Detroit Metropolitan Area with ones in the Windsor Metropolitan Area via a dedicated bike lane on the new Gordie Howe Bridge, a future ferry system between Windsor and Detroit, and future improvements to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel Bus System.  

John HartigGreenways are non-motorized trails that link communities, parks, nature areas, cultural features, economic centers, and historic sites.  Throughout the world, greenways promote outdoor recreation, catalyze ecotourism and economic development, promote healthier lifestyles, provide safe alternatives to motorized transportation, increase adjacent property values, celebrate historical and cultural assets, promote conservation and environmental education, and improve the quality of life.

Windsor and Detroit share the same ecosystem and have much in common culturally, socially, economically, and historically.  Each has a unique greenway system.  

For example, the City of Winsor maintains 79.5 miles of trails, including the Windsor Loop that is a 26.4-mile loop when completed will traverse around the City’s perimeter, joining neighborhoods and providing access to the Trans Canada Trail.  The Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway trails offer an additional 12.4 miles of greenways.  In Essex County, Ontario, the 31-mile Chrysler Canada Greenway is a multi-use, rail trail that is the southern-most section of the Trans Canada Trail.  Managed by Essex Region Conservation Authority, it connects a number of communities and natural areas in Essex County and the heart of southwest Ontario’s wine country.  The new Cypher Systems Group Greenway will be a 13.7-mile rail trail that will connect Essex to Amherstburg.

Did you know that Detroit has over 200 miles of bike routes and greenways, including the Detroit RiverWalk that won an Excellence in the Waterfront Award from The Waterfront Center, the Dequindre Cut Greenway that links the waterfront with Detroit’s Eastern Market and many neighborhoods, and an Inner Circle Greenway that is a planned 26-mile trail for biking and walking?  
 
Detroit’s greenways are connected to over 1,000 miles of greenway trails in southeast Michigan.  Of particular interest is the Iron Belle Trail that, when complete, will link the wealth of natural and cultural resources in the state, including a hiking and biking route connecting Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  
 
The route heads south from Belle Isle via the Southwest Detroit Greenlink and through 10 Downriver communities, primarily following the emerging path of Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative. The biking route heads north from Belle Isle via the Conner Creek Greenway.

Both southwest Ontario and southeast Michigan greenway trail systems are unique individually, but together they are truly world-class.  
 
With the announcement that the new Gordie Howe International Bridge will have a dedicated multi-use path that will accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, these southwest Ontario and southeast Michigan greenway systems will be linked when bridge construction is projected to be completed in 2020.  
 
So get ready to grab your bike and explore both sides of the Detroit River, the only river system in North America to receive both Canadian and American Heritage River Initiative designations, as well as the only international wildlife refuge in North America (the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge).  

Partners in the U.S.-Canada Greenways Vision Map include: Bike Friendly Windsor Essex, Canadian Consulate General, City of Detroit, City of Windsor, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Detroit Greenways Coalition, Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, Downtown Detroit Partnership, Essex County, Essex Region Conservation Authority, National Park Service, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wheelhouse Detroit and Windsor Bicycling Committee.  
 
More information is available from the Detroit Greenways Coalition.

John Hartig is Refuge Manager at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
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