Ann Arbor will begin construction on its first protected two-way bike lane this spring.
The lanes will run on William Street between State and South First streets and will have protective barriers separating cyclists from cars.
This project is part of the People-Friendly Streets initiative, led by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The initiative's goal is to improve safety and enjoyment downtown by providing solutions that are sustainable, strengthen local business, and encourage people to visit and stay downtown.
DDA communications manager Maura Thomson says projects to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in downtown Ann Arbor came up in the 2003 amended Downtown Development Plan. Since then, protected bike lanes have caught on in cities nationwide and DDA members heard a strong desire for increased safety and access for Ann Arbor cyclists.
The DDA identified First and William streets as opportunities to begin a network of connected, protected bike lanes in Ann Arbor. Because businesses on William Street didn't require a lot of curb usage and had the width to accommodate a two-way bike lane, Thomson says the street became an ideal starting point for the DDA.
Thomson says the DDA did two series of public workshops last March and June to present the idea to the community and gather feedback. The DDA also conducted meetings with over 150 businesses, residents, and property owners to identify which side of the street would be better suited for bike lane construction without hindering services or businesses' needs.
"Feedback in general from these meetings was very positive," Thomson says. "People were (already) interested in biking, so with a protected bike lane they would feel more safe on the roads. People were excited we were starting somewhere."
The DDA already has plans to complete projects on Huron, First, and Ashley streets in the future. First and Ashley streets were identified with William Street as "bicycle emphasis" streets and will have protective bike lanes installed. The Huron Street project will enhance and expand pedestrian crosswalks and spaces to increase pedestrian safety.
"Our goal is to make our streets safe and comfortable, to address the fact that we're growing and traffic is growing," Thomson says. "Giving people different (transportation) options is going to be good for everybody."
Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor DDA.