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Detroit Breaks Ground on First Protected Bike Lane Project

Detroit broke ground this week on its first protected bike lane. Image: Jefferson East Inc.
A parking-protected bike lane is coming to Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. Image: Jefferson East Inc.
Detroit broke ground this week on its first protected bike lane. Image: Jefferson East Inc.

The Motor City is getting its first taste of on-street protected bike infrastructure. Work has begun on a street redesign that will bring Detroit its very first bike lane where parked cars will protect riders from motor vehicle traffic.

The bike lane is part of a road diet for Jefferson Avenue in the historic Jefferson-Chalmers business district. Construction crews have begun adding landscaped islands to the street, and later in the year, the road will be resurfaced and protected bike lanes will be added, reports Jefferson East Inc., the nonprofit group helping lead the planning process.

"It will be the first in the city and, I believe, the state," said Justin Fried, who manages the project for Jefferson East. "The goal is to calm the street, narrow the road and improve safety."

The intersection of Jefferson and Chalmers has been a particular problem, according to Jefferson East, with a number of crashes injuring pedestrians. The first phase of the project is only seven blocks, but a second phase will extend it three miles to Grand Boulevard.

"These improvements will not only make it safer for pedestrians, but work to help attract new businesses to the historic Jefferson-Chalmers business district and continue the revitalization of Detroit," said Executive Director Joshua Elling in a press statement.

Construction of the project will be funded without public money from the city of Detroit. Jefferson East, a neighborhood-based community development corporation, led the planning process in partnership with the city, and secured funding for implementation from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Community Foundation for SE Michigan, the Kresge Foundation, and the DTE Energy Foundation.

The protected bike lane could set an important precedent for other bike projects in Detroit, which has been expanding its network fairly rapidly. In 2013, the city added 50 miles of bike lanes.

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