Thursday, November 21, 2013

Room for trails grows as Southwest Michigan goes on a road diet

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
November 21, 2013


Communities that want to learn how they can become more friendly for bicycle riders are participating in a statewide program known as Training Wheels. Southwest Michigan cities that have participated say the program is comprehensive and has gotten the results hoped for. Zinta Aistars reports.

Cynthia Krupp started thinking about how to make Michigan communities safer and more inviting for cyclists when she took a bicycle safety class to improve her own biking skills. As transportation planner for the Intermodal Policy Division at Michigan’s Department of Transportation (MDOT) in Lansing, the good planning behind good trails rank at a level of high importance to her. 

"The bicycling class made me more aware of safety issues involved with good bike trails," Krupp says. "MDOT had started walkability audits in 2004, but we’d done nothing yet for bikes."

Krupp’s idea was to do similar audits for bike trails throughout the state, a few communities at a time, and to do so by putting engineers, city leaders and public officials on bikes, letting them experience the cyclist’s perspective. 

"First, we had to educate our own (at MDOT), then we started to reach out to communities," Krupp says. 

MDOT now sponsors a program called Training Wheels, started in 2005, a course offered around the state designed to educate communities interested in providing on-road bicycle facilities for their residents and visitors. The course includes two hours of classroom instruction followed by an on-road, on-bike portion. By 2013, several Southwest Michigan communities had signed up for their turn, with nearly 100 such audits already done statewide.

Training Wheels is based on the national guidelines included in the American Association of State Highway Transportation Official (AASHTO) Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, says Krupp. These guidelines are used by civil engineers to determine specifications for sidewalks, the width of bike trails, signage, and other similar guideposts to safe riding.  

"During the on-bike portion of Training Wheels we ride through the community, analyzing what types of on-road facilities are available," says Krupp. "We make many stops along the way to point out potential facility types, looking at intersections, at the types of trails and how safe they are for bicyclists. We follow the bike ride by ...


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