The theme of last month’s 2011 Michigan Bicycle Summit was ambiguous, though, full of promise. The event began with the opened ended statement, asking what being ‘bicycle friendly’ can do for the state.
Historically, Michigan is known for automobiles, not bikes, but Jim Sayer of the Adventure Cycling Association — one of the world’s largest bicycling membership organizations — believes that bikes may be the way to make Michigan “prosperous and attractive,” once again.
Michigan is recognized for its progress within the US Bike Route System. Rich Moeller, executive director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, also sees great promise for bikes in the Great Lakes State in the years to come. “Michigan is no worse or better than any other state,” Moeller told BikeRadar, who doesn’t believe America’s car culture is holding back cycling initiatives in Michigan. “We like to say this because cars are made here, but that has nothing to with people’s addiction to driving.”
Instead, Moeller believes that cycling’s biggest hurdle within the state is the sheer number of different government units that control it’s roadways. He adds that the roads are also not as bad as many riders would like to believe either. “While some urban areas have problems, there are many rural areas that the roads are excellent to ride on,” said Moeller. “Other states have harsh winters. If the roads are designed and built correctly to start with, the weather is not an issue.”
The Michigan Bicycle Summit organizers also looked ahead to the possibilities for cyclists in Michigan, as well as routes to nearby states. Sayer noted that Adventure Cycling is promoting an “Underground Railroad Route,” based on the course that runaway slaves took through Ohio and up to Detroit, where they could cross into Canada where they were free. Two routes are being devised, with one to be available in June and the second in October.
This is just one of many plans in place, however, Moeller notes that it might be hard to have a state wide “master plan” for cycling. “With so many different governmental agencies controlling roads it is almost impossible to have a state wide master plan,” said Moeller. “There are a few regional transportation efforts underway, but there is not a true statewide master plan.”
Michigan is leading the nation in the number of communities with Complete Streets policies, he noted; the state now boasts 39 ordinances and resolutions with plans to adopt more in coming months. “Over 25 percent of Michigan’s population now lives in a community that has adopted an ordinance or resolution,” said Moeller. “This is in addition to our new statewide law overseeing MDOT controlled roads. The goal is simple, to have streets and roads all across the state that are safe for all roadway users.”