Nov. 23 2011 12:00 AM

Lansing announces its non-motorized transportation plan

In an ideal world, what would a thorough network of bike lanes, sidewalks and off-road paths throughout Lansing look like?

It was a cold night for bicycling Nov.
10, but it was warm inside the northeast corner of Gone Wired Café on
the east side for the unveiling of that vision — Lansing’s completed
non-motorized transportation plan.

A familiar cast of bicycling advocates,
Public Service Department representatives, 4th Ward City Councilwoman
Jessica Yorko and about 15 Lansing-area residents attended the

For Yorko, transportation planning for
all types of travelers is a policy arena that excites her and for the
event she was also representing the Ingham County Health Department as
its environmental justice coordinator.

“Without a tri-county interconnected system, we’d be stuck in Lansing,” Yorko said to the crowd.

A poster of the plan on an easel was the
result of hundreds of planning meetings with residents all over the
city, Yorko said. It’s a detailed network of “on-road facilities” like
existing bicycle lanes, potential bike lanes and potential connector
routes through neighborhoods; “off-road facilities” like River Trail
access points, existing paths and walkways and conceptual shared use
paths; and road crossings that are amenable for walkers and bicyclists
to cross and those that need improving.

While places like Aurelius, Miller and
Pleasant Grove roads, Kalamazoo and Wood streets and Mount Hope Avenue
have on-road bike lanes, the plan is glaringly full of “potential
neighborhood connector routes,” or proposed bike lanes that weave
through neighborhoods in every ward of the city.

For as much as the non-motorized
transportation plan does in terms of planning, it’s basically a
showpiece for tangible projects, both completed and ongoing: bike lanes
on Pleasant Grove and Mount Hope, the River Trail extension south of
Mount Hope, planned upgrades to Washington Avenue in REO Town, a
forthcoming bike-parking ordinance that would require commercial
property owners to install bike racks after new construction,
improvements to the Saginaw Street bridge, the proposed “sidewalk to
nowhere” on the west side and an ongoing inventory of Lansing’s
sidewalks. Even the snow and ice removal ordinance and the rain gardens
project along Michigan Avenue fit into the theme of “complete streets.”
Other projects — like a Lansing bike-sharing program and a local grant
for building “artistic bike racks”  — are organized separately from the non-motorized plan, but fall in the realm of making the city bike-friendly.

Not unlike the Design Lansing Master
Plan and a five-year Parks and Recreation Plan, the non-motorized
transportation plan is meant to guide infrastructure planners of where
bicycle and walking routes should be. 

For Chad Gamble, director of the city’s
Public Service Department, following through on these plans is about
attracting people to the city.

“In an economy like this, it’s the
little things we have to do to bring people to Lansing,” he said to the
group. “It’s the little things that create a sense of place.”

Technically, the non-motorized plan isn’t complete.

“We’ll update it as people have
suggestions and projects,” said Andy Kilpatrick, a transportation
engineer with the city’s Public Service Department. “There’s no reason
we can’t keep adding things.”

Gamble agrees: “This type of plan is
never complete. On paper, it represents a comprehensive plan future
Chad Gambles will be able to utilize when rebuilding certain sections
of the city.”

So far, the goal of getting Lansing
residents more active seems to be working. On Nov. 10, Janine Sinno, a
health analyst with the Ingham Co. Health Department, awarded the city
a “Promoting Active Communities Award” — one of 28 communities awarded
in the state this year, she said.

Much of the formal non-motorized
planning kicked off in 2009 after the City Council adopted its Complete
Streets ordinance. Yorko hadn’t been elected by that time and was on
the side of advocating for the legislation.

The Tri-County Regional Planning
Commission landed a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development Monday, and part of that will go into
planning which projects ought to be done next within the city, said Bob
Johnson, Lansing’s director of planning and neighborhood development.
“I view it as very important,” Johnson said of the grant, adding that
grant money will not go toward actual construction.

As for the millage increase passed Nov.
8 — which is expected to generate about $2 million for local roads —
Gamble said that money will be used “for more emergency-type work.”

John Lindenmayer, who was representing
the Walk and Bike Task Force on Nov. 10 but also works for the League
of Michigan Bicyclists, pointed to 2006 when the task force formed and
set out to answer the question: What can be done to make Lansing more
amenable to bicyclists?

The result was a “76-point strategic plan” document and “a lot got incorporated in the non-motorized plan.”

Lindenmayer said with projects completed
and in the works, the non-motorized plan is important because “we’ve
all been waiting for an official plan. It’s the next step for getting
the infrastructure in place.”

Lansing now joins communities like Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Detroit and Mt. Pleasant with non-motorized plans. 

Yorko said the non-motorized plan was
“probably the most heavily inputted infrastructure plan” designed for
the city, compiled through “thousands of assessments” and about 120
meetings of the Lansing Walk and Bike Task Force since 2009. She turned
to Kilpatrick, of the Public Service Department, to confirm that.

“I think so,” Kilpatrick responded. “There will probably still be people who will say they didn’t know about it.”

See it

The city’s completed non-motorized transportation plan can be viewed at