Street Talk: Traffic safety

The holiday season must have put the Downtown Development Authority in the giving mood.

At the monthly meeting Dec. 14, the DDA unanimously approved $75,000 in financial support to aid a construction project that will remove part of a “bus only” lane on Michigan Street in an effort to improve pedestrian safety.

According to Spectrum Health, about 2,000 visitors and staff cross Michigan Street between Bostwick and Barclay avenues daily. The removal of a bus lane between that city block will reduce crossing distances by 12 feet and allow for potential installation of green infrastructure, seating and other amenities.

“We’re pretty excited, because I think this is one of those transformative steps along the corridor,” said Suzanne Schulz, city planning director.

DDA contributions make up just a portion of the project’s $400,000 cost, with the remaining funds being put up by the city and in $75,000 increments by the Grand Rapids SmartZone Authority and Spectrum Health.

Following the conclusion of the meeting’s action items, the DDA extended well wishes to Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. mobility manager Bill Kirk and Local First executive director Elissa Hillary, both of whom were attending their final DDA meeting, Hillary as a board member.

Kirk, who has served in that role since 2013, is moving westward.

“Couldn’t find any parking downtown,” he quipped.

American made

Wolverine Worldwide plans to bring its Saucony brand athletic shoes to the military.

Last week, the U.S. Congress passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which calls for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps to comply with the Berry Amendment and provide 100 percent American-made athletic footwear to recruits upon their initial entry to basic training.

Since 1941, the Berry Amendment has required the Department of Defense to purchase American-made and -sourced clothing, textiles, foods and other essential military items for men and women in uniform.

Recently, however, the DOD has been providing a cash allowance to new service members for foreign-made athletic footwear, and U.S. Marine recruits have been required to spend their own funds on these items.

The purpose of the Berry Amendment is to ensure the United States is able to maintain viable domestic industries to support the needs of the U.S. Armed Services.

Wolverine said the legislation will “positively impact footwear manufacturing in Michigan,” as well as the “industrial base throughout the United States.”

Wolverine plans to manufacture Saucony brand shoes at its Big Rapids plant, where it is adding an advanced manufacturing line in preparation for the pursuit of government awards.

The company already produces Bates brand footwear for the military at the Big Rapids facility and recently expanded the plant to meet increased DOD demand.

Products manufactured in Big Rapids include combat boots for the service branches, mountain combat boots for Special Operations Forces and military dress shoes. 

The plant employs more than 600 people.

Blake Krueger, Wolverine Worldwide’s chairman, CEO and president, thanked members of Congress, including Democratic senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, as well as Republican representatives Bill Huizenga and John Moolenaar, for their support of the legislation.

“Congressional support for American-made products for the Department of Defense clearly demonstrates an understanding of the importance of maintaining a critical industrial capability within our country and ensures that soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be provided with a choice of technically advanced, durable, American-made athletic shoes for use in basic training,” Krueger said.

Crime stoppers

The city of Kentwood is keeping a naughty list, and retailers are happy.

Operation Price is a collaborative effort by Kentwood Police and local business owners along the 28th Street corridor that discourages shoplifting and educates employees and store owners on ways to decrease crime during the holiday season. Kentwood police increase their presence in stores and also provide education to store employees on spotting potential crime and what to do when someone is caught.

The program was started in 2014 to help educate business owners and their employees on ways to reduce retail fraud in their stores. That first year, approximately 30 business owners participated in the program. The program has expanded to more than 70 businesses participating in 2016.

The key, said Kentwood Police Chief Tom Hillen, is working collaboratively with business owners.

“By engaging the business owners and employees from the beginning, we are able to increase police presence at their shops,” Hillen said. “Our increased presence near Woodland Mall discourages thieves and other crime to stay away. The fact that business owners want to be a part of this program speaks volumes for the value it provides.”

Operation Price will run through Jan. 3.

Winter wonder

Somehow, not everyone in Michigan is ready for the snow we’ve already received this winter.

A national survey by Finnish car care product company Kungs found nine of 10 Michigan residents are ready for snow and ice.

Still, the results provide some interesting insight into the type of preparation residents take.

One in three Michigan residents spend 10 minutes or more removing snow and ice from their car during winter days.

Tops among equipment people keep in their cars during the winter are ice scrapers and snow brushes, with 89 percent of respondents in the Great Lakes State saying they use them.

Twenty-three percent also use their arms and 5 percent admitted to using their credit cards.


A surprising 6 percent use hot water – a terrible idea that can shatter windows with the heat shock.

For the 10 percent of people not ready for winter, here’s a news flash: It’s here.

Rolling along

Grand Valley State University was named a Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).

LAB is a national organization that encourages bicycle usage to improve health and well-being.

GVSU received a silver award — the highest designations are platinum and gold — joining fellow silver award winners Michigan State University and University of Michigan. Nominees are judged on several factors: education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation and planning.

“This designation not only shows that Grand Valley supports bicycling as a recreation and transportation option, but it demonstrates the university's ongoing commitment to sustainability and a healthy campus community,” said Joe Bitely, assistant director of campus recreation.

GVSU provides a variety of bicycle-related services and support on the Allendale campus, including a bike rental program, maintenance shop, tune-ups at the farmers market, repair station and 4,173 bike parking spaces across campus.

Becoming a Bicycle Friendly University was a goal Grand Valley committed to in May as a participant of the Partnership for a Healthier America, Healthy Campus Initiative.

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