City turns to public for bicycle input


The city of Grand Rapids is once again tapping the public for input on transportation, this time to expand the city’s bicycle infrastructure.

Residents will be able to comment on a recent draft of the city’s Bicycle Action Plan from now until Aug. 17. A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 14 in the ninth-floor commission chambers of City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW, and a vote on the plan is scheduled for Sept. 18.

“We’re working to move Grand Rapids forward as a community where bicycling for transportation and recreation is a safe, comfortable and integral part of daily life for people of all ages, abilities and socioeconomic levels,” said Kristin Bennett, the city’s transportation planning and programs supervisor.

The Bicycle Action Plan’s goals include adding bike parking to all neighborhood business districts, designing and implementing at least 12 “low-stress” bike routes, implementing at least one significant bikeway project in each ward and having zero cyclist fatalities by 2023.

The plan also aims to increase biking from almost 2 percent to 5 percent of all work and school commutes in Grand Rapids by 2035.

The current draft includes the following recommendations:

  • Modifications to some of the corridors identified as commuter and community bicycle corridors in the Vital Streets Plan

  • Bicycling facility recommendations, including new facilities and changes or upgrades to existing facilities

  • Policy changes and enhancements

  • Programmatic recommendations

  • Suggested performance and evaluation measures

  • Resource needs and investment strategies

  • Some recommended short-term projects and actions

The draft is based on existing planning from other ongoing revitalization efforts, including the city’s master plan from 2002, the Green Grand Rapids Plan from 2011 and most recently GR Forward goals 1 (river restoration and access) and 3 (mobility).

The plan also builds on public input gathered from the Vital Streets development process from 2012 to 2015 and from a Bike Share Feasibility study conducted in 2017.

According to the Bicycle Action Plan draft, the annual cost of operating a bicycle is an estimated $150 per year, compared to an estimated $8,500 per year to own and operate a private automobile.

The plan also claims reallocating road space to accommodate cyclists would increase the overall person capacity of streets without street widening.

The development of a bicycle plan was one of the recommendations in the city’s Vital Streets program passed by the city commission in 2016. Voters approved funding for the initiative back in 2014.

While the Vital Streets plan does provide comprehensive guidance on street function and travel mode emphasis by corridor, it does not provide direction for off-street biking facilities, programs, policies or other biking infrastructure.

Spending for the Vital Streets program was budgeted into the fiscal year 2019 plan, as covered in an earlier Business Journal report; $17.5 million was allocated for Vital Streets asset management and debt retirement. FY2019 was officially adopted July 1.

In addition to Vital Streets spending, the Downtown Development Authority’s FY2019 tax increment fund budget showed $250,000 had been allocated toward “bicycle-friendly improvements” in accordance with GR Forward’s mobility goal.

Feedback on the Bicycle Action Plan can be emailed to, mailed to the Mobile GR and Parking Services Department at 50 Ottawa Ave. NW or called in to the city’s 311 customer service center at 311 or (616) 456-3000.

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