ANN ARBOR – William Street has a whole new look.
On Sunday afternoon, members of Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority, elected city officials, transport organizations and members of the public gathered on William Street between Fifth Avenue and Division Street to celebrate the grand opening of the city's first two-way protected bike lane.
The William Street Bikeway is the first in a network of planned two-way protected bike lanes across the city. The next bikeway will be constructed on First Street in 2020 with a greater plan of connecting the downtown area to the Huron River, where further development is planned.
City officials hope this will encourage more people to ride their bikes downtown as congestion continues to be an issue in the area.
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"I think this shows the city's commitment to other ways of getting around," City Administrator Howard Lazarus said. "I think sometimes you have to put the first thing on the ground for people to appreciate it, and then the support and actually the demand grows. The more we do it, the more people want, and the more people want, the more we'll be able to address what I think is the biggest detriment to quality of life in the community, which is congestion."
Work began on the William Street Bikeway in May after University of Michigan's commencement. Members of the community gave the DDA feedback on the project during a series of sessions as part of its People Friendly Streets initiative, which launched in 2017.
From safety to layout, Ann Arbor residents worked closely with the design team.
DDA project manager Amber Miller was seen Sunday instructing cyclists and pedestrians how to use the bikeway.
"The protected bike lane is fairly intuitive, but we also recognize that this is the first treatment of its kind here in Ann Arbor, and we want to make sure that people feel comfortable and recognize what it is that they're seeing on the street," Miller said. "It's just getting people acclimated and making them feel comfortable."
Miller said that a guide for how to use the bikeway with graphics is currently available and a video tutorial is in the works.
The two-way protected bike lane was introduced as a way to help the city achieve Vision Zero -- an international movement to prevent injuries and fatalities on the road.
"For me as a staff member of the DDA, it's an opportunity to take a moment and just congratulate the community, congratulate our leaders and to congratulate, frankly, all of us for working hard on bicycle safety, pedestrian safety," DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said. "(The fact) that we take it seriously and enact projects like this is a point of pride. I'm just so proud of us as a community."
For more information, visit the project's website.
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