ANN ARBOR - Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority will begin work on the city's first protected two-way bike lane on William Street following the University of Michigan's spring commencement in May.
The project is the first of a network of protected bike lanes planned throughout the city in an effort to make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
The city is making these changes in an effort to meet Vision Zero -- an international initiative to prevent serious injuries and fatalities on the road.
In 2017, the DDA began People Friendly Streets, a series of forums to engage public input on how these projects would affect neighborhoods.
"People Friendly Streets allowed us to bring the community with us," said DDA project manager Amber Miller. "Because if they’re not engaged and they can’t see the process, then I think sometimes they can get frustrated with it."
Miller said turnout to forums for this project was unprecedented.
"People were really hungry for it," she said. "They really want to talk about protective bike lanes and pedestrian safety."
During these sessions, members of the design teams had maps with the bike lane design out and were making updates to the plans in real time as residents gave their feedback.
"The design team was drawing the design and would say, 'OK, I’m going to erase that,'" said Miller. "Or, if they felt like it was critical to meeting Vision Zero, they would say, 'Well let's sit down and talk about it, and I’ll help you understand what I think this design component means to keeping our community safe and enjoyable.' Even people who came in concerned left feeling heard and many of them left feeling supported."
Miller said that while William wasn't necessarily the perfect street for the east-west route, it was a good place to start.
"The nice thing about focusing on William is that the surface is in really poor condition and when you drive down William, it’s confusing," said Miller. "You’re switching lanes a lot. That lane change isn’t needed. By putting in the protected bike lane, we then can take the traffic down to just one lane in each direction, and we can repair the surface. So it allows us to improve William for everybody while we’re making this investment in the protected bike lane."
So how will this impact businesses on William?
"We’ve already started working with the neighborhood and we will continue to work with the neighborhood throughout the process," said DDA communications director Maura Thomson. "We'll obviously try to have our detours well signed and pedestrian access will always be maintained throughout the process."
"In terms of the businesses, our first consideration is not starting until after commencement," Miller added. "So, knowing that those businesses towards State Street really depend on that student traffic, we don’t want to be disruptive. For the most part, we’re not ripping up sidewalks. And I do think that is helpful to those businesses."
They will be stopping work during Ann Arbor Art Fair.
The city of Ann Arbor will also be doing water main work on William at the same time the protected bike lane will be installed.
"We recognize that this is Ann Arbor’s first protected bike lane, it’s something new for the community and we’re going to be working with our partners at the city and others to provide education," said Thomson.
A north-south protected bike lane on First Street is expected to be installed in 2020.
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