If there were more sidewalks, pathways and bike lanes in Birmingham, would you walk or ride your bike more often?
Those were some of the initial conclusions drawn from a survey on how residents get around in Birmingham — whether that's driving, walking or riding the bus — which will be considered as the city works on crafting a new multi-modal transportation plan.
The survey was administered by Greenway Collaborative, Inc., a consulting firm out of Ann Arbor that focuses on non-motorized planning. Birmingham hired Greenway earlier this year to help them figure out multi-modal transportation after the Birmingham City Commission voted in support of the state-mandated Complete Streets program in July 2011.
Complete Streets requires municipalities to accomodate alternate forms of transit when planning road construction and development projects. The multi-modal transportation plan will largely guide the city in implementing Complete Streets in the coming years.
The first step? Asking Birmingham residents what they want. Residents were invited to complete the survey between Oct. 18 and Nov. 4 and during that time, 429 surveys were completed.
Of those that completed the survey, 56.9 percent were Birmingham residents while 43.1 percent lived in Beverly Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Troy and Royal Oak.
So what do residents and those in surrounding communities want? According to the survey, they want more bike lanes, improved safety, better public transit and more people out and about — but not in their cars.
Survey says: residents want to walk and bike, concerned with busy streets
The multi-modal transportation survey covered everything from bike lanes to why residents don't use the SMART bus system. During the Monday night meeting of the Birmingham City Commission — where the results were presented — Commissioner Rackeline Hoff said the lack of questions about parking was a problem.
So, what else did the survey say?
- The primary mode of transportation for most survey respondents was driving — 69.9 percent said they drive on a regular basis. Four percent said they ride their bike while 3.8 percent walk.
Meanwhie, 39.2 percent said they walk daily or weekly, while 25.3 percent say they ride their bike daily or weekly.
- Where are people going? According to the survey, most people are walking: downtown, the Rouge River trail, Barnum Park, Booth Park, Shain Park, Baldwin Public Library, City Hall and The Community House. Spots respondents wanted to walk include a future Amtrak station, the Rail District and the Triangle District.
- What would it take you to walk or bike to work? According to the survey, 73 percent said they would walk to work if transportation facilities were available. The survey also noted that 12.9 percent of respondents live within one mile of work, while 17.5 percent live within five miles.
- What about the SMART bus system? According to the survey, 88.6 percent of respondents had never ridden the bus. Why not? The top concerns were too much time between busses as well as the limited hours and unpredictability of the bus service. What would make it better? Respondents said bus schedules should be posted at the stops, those stops should be better lit and there needs to be a maps posted of the bus route.
- Why don't people bike more? The survey listed these top concerns about biking in Birmingham: a lack of respect and understanding between cyclists and motorists, the lack of a complete sidewalk system, snow and ice removal, the lack of bike lanes and bike trails and the lack of bike parking.
- If they could, where would people ride a bike? According to the survey, 84.2 percent of respondents would be comfortable riding on an off-road trail, 73.8 would be comfortable riding on a cycle track (which is separated from a road by a physical barrier or parking) and 73.9 percent would be comfortable riding on neighborhood streets. Meanwhile, 57.2 would be comfortable riding in a bike lane on a minor street and 29.2 percent would be comfortable riding in a bike lane on a major road.
- Are too many kids being driven to school? According to representatives from Greenway Collaborative: yes. The majority of Birmingham students are either bussed or driven to school, with a big part of morning traffic made up of parents dropping their kids off. "If we could reduce some of these numbers and get more kids walking and biking again, that would be a good thing."
- Parents are interested. While only 17.3 percent of respondents say their kids walk or bike to school regularly, 55 percent of parents said they would be interested in their kids walking or biking if there were better sidewalks, pathways and crosswalks.
Workshops planned for January
While City Commissioners took no action on the survey results Monday night, the data will now be used by city staff and the consultants at Greenway Collaborative and as they continue to gather community input.
Residents can also weigh in on Birmingham's transportation plan at two public workshops scheduled for early 2013:
- A project visioning workshop will be held from 7-9 p.m. on Jan. 17 at Baldwin Public Library. This workshop will begin with a presentation of best practices, following which residents will have the opportunity to refine the city's goals and objectives, as well as help identify areas in the community where different types of multi-modal elements would fit.
- A preliminary plan open house will then be held from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the library. Each session will begin with a brief presentation of recommendations so far, following which participants can review the alternatives and offer input.
For more information, visit the website for Birmingham's Multi-Modal Transportation Plan at Greenway Collaborative. The group also has a Facebook page and Twitter account.