Maple Road Overhaul Plan Could Worsen Congestion, Improve Bike Use

A plan presented at the Birmingham City Commission meeting Monday would narrow the road from four lanes to three between Eton and Woodward and would install bike lanes in each direction.

Birmingham city commissioners are looking for resident feedback on a plan that has the potential to change the daily commute for many Birmingham residents — and perhaps make congestion even more complicated for drivers.

At their meeting Monday night, . Bike lanes would be installed in both directions.

The plans were submitted as part of an attempt to reinvent Maple Road using the principles of Complete Streets, with commissioners looking to make the road work better for cars and be safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

“The East Maple Road corridor is a significant resource for vehicular traffic, not only for trips generated to and from Birmingham, but for the surrounding communities as well,” said a report prepared by engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff/LSL Planning.

According to the report, 1,000 cars travel through that corridor on Maple during peak afternoon rush hour every day, while 800 vehicles travel through it during morning rush hour. Comparatively, a similar 1,000 cars travel on 14 Mile during that same period, while 1,000-1,500 cars travel on Big Beaver at Adams Road.

Plan could make congestion worse; traffic expected to divert to side streets

The engineering report recommends the following the plan as being the most practical, best for pedestrians and cyclists and the most cost-effective:

  • Three total lanes, with one lane in each direction and a center left-turn lane. There will also be a right-turn lane at Adams Road.
  • A 5-foot sidewalk on either side of Maple Road.
  • Enhanced transit and pedestrian amenities, such as landing pads and/or benches
  • A 5-foot bike lane between Woodward Avenue and Eton.

The report cites Parsons Brinckerhoff traffic engineers as saying the East Maple Road corridor currently functions at a Service Level C or D, or slightly less than acceptable. 

However, by improving conditions for cyclists and pedestrians, many of these service levels — indicators of congestion — are actually expected to decrease with three lanes. According to the report, the roads would come in at Service Level D or F under the new plan.

To make up for the congestion, traffic engineers predict that the corridor will lose 16 percent of its daily traffic with drivers choosing different routes. According to a model prepared by the Southeast Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG), about 30 percent of that traffic will divert to nearby mile streets, such as Big Beaver or 14 Mile Road, as well as to city streets such as Derby, Eton and Lincoln Avenue. 

Still, in a final analysis measuring land use, vehicular traffic, pedestrian, transit and bicycle use, as well as cost, the three-lane plan scored the highest among seven other options presented to the commission.

Commissioners concerned with safety, bike lanes

Commissioners were concerned with several parts of the plan, including whether narrowing the road would make things safer for residents.

“We’ve taken the most difficult street to educate ourself,” Commissioner Scott Moore acknowledged. “But by making the intersection (at Maple and Adams) worse, are we improving (residents’) lifestyle?”

Others were concerned with a bike lane that Commissioner Gordon Rinschler said could become “a bike lane to nowhere.”

“Putting a bike lane in there seems to be asking for trouble,” Commissioner Rackeline Hoff said. “I don’t think every road needs a bike lane.”

Still, Planning Board member and civil engineer Scott Clein approached the commission in support of the three-lane plan, noting that while it makes an already bad roadway slightly worse for vehicles, conditions vastly improve for everyone else.

In addition, Clein noted that reducing the number of lanes from four to three will slow traffic down, a key to improving resident safety.

“Complete Streets is more than a toolbox,” he said. “It’s philosophical decision in how a city shows what it believes in.”

Resident Dorothy Conrad, who lives on the east side of town, agreed.

“At least experiment (with the plan),” she said. “You don’t have anything to lose except for a few dollars.”

Public hearing set for Feb. 13

The only other alternative plan recommended by Parsons Brinckerhoff Monday night called for using Maple Road’s existing four lanes, updating the 5-foot sidewalk and posting alternate bike routes along Maple Road.

While not officially giving the green light to either plan, commissioners authorized city engineer Paul O’Meara to begin designing a 41-foot roadway, which can be altered to fit whichever final plan is picked. Meanwhile, a public hearing has been set for Feb. 13 to gain resident feedback on the project.

Steve M December 09, 2011 at 03:03 PM
bonnie tucker December 09, 2011 at 03:33 PM
It can currently take 10 minutes from Eton to Woodward. Why would I use Maple as the traffic signals and traffic make progress impossible? I also avoid shopping in downtown Birmingham for the same reason, impossible traffic snarls and poor traffic signal control. Bikers should use side streets.
Richard Risemberg December 09, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Actually car drivers' taxes don't pay for the roads either--in fact,non-driving cyclists (among others) are forced to subsidize the wide roads motorists demand but won't pay for. See http://www.newcolonist.com/rr69.html for details. And road diets actually do two things: by providing a continuous left turn channel, they actually reduce blockage of the center lane by left turners, while allowing drivers who need to turn left to do so more conveniently; and they allow commuters freedom fo choice to use other modes such as cycling and transit. (A bicycle takes up 1/12 the road space of a car; a bus carries 30 to 70 commuters in the space of two cars. After a short while, people begin to switch modes, reducing the demand for lane space. In NYC, where every taxi is equipped with a GPS, monitoring showed that travel times through road diets stayed the same or actually got slightly quicker. Hunches don't matter; numbers do. In San Francisco, after an earthquake knocked down the Embarcadero freeway, and the city replaced it with a surface street that made room for bikes, transit, and pedestrians, traffic went down and did not increase on neighboring streets; in fact, the area is a keystone of the city's economy now, instead of a blight. If you can't se beyond your windshield, you will never make your city the happier, wealthier place that is can be.
dredk December 09, 2011 at 05:52 PM
I like the idea despite the threat of more congestion (although it may persuade people not to use Maple as a way to 'cut through') I've observed that people drive like idiots when two lanes are available on a street like Maple and this will put a stop to that nonsense. I cringe when I read the mention of Derby though as an alternative. No way. A residential area with two schools !!
dredk December 09, 2011 at 05:59 PM
Also. Saying that you'll stay away from Birmingham because you can't drive your car through the main shopping district is insane. In Europe the downtown streets would be for pedestrians only. What an attraction that would be!
Martina Panian December 09, 2011 at 06:40 PM
I like the idea of a bike lane, I think it might be more suited to downtown directly IE., woodward to Southfield but then side parking is an issue. Personally i like full on pedestrian zones like Partridge creek (and Europe as mentioned above) but I think thats unrealistic for this area.
Connie December 09, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Making Maple two lanes is just another big mistake by the City of Birmingham!
Connie December 09, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Just drove by and I didn't see one pedestrian or one bike,only cars and trucks! Maybe they'll be out using the sidewalks in January or February?
Todd Scott December 09, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Road users currently pay about 51% of all U.S. road costs through the gas tax and licensing. The remainder is covered by the general public, including cyclists -- through nearly all cyclists are also motorists.
Todd Scott December 09, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Did the author read the study? The proposed road diet significantly reduces congestion at Woodward. Road diets decrease motorist accidents as well. The article is wrong to say that only pedestrians and bicyclists would benefit. The article also fails to note that affects on levels of service is measured during peak hours. Outside of rush hour, there may be little to no affect on travel delays with a road diet.
Sus L December 09, 2011 at 11:37 PM
I think it is probably safe to say that this idea would not benefit the majority of people regardless of who pays for it. It's always interesting to hear the way these "studies" are interpreted from different perspectives. The majority of people in this town and surrounding areas are automobile driving midwesterners and would not be using this new proposed bike path. You are comparing apples to oranges when speaking of NYC, San Fran and European towns in relationship to Bham. If Maple has one less vehicle lane they will surely use the side streets to avoid the congestion. No study needed, this is pure common sense. How about the cyclists use the side streets. All of the sidewalks are brand new and paid for. This wouldn't cost taxpayers of any kind a penny more. We could officially rename them "BIKE and WALKING paths".
ClassAct4 December 10, 2011 at 04:03 AM
I beleive this plan makes a lot of sense. The left turn lane will be safer. The traffic will slow down in this residential area. Look to Southfield Road as an example. Putting resident taxpayers first is a good idea.
Colleen Cueny Brown December 10, 2011 at 05:45 AM
Do people realize that most if not all cyclists are tax payers in some form? I am a cyclist and I also pay gas tax and all the other taxes that everybody pays. I find it humorous when people like Steve M ask who pays for the roads? Silly guy... I may pay even more taxes than Steve M in the City of Birmingham as my son has attended BPS's for 9 years now and I have been a resident for many years. Hmmmm Im pretty sure my tax dollars are going for those roads that I use while driving my car and riding my bike even when I am walking on Maple with just my 2 feet, somewhere along the way I have paid tax dollars. Out of curiousity Steve M since you are so concerned with cyclists who you seem to think dont pay the same taxes you do, who gets the money you pay for gas? Not the taxes but the gas money itself? Does it go to the City of Birmingham? NO.... Does it go to Oakland County? No... Does it go to the State of Michigan? No.... I believe that money goes overseas out of our country. So when I ride my bike I am actually saving money that would go to pay for someone else's way of life in another country but you Steve are choosing to send your money elsewhere. I am also enjoying our fine City of Birmingham in which I have paid LOTS of taxes and spent many hours volunteering and working in. So please think before you open your mouth and make statements that have zero validity in reality.
Colleen Cueny Brown December 10, 2011 at 05:45 AM
To continue... The only way I could be riding my bicycle in Birmingham without ever having paid taxes is if A. I was an illegal alien B. I did not own a car ( doubtful) C. I was able to teleport myself daily to my job, grocery store, kids school, outings and events thru a space portal device that did not require gas D. I am from outer space and live here without a birth certificate, SS# and do not buy or spend money anywhere therfore not incurring any taxation My next cycling jersey is going to read "I OWN A CAR AND PAY THE SAME TAXES YOU DO!"
dredk December 10, 2011 at 08:17 PM
One lane in each direction (w left turn lane) is inherently safer for all and I suspect that the time it takes to go from point A to point B on Maple won't change by much. I used to ride my bike a lot and it occurs to me that I could easily ride my bike to the Coolidge/Maple shopping centers once this is completed. But I'm hoping that the city can keep cut through traffic out of the Derby area (i don't live there but near there). Troy has bike paths literally everywhere, by the way.
dredk December 10, 2011 at 08:20 PM
Curious about one thing. The buses? No biggie though. We all hurry too much anyway. Aren't we a bunch of whiners! It's embarrassing. All those gas guzzling SUV's with one person in them. That's Birmingham and that's our reputation. For shame.
dredk December 10, 2011 at 08:47 PM
LET THE CIVIL ENGINEERS DO THEIR JOBS!! There's a great deal of research that has gone into understand the flow of traffic. Sometimes the optimum solution (in a mathematical modeling sense) is not the one that the average person would immediately think of. Show them some respect.
TRM December 12, 2011 at 05:52 PM
I am a taxpayer and a cyclist. If I pay more taxes than you, does that give my opinion a greater weight than your opinion? I don't think that you should take on the cyclists on that basis.
Sus L December 12, 2011 at 07:58 PM
I think it's great that everyone is voicing their opinions. I agree with dredk. We should ultimately let the civil engineers do their job. However I don't think it is disrespectful to anyone when someone voices their personal opinion. The article states that they (being the City of Birmingham and Patch) are looking for resident feedback and that is exactly what is happening here. Everyone should look at the big picture before getting nasty with one another.
Frederick Acomb January 25, 2012 at 11:03 PM
I am delighted that the city is proposing this. I hope they implement it. It would be a mistake not to. It's time for us to stop acting like we're from some backwater of the Midwest. Cities people actually want to visit -- San Francisco, Manhattan, Seattle, Paris, London, and on and on -- have long been implementing aggressive traffic calming measures. Instead of putting the focus on "moving metal" these cities and their traffic calming measures put the focus on pedestrians, and on folks who actually live and work where the streets are located. Maple between Woodward and Eaton is a blight on the city. It is hideous. Walking on the street is a loud and unpleasant experience. The cars travel well beyond the speed limit, and we can't afford to police it nonstop. Try driving at the posted speed limit and listen to the horns and observe the hand gestures. There may be some drivers who are frustrated that narrowing the street will make it harder for them to break the law with excessive speeds, but that is fine with me. A large percentage of them are from out of town in any event. Slowing down a notch or two is a good thing, not a bad one, and if Birmingham wants to be a pleasant place that non-Michiganders like to visit, then the city should implement traffic calming whenever they have the opportunity. So, good for the city. I am behind this.


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