A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Michigan St Forum…

Now where did I put my copy of that GVSU traffic and parking ordinance...

I got my first bicycle parking ticket in Grand Rapids.  Thanks GVSU.

Amy and I arrived at GVSU’s Center for Health Sciences from the south on Lafayette for a public input forum on the principles that will guide development along the Michigan Street corridor.  From across the street at the light, we could not see any bicycle parking, so we proceeded down Lafayette to the rear of the building.  They probably hid them there!  Nope.  Don’t see any.  Let’s go around to the east entrance on Michigan.  Maybe there’s some there.  No such luck.

Frustrated, we locked our bikes to one of the handrails at the main entrance on Lafayette and Michigan.

After the forum, Amy spotted our “tickets”.  Apparently we were supposed to park at some magical bicycle parking that we couldn’t find, despite the fact that we circled 75% of the building, looking for bicycle parking.

As it turns out, after asking the friendly but unsympathetic GVSU security officer, the bicycle parking is hiding in the parking garage on the east side, near the very narrow exit driveway with no sidewalk.  You can just barely see it in the background, right behind this big sign that says “Exit Only” with a big red cross.  There’s actually a bicycle parked in it.

"Exit Only, except bicycles, and try not to get run over by a bus or an exiting car."

The sign might as well say “Exit Only, except bicycles, and try not to get run over by a bus or an exiting car.”

Proper bicycle parking, the kind that says “We welcome bicycles here and want to encourage you not to drive your car and take up our super expensive parking space,” needs to be sited within visual distance of the entrance to the building it is serving.  There are plenty of spots along the street or in the small entrance plazas where these could be sited.

At the very least, the parking should be accessible by walking on a sidewalk from the the entrance and be well signed for anyone approaching the building who might be wondering where they should park their bicycle.

A very frustrated parking job of last resort.

BikeStation at Rosa Parks Circle?

Bikestation (by brownpau)
Washington DC's new BikeStation - http://www.flickr.com/photos/brownpau/ / CC BY 2.0

A segment on NPR this morning (via Facebook) covered the new, nearly complete BikeStation outside of Washington, DC’s Union Station.

Implementation of the BikeStation concept varies, but they generally provide secure, sheltered bicycle parking for a modest membership fee.  They often have a mechanic on hand during certain hours to perform maintenance or repair.  You can have regularly scheduled tune-ups done while you’re at work!  Some also offer bicycle rentals, a restroom, and even shower facilities.

How awesome would it be to have a similar venue in the warming hut at Rosa Parks Circle?  In the summer the zamboni could be stored elsewhere and racking for bicycles could be installed in the garage.   In the winter, the need for bike parking would be reduced, the racks could be moved,  and the zamboni would get its home back, with parking remaining elsewhere in the building.

Grand Rapids Chalk Flood 2009 (by RichardD72)
Grand Rapids Chalk Flood 2009 (by Richard Deming, Jr)

I’m not aware of any efforts to make this a reality, but I think the need is there.  There is certainly a lack of visible bicycle parking downtown.  It’s around, but you often have to search it out.  At many events this summer, I saw lots of bicycles haphazardly locked to trees and parking meters.  With the efforts going on to network our existing trails and create more on-street facilities, bicycle commuting to downtown will only become easier.  The station could also handle traffic from events downtown, and rent out bicycles to tourists and conventioneers.

Millennium Park – More Fantastic Every Year

IMG_2547 (by fotoman311)
Tuesday marked the opening of Phase 1 of the Fred Meijer Millennium Trail that will eventually connect Johnson Park to John Ball Park.

Words can’t really describe how great this new trail is, so I will just agree with Fred Meijer and say, “It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful.”  And it starts less than 2 1/2 miles from Fulton and Monroe!

Millennium Park Trail 061309Now, onto the good stuff.

First a map of the new trail, as best as I could draw it up from memory.  Thanks to Microsoft for the aerial imagery.  I started my trip at the west end of the new trail.  I also drew in the location of the fantastic viewing deck that you can see in the above photo. To view a larger version, click any photo to visit Flickr. Once at Flickr, click the “All sizes” icon and select “Large” or “Original”. My complete set of photos may be found by clicking here.

Click for LOTS of photos!

Black Hills/Butterworth bridge construction delayed

The City of Grand Rapids will likely reject the two lowest bids for the renovation of an old railroad bridge connecting the Black Hills Neighborhood to the future Butterworth Park (2mb .pdf of preliminary site plan) because the contractors were not properly pre-qualified to receive a contract of this type and amount. The third bid they received could have been an extra $200,000 once contingency costs were factored in. Because the contractors thought they had all their paperwork submitted, the city has decided to advertise for new bids for four more weeks. This will allow the two low bidders to get properly pre-qualified and re-submit their bids, along with any other interested contractors. Construction on the bridge is still expected to be completed by the fall, with landscape finishing work taking place next spring.


This bridge is a key connector between SW Grand Rapids and the West Side. It will eventually connect with the Plaster Creek Trail and allow someone to ride all the way from Ken-O-Sha Park at 32nd and Kalamazoo to Millennium Park, mostly on beautiful, wooded trail. You can read my first post about it from January, including an additional map, here. The city staff I communicated with were VERY excited to get this project done. I am, too!

Two (Relatively) Quick Updates

Ball/Perkins park charette

While no official results have been posted on the City’s newly designed Green Grand Rapids website, the unofficial results are pretty clear. Mountain bikers and their supporters showed up en masse to cast their dot votes to have “Multi-use natural surface trails (singletrack suitable for mtn biking, trail running, xc skiing, and hiking)” integrated into the master plan for this park.


This photo taken by Thomas Fish of The Motion Initiative shows that 30 minutes prior to the end of the charette, “Multi-use natural surface trail” had received 107 votes. The next closest categories were “Natural/Preservation Area” and “Walking/Hiking/XC Ski trail” with 58 and 57 votes respectively.

I have heard that some concerns were raised about allowing mountain bikers to use the trails. It seems to me that trail use conflicts between hikers and bikers and fear that mountain bikes will destroy the trails and cause erosion are the two biggest obstacles that we must work to overcome as we try to have facilities built in our public parks. Trail use conflicts can be overcome with proper trail management and education of trail users.

The fallacy of increased environmental impacts has been addressed by the International Mtn Bicycling Association, but many times those unfamiliar with the sport make the wrong assumptions. The IMBA has a website summarizing the scientific studies that have been done comparing the relative impacts of different kinds of trail use on erosion, vegetation, and wildlife that can be found here. Although more research should be conducted under different kinds of conditions, the studies that have been done indicate there is no increased impact of bicycling over hiking.

Additionally, the new Green Grand Rapids logo indicates support of off-road bicycling. The new main graphic on the Green Grand Rapids website clearly shows a bicyclist riding on a hillside surrounded by trees. While I’m pretty sure it was not intentional, I can only hope this is a good omen for the future of mountain bicycling in our great city! 🙂


GR Bicycle Film Festival in the GR Press

Just a reminder, the Grand Rapids Bicycle Film Festival is coming up this Saturday, February 7th, 7:30pm at the Wealthy Theater. It’s going to be awesome!

Howard Meyerson, the Outdoor Editor for the Grand Rapids Press wrote a great article on the festival in this Saturday’s paper. Meyerson has been very supportive of bicycling (along with most other outdoor activities…it IS his job) in Grand Rapids, so be sure to check out his article here: