Draft of Royal Oak non-motorized plan ready

By: Heidi Roman | Royal Oak Review | Published September 21, 2011

 Royal Oak is reviewing a draft of a non-motorized plan that could help make the city friendlier to pedestrian and bicyclists. The plan includes suggestions for short- and long-term improvements, like road diets and improved intersections.

Royal Oak is reviewing a draft of a non-motorized plan that could help make the city friendlier to pedestrian and bicyclists. The plan includes suggestions for short- and long-term improvements, like road diets and improved intersections.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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ROYAL OAK — Take a gander around Royal Oak on a nice day, and bikers and walkers seem almost as plentiful as motorists.

It’s the very thing that draws some residents to the city in the first place, and groups of community activists have been pushing for ways to improve life for the non-automobilists in the city.

Royal Oak has plenty of ideas to think about with the release of its draft non-motorized plan, which was presented to the Planning Commission Sept. 13. It will be forwarded on to the City Commission for discussion.

Active Transportation Alliance was hired with a federal energy efficiency grant to put the plan together.

“This is a response to community interest,” said Marissa Dolin, a transportation planner with the firm. “There are already a lot of people in Royal Oak walking and biking. If you walked outside today, you’d see people of different ages and skill levels walking and biking. Especially in downtown, but in all areas of the community.”

Having a non-motorized plan in place can improve the community’s chances of getting grants, Dolin said. The lengthy plan encompasses the entire city and was put together with lots of community involvement.

Dolin gave a brief overview of the “door to destination” plan, which included suggested policies that would support non-motorized transportation, connectivity of walkways, education programs that encourage safe bicycling and even offers a map of what a future Royal Oak could look like. A distracted driving ordinance could keep pedestrians and bicyclers safer, she said.

Some key components of the plan would be looking at shared lanes or bike lanes in some areas, and even “road diets,” which involves narrowing a roadway to add bike lanes on both sides. The plan could also include more bike parking areas.

“You’ll see bikes everywhere every time you walk around Royal Oak,” Dolin said. “Chained to a tree, chained to a pole. Bike racks would make it safe for you to lock your bike up as you walk around downtown.”

Some of the features could be incorporated into the city as requirements for any new developments.

The plan also includes suggestions for more simple improvements, like encouraging residents to keep their sidewalks clear for walkers.

“Maybe there is a resident really interested in taking these initiatives up, or it’s something staff could do,” Dolin said.

Residents have been actively involved throughout the process, including Tom Regan, who helped launch the idea.

“I’m really, really happy with the plan this consultant came up with,” Regan said. “We (residents) feel it’s really strong. It touches on so many improvements simultaneously.”

Regan likes the environmentally friendly aspects of the plan, since it encourages residents to leave their cars at home when they travel. The physical activity could improve the health of local residents, and also stimulate Royal Oak’s economy, he said.

“If someone gets on their bicycle, obviously they’re not going to Novi, they’re going to go downtown to the restaurants and shops,” he said. “It’s a good economic multiplier.”

Resident Julie Funke said some of the improvements suggested in the plan would benefit her life directly.

“I bus and bike once or twice a week from Royal Oak to Detroit,” she said. “Having bike lanes and better bike parking in the area would just be amazing.”

Implementation of the plan could be both short term and long term, though the commission did not take any action on the plan at its meeting. The city could adopt the whole plan or some of it as part of the Master Plan, and tweak it as needed.

Planning Commissions Chairman Tom Hallock said he is supportive of most of the items in the plan, but that it needs a careful look.

“I have really strong reservations about the 11 Mile (Road) diet,” he said. “I think narrowing down to single lanes at Troy Street is going to be an absolute disaster for downtown on weekends and for special events.”

Other than that, he said there are quite a number of Royal Oak roads that might be suitable for diets.

Mayor Jim Ellison, who sits on the commission, said the plan is a very good starting point, and the city has plenty of time to look at it.
 

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