May 13, 2024 - News

Accident in Ferndale's new bike lanes raises safety concerns

Traffic cones block off fresh green paint to alert bikers, drivers and pedestrians of the intersection.

Fresh green paint on Woodward's new bike lanes in Ferndale are meant to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Photos: Joe Guillen/Axios

The first reported collision with a car in Ferndale's new bike lanes was two weeks ago, just months after the lanes opened.

Why it matters: Despite its zigzag path and other perceived flaws, Ferndale's bike lanes are considered a model for other communities along the Woodward corridor, one of the region's busiest roadways.

  • The bike lanes are part of Metro Detroit's evolving transit infrastructure to reduce the region's dependence on cars, promote healthier lifestyles and attract younger residents.

Yes, but: Design flaws and car-bike accidents like last month's collision could hinder progress, Jon Thebo, the cyclist who was hit on Woodward, tells Axios.

Ferndale resident Jon Thebo, who was struck on Woodward while bicycling last month.
Ferndale resident Jon Thebo

Zoom in: Thebo was biking south when he was struck by a car pulling out of the Taco Bell on Woodward. He suffered a minor concussion and a bruised leg, and his bike was totaled.

  • Thebo doesn't own a car and had been using the bike lanes daily for about two months before the accident, he tells Axios. The proximity to moving traffic and distracted drivers were a constant concern.
  • "There's no real separation between Woodward and the bike lane," Thebo says. "Three other times, I almost got hit. That time, I did get hit."

The other side: Ferndale city manager Joseph Gacioch stressed that the project is incomplete and more protection features are coming soon.

  • Fresh green paint to keep drivers, bikers and pedestrians on alert has been applied at intersections and about 1,000 traffic delineators will be installed in the next couple weeks.
  • "This is not the best, but it's good. It's step one," Gacioch says. "Be safe and proceed with caution. You're choosing to use it while we're constructing it."

Between the lines: The Michigan Department of Transportation is leading the $9 million project because Woodward is a state road.

  • Moving the curb to segregate bike lanes was discussed. But that would've required rebuilding the surrounding drainage infrastructure — a job Ferndale would've been responsible for but couldn't afford.

What's next: Thebo hopes the city considers a redesign and says he'll present his concerns to City Council at Monday's meeting.

  • "For me, it's more about making it more accessible for all ages, helping Ferndale get more economic engagement and the future of Woodward overall," he says.

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