The skinny on the path proposal

Voters will decide the fate of nonmotorized paths at the polls on Tuesday.
Marie Havenga
Nov 4, 2013


Up for consideration is a 0.5-mill, 10-year tax levy that would fund paths along 168th Avenue and North Shore Road, with estimated costs of $250,000 and $750,000, respectively.

If approved, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay an additional $37.50 per year, beginning with next summer's tax bill.

The proposed routes are North Shore Road from the fire barn to North Beach Park and 168th Avenue from West Spring Lake Road to VanWagoner Street.

If voters approve the proposal, City Council would proceed with separated bike paths instead of bike lanes.

Council also informally decided that if the millage is approved, the city will bond for the funds to construct the paths rather than wait a decade or longer until all of the taxes are collected.

The millage would generate about $900,000, according to City Manager Craig Bessinger.
Bessinger said ideally, the paths would be constructed when North Shore Road is reconstructed in 2015.

“It would be the opportune time to put the two projects together and get some economies of scale,” Bessinger said.

North Shore Road will be restructured from Coast Guard Park to North Shore Beach.

Jean Gitchell, chairwoman of the city's recreation commission, said she's optimistic the proposal will pass. She said that having U.S. 31 slice through the city presents challenges.

“I think it's important to be able to traverse your city and not be in the middle of the road,” Gitchell said. “We want to be a walkable city. We want to promote a healthy way of living and be able to walk about the city and not be in the middle of traffic. There's nothing fancy here. Basically, it's a safety issue.”



More bike paths the hard core cyclists won't use.


That's probably true Wolverine, I used to be "hard core" when I was younger and spending my weekends touring from Grand Haven to Silver Lake and other such trips....when you're "training" poorly maintained bike paths slow you down and are basically dangerous to someone wheeling right along.
However, nowadays when I ride I putz along and the bike paths are fine, for the most part, for my style of riding these days. In places like out past Coast Guard Park and other high traffic areas like that the bikes paths serve a safety function so that at least kids and old farts have somewhere to ride their bikes safely. Plus, of course, it gives the general public somewhere to walk beside in the roadway or the dirt.
Years ago I lost a friend who was riding his bike on a bike path attached to the roadway when some drunk mowed him down. He was not a hard-core cyclist, just someone who was out riding his bike for exercise. Seperate bike paths, away from the roadway are a good idea all around, even if they're not cheap.
My gripe with the bike paths in our area is that once they've been installed the cities' seem to think the job is done and they either ignore or forget about the most important part of their investment, maintainence. Bike paths that are cracked, have roots pushing up the pavement, that have debris all over them, whether it's dirt, tree limbs, or glass make using the bike paths less than enjoyable for those of us who would use them. If the city would maintain their investment in bike paths and keep them safe and useable I'll bet ya that ridership would increase. It's no fun having to dodge sticks, rocks, glass and tree limbs every time you want to go for a ride.
That's my 2 cents on it.


Very well said. The lakeshore trail is in very poor condition, and you will blow out tires or knock your wheels out of true on them if you are moving along at anything more than a snails pace.

If you include all the driveways that are not at grade with the path, and the cars coming out of those driveways, you can easily see why most people don't ride on them.


"Nothing fancy"???? No, just a million dollars of taxes during a difficult economic period. And even the promoters of this project do not really know how it will all be realized. The plans are up in the air and sketchy. Things need to be made clearer to the voters - what are they buying? I think people in West Michigan are savy enough to want all the facts lined up before they plop down $1 million in ten years.


Right on; I drive to and from work where non-motorized paths are provided but they are not good enough so bike riders still ride in the middle of traffic and too bad if traffic backs up during rush hour so don't waste your/our money folks...they will end up dog walking paths at best, if you want a million dollars worth of dog walking paths vote yes but not because you hope cyclists will use them in any appreciable measure.


Jean Gitchell, chairwoman of the city's recreation commission,spells it out perfectly! These are SIDEWALKS for WALKING, not bike paths!
“I think it's important to be able to traverse your city and not be in the middle of the road,” Gitchell said. “We want to be a walkable city. We want to promote a healthy way of living and be able to walk about the city and not be in the middle of traffic. There's nothing fancy here. Basically, it's a safety issue.”
If it was a bike path, the best thing would be to make it a bike lane.
Wolverine, please explain what "bike riders still ride in the middle of traffic and too bad if traffic backs up during rush hour" consists of! I have never seen "traffic" back up behind a bike rider! Perhaps for several seconds, if it is not safe to pass. Otherwise, would you travel at half the speed you were abel because there was a surface road avaiable next to the highway? I don't think so. Would you give up all right of way to ride at half your capable speed because a "path" was built? I don't think so.
If you want bikers to use the facilities, build them so you are not constraining those that would use it. The paths that exist in this area are sidewalks built to accomodate the much more urban area that has built up. We have sidewalks in town, they are also needed where there are houses in everylot on a street.
Obviously, the sidewalks were sold as one thing and the Ferrysburg Council is expecting something else.
If the road is to be re constructed, why would you waste money building a separate path, unless it was a sidewalk. I was under the impression that if Federal dollars are involved, alternative transprtation uses are to be included in the new designs. BIKE LANES would make perfect sense in this case.


Yup, I am all for bike lanes, or even better yet, protected bike lanes.

While the scenic MUP's like the north bank trail are great, the MUP's that run directly next to a road and cross hundreds of driveways are not. They are quite dangerous for cyclists, thus why faster cyclists ride in the road. A protected bike lane would solve both issues (of motorists not wanting cyclists in the road, and cyclists not wanting to ride on the dangerous MUP's), and cost a fraction of the price.

European nations (and a few west coast cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, etc...) have it figured out, why can't our local area?

Here are a couple videos to show how good this can work:

And here is one reason why I choose to commute by bike around here instead of driving my car on nice days, especially during the rush hours... You can easily beat cars to a destination on bike (even following all traffic laws).


I am an 'avid' bicycle rider. I ride because it is fun, healthy, relaxing and pleasant. I DO use the bike paths, not only for riding but also for walking, because I do not want to ride or walk in the road in a rural area. I am NOT a 'hard core' bicyclist (though I do admire them) but I do NOT want them riding on the pathway - they travel at too high a rate of speed and are a danger to themselves and others because of the way the paths are typically laid out. They belong on the road, on the right side, with traffic (though they do need to follow traffic rules...). To say that high speed cyclists will not use these paths misses the point.


Entirely agree. Some of these complainers need to buy themselves a bike and get their fat butts out of the house and get some exercise touring around our beautiful area.


Yeah, it blows me away that people complain about people working out (even working out on their way to/from work or the store in the case of bike commuters).

I do agree, all cyclists need to follow the rules of the road, but so do drivers. I cannot count how many times I have come up to Third/Pine in Ferrysburg, stopped, waited my turn only to be nearly run over/screamed at by a driver (including a Spring Lake officer just a couple weeks ago) when my turn to proceed came. I follow the traffic laws on my bike, why can't you in your car? I'm sorry I choose to commute most of the time via a healthy form of transportation while you sit on your butt in a car stuck in backed up traffic. These people need to get out and at least give it a shot sometime; I think many would find they love it.

There is also a stereotype I have run into many times (usually when I am stopped at a red light with a car next to me who shouts to get a job) where many people think that if you commute by bike that you must either be homeless, an alcoholic with DUI's, extremely poor or a druggie. I have no clue where this stereotype came from. Sad fact is, many cyclists may be much better off that the drivers who are shouting at them; some bikes cost as much as a new car.


It’s a “Traffic Light,” not a “red light,” you of all people should know that. And it’s not a “stop light” either, LTA. It’s a “traffic light.” You guys should start your day while standing in the shower and during your breakfast coffee repeating, “traffic light; traffic light;;;;;;” Now, that’s the way to start the day positively.


What are you babbling about? Where did I say anything about Stop lights / traffic lights.....I didn't think anybody that shopped at Walmart paid any attention to details.....


Seeing that you asked, these are your words on Oct. 26:

Right on. I haven't had much good to say about our "leaders" since they removed the stoplights and replaced then with the worst traffic coordination device known to man....the 4 way stop.
.......Maybe we could get them to replace the stop lights and pay a tad bit more attention to the people who live and work here, instead of their own self-interests

Yes, I too know the memory is the second thing to go. The first………………ah, can’t remember.


Aha! Obviously you have the lawyer gene in you...those quotes aren't even from this thread, but ok, you got me.

I guess this means I can't call 'em go lights either eh? Traffic lights certainly covers more ground, I'll give you that and I'll try not to make that mistake again. Way to keep an eye on me...the wife says thanks for keeping me in line. Play your cards right and she may give you some Walmart coupons!


I like the idea of the beach connector. It would allow kids from nearly the entire town to get to the beach on a sunny summer day instead of sitting perched in front of the TV / Game box. I don't care if they walk, ride or mom / dad pushes them. Having the bike path sounds like a nice safe way for people to get out and enjoy our beautiful community.
I'm less happy about the 168th corridor being tied to the package. It only serves a very small percentage of the population and would just be a dead-end spur in the eyes of the rest of the community. I intentionally did not buy a house on 168th years ago, because It seemed unsafe for my kids if we wanted to take a walk. Now I feel like I am being asked to pay for someone else's poor buying decision.


I am an avid cyclist, these non-motorized paths should not be considered as a riding option for avid cyclists because we tend to travel 18-25 miles an hour, some even faster. Going these speeds on a path is just not safe and that is why cyclists will not use them. If we were to think of these paths as options for people who want to go for a 'bike' ride or for walkers, or even runners (I run on the side of the road too - (it is safer)then maybe people wouldn't get so uptight that us avid cyclists won't use them. People: Avid cyclists will not use them they are not intended for fast speeds, where people are walking or with strollers, etc.. they are just plain too unsafe for not only the cyclists but for those who are trying to enjoy themselves on a 'safe path'. Would you like me to blow by you and your kids at 20mph? It wouldn't be safe for me or you or your kids.


Then the politicians shouldn't sell them as "Bike Paths" and the bike aficionados shouldn't support the politicians.

And WTF are "non-motorized paths"? Is that like Global Warming turning into "Climate Change"? Are roads "motorized" paths such that people in a vehicle without an engine should be required to avoid them?


OMG, a post I completely agree with Vlad! Yikes!
It is not a 'bike path' as sold by politicians.
Is a road a 'motorized' pathway? Good question.


Wonder what the Amish would say about that road being a motorized pathway?


Shrewd observation!


Hey! who are you calling a shrew?!? :-D


I thought it appropriate, as they are "very active mammals, have voracious appetites, but can enter into 'torpor' in the winter".


Ha! touché, you win that round. :-)


Perfect example of how the government sells them as bike paths and designs them as something else: "Recent developments have the township instructing engineering firm Prein & Newhof to design the extension of the 172nd Avenue pathway as a 5-foot concrete sidewalk instead of the much wider bike path.
“I instructed the engineer along the route (to extend) the city’s sidewalk system instead of our bike path system,” Township Manager Bill Cargo said."
These are sidewalks, not bike paths! If it was a bike path, the bikes would have the right of way! Bike riders have absolutely no right of way on the Multi-use paths (side walks) that have been built in this area!
Mr. Cargo and Jean Gitchell, chairwoman of the Ferrysburg recreation commission, need to tell the people the truth. Ms. Gitchell, slips and says they are for walking.
There really should not be a recreational and an "avid" cyclist distinction here. Its all people just trying to get somewhere. The most telling example of the inadequacy of the current path or sidewalk setup is the non-use by casual or commutting riders. I have noticed much more couples and normally dressed people using the side of the road instead of the paths lately.
We need to acknowledge the fact that gas in never going to go down in price, perhaps momentarily, but its is always going to get more expensive. With that fact comes the desire and need for alternative transportation. The funds we are spending in this area are being used to build sidewalks because the area has become much more urban. Do not expect people trying to get somewhere in a timely manner to ride on a side walk. Look outside West Michigan to see what bike lanes and paths actually should look like. Grand Rapids has made great strides toward this goal.
Finally, we spent over $2 Million dollars just a few years back to make it easier for the SUV train to drop kids off at schools, perhaps this million could be spent more wisely!


I live on the Mercury bike path. To be sure, there are many bikers who do use the pathway. Many more than those in the roadway actually. I see it every day.
There are also many people who walk the pathway, many who are oblivious to what is going on around them, not aware of bikers approching. Some will have a dog on a leash, not real safe for a biker. Cars pop out in their driveway (I wait for peds & bikers) without looking. I agree you cannt ride at speed on the pathway, but I have seen bikers cruising very slowly on the road whenn there is a path provided. Seems it is all about 'ME' these days.
These pathways provide safety no matter what they are called, they get people out of the streets.


Well, I was just run over by a white Monte Carlo at Beacon and Jackson while out on a bike ride. I was following every rule of the road, and had the right of way. Guy gunned it while turning right (on red with the no turn on red signal illuminated), directly into me.

In some pretty good pain, and my $7000 hand-built bike is totaled.

Just another reason we need protected bike lanes. No clue if insurance will cover it. The driver begged me not to call the police, but I did anyway. He had no registration and I think he said his insurance was expired.

Really freaking bummed out since the bike was my main mode of transportation and I put over a thousand hours into building it by hand and put 1,700 accident free miles on it this summer. Please be careful out there motorists; I am very lucky I wasn't killed.

There is a recent photo of it...


ouch! Sorry to hear this! Hope you recover ok.
That is a bad, bad corner to navigate by bike or ped both. Sorry about your bike (best friend). We (frequent comment readers) know you loved it, but the bike can be replaced, you can't.
Side note: Be careful when driving out there, people, look around you and be aware of your surroundings. Slow down, this is not NASCAR.


Wouldn't quite call the bike my best friend, but when you spend that much time building something, and then see it trashed in a split second it is just heartbreaking. At least I am relatively ok. Hand hurts quite badly, and my leg is very sore and pops when walking (I can barely walk). Luckily my helmet took all the head impact.

As for the bike, the frame is trashed, rear derailleur is mangled and jammed into the spokes, crankset is bent, fork bent, handlebars bent. Luckily the $650 shifter/brake levers seem to be ok (though I haven't looked at them closely yet). Disc brake calipers look ok though the rotors are warped. Rack and the hand-made fenders (that were made by a guy in Oregon using reclaimed exotic hardwoods) have some serious road rash. Definitely going to be freaking expensive to replace, so I am hoping the police report actually has the guys insurance info, otherwise I am screwed.

If anyone wants to see the data from the accident as recorded by my bike computer, here it is. Check out the instant speed/cadence drop and the huge climb in heart rate at the moment of the crash.


I am truly sorry to hear about your crash! Hope you heal up fast! Glad to hear you reported it!
Unfortunately, this is an example of how limited, inadeqaute facilities make it much more dangerous for bikers. Having a single lane on one side of a roadway puts the people riding against traffic at great risk for specific incidents like this, driver turning right across the path and looking left for other cars with a Pedestrian Walk light illuminated for them. The No Right Turn light Illuminated, except that when you are looking left for other traffic, it is nowhere near your line of sight!
Same thing happened to me one time in Holland on Riley just east of US-31. On the path heading east, woman came out of the gas station turing right and never even hesitated. Took out the rear end of my bike. She did not want the police called either. They were a bit bummed when the cost of the wheel was over $1000! They would not pay. Ended up calling their insurance, which they fortunately had.
I hope it turns out he had insurance! One of the reasons car insurance is so expensive here in Michigan. You may be covered under your auto insurance for the medical stuff!


For sure you should get checked out and get your injuries on file. Something could become a problem later, like today or tomorrow. Get it all recorded in case he had no insurance and it has to go to (not so) civil court.



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