Should Kalamazoo build a ring line through downtown?

It could be a brilliant solution to a problem we don’t even have, or it could be a colossal waste of money. It seems these days all the city of Kalamazoo wants to do is frustrate its citizens. And to be fair, no matter what they do, they will honk one group of people or another. The most recent example is the ongoing project on Park and Westnedge streets around the town centre. The City speaks of “traffic calming”. What?

Here are their words: “This work is part of a project launched in 2021 to calm traffic on Westnedge Avenue and Park Street.”

I had an interesting conversation with a business owner in downtown Kalamazoo who said his business quadrupled in the evening. It’s the influx of people who have moved downtown, from young single people to people in medical school, to empty nests. But is this a reason to slow down the four main arteries of the city center?

In no particular order, here’s where some of us might disagree with the city’s leadership. Part of the above project includes the addition of bike lanes and in some cases street parking. Go ahead and put all cyclists in these side streets and keep them away from the four main streets. This way they will be safer.

I was on Rose Street south of Cedar and currently they not only have street parking but also traffic cones in the middle of what is basically a side street. Is that what you want to transform the main arteries into? You already bond with people with what you did at Portage Road. But you have more people downtown, so go ahead and turn all the “other” streets into side streets.

But you might be wondering where are all those cyclists? Speaking just for me, I probably haven’t seen half a dozen bikes around downtown in the last two years. Here is an idea. Widen sidewalks and let cyclists share sidewalks with pedestrians. A bicycle is less dangerous for a pedestrian than a car for a cyclist.

The point of busy downtown streets is to drive drivers through downtown. And all the city does is slow everyone down. Do you think fewer lanes will make already frustrated drivers happier? And that’s not even taking freight trains into account.

Bottom line: People with bikes are God’s chosen in Kalamazoo. Add to that a significant portion of the population cannot understand the one-way travel pattern, and it may be time to do what many other cities have done. Maybe it’s time to build a “belt line” through Kalamazoo. Currently, the vast majority of people use Michigan, Kalamazoo, Park, and Westnedge avenues to get to anywhere else in downtown. We are not in 1950 when the city center was the center of commerce. The center of commerce is Amazon. You do not believe it ?. Look at all the FedEx, UPS and US Mail trucks on the streets, even on Sundays.

But the city is determined to make the journey downtown as difficult and slow as possible for Michigan’s good, God-fearing, hard-working people. So let’s leave all their streets to them and build a belt line around it all to get us from the east side to the west side and back with as little stress as possible.

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