$1 million bikeway to be constructed in Grand Rapids

File photo.
File photo.

A long-awaited bicycle route will be constructed next year on the west side of Grand Rapids. The route is approximately 3 1/2 miles and will link Kent Trails with the Fred Meijer White Pine State Trail.

The Seward Avenue Bikeway will connect existing bicycle paths and introduce new paths along popular streets in order to provide safe bicycle access to businesses and residential areas. The bikeway will also connect more than 190 miles of regional trails.

Running through the heart of the city, the bikeway will be constructed along Seward Avenue, connecting Wealthy Street to Riverside Park.

Tom Tilma, executive director of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, reflected on the significance of the bikeway.

“The Seward Avenue Bikeway is one of the most important corridors in the City of Grand Rapids’ planned network of 100 miles of bikeways,” Tilma said.

He commented on the bikeway’s main function.

“[The bikeway] fills an important gap in our excellent regional multi-use path system,” Tilma said.

The Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition has been advocating for the Seward Avenue Bikeway as part of its mission of bicycle advocacy.

Tilma expressed excitement regarding the construction of the Seward Avenue Bikeway. He anticipates the bikeway will be another positive step in accommodating the increasing number of bikers in Grand Rapids.

“Our coalition’s bike traffic counts have shown increasing ridership from 2011 to 2013,” Tilma said. “After the bike lanes were installed in 2012, bike traffic doubled from 2011.”

The steady increase in bicycle traffic in Grand Rapids is one of the motives for the Seward Avenue Bikeway.

Tilma also discussed the wide range of individuals who will benefit from the bikeway.

“The cyclists in that corridor are roadies cutting through the city, GVSU students going to class and neighborhood residents running errands,” Tilma said. “This project will be used by people cycling for recreation, exercise and transportation.”

The bikeway will include a variety of features, including new bike lanes, shared lane markings (sharrows), parking stations, a trailhead and a rest area.

Tilma discussed the innovative nature of the bikeway.

“The bikeway has a creative combination of multi-use paths, on-street bike lanes and shared lane markings,” Tilma said. “There’ll be a new bridge over Indian Mill Creek near Ann Street.”

Several organizations and businesses have contributed funds to the project, including the Michigan Department of Transportation, Bikes Belong, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. and Freewheeler Bike Shop.

The Michigan Department of Transportation awarded the City of Grand Rapids with a $619,514 grant Monday to help construct the bikeway.  A federal grant also funded a significant portion of the project.

The construction of the Seward Avenue Bikeway is set to begin this spring.