Should Kalamazoo Build A Beltline Through Downtown?
This might be a brilliant solution to a problem we don't even have, or it might be a colossal waste of money. It seems like these days all the City of Kalamazoo wants to do is frustrate its citizens. And to be fair, no matter what they do, they'll be honking off some group of people or another. The most recent example of this is the project going on now on Park and Westnedge Streets around downtown. The City calls it "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 downtown Kalamazoo business owner, who said his business is up some four-fold in the evening. It's the influx of people who have moved downtown, from young singles to the people at the medical school, to empty-nesters. But is that a reason to slow down the four main arteries through downtown?
In no particular order, here's where some of us might disagree with the leadership of the City. Part of the above project includes adding bike lanes and in some cases, street parking. Go ahead and put all the bicyclists on those side streets and keep them off the four main streets. This way they'll be safer.
I was on Rose Street south of Cedar and currently, they've got not only street parking but traffic cones in the middle of what is essentially a side street. Is this what you want to turn the main arteries into? You're already sticking it to people with what you did to Portage Road. But you have more people downtown, so go ahead and make all the "other" streets essentially into side streets.
But you might be asking, where are all these bicyclists? Speaking just for myself, I probably haven't seen a half dozen bicycles around downtown in the past couple of years. Here's an idea. Let's widen the sidewalks and let bicyclists share the sidewalks with pedestrians. A bicycle is less dangerous to a pedestrian than a car is to a bicyclist.
The whole point of the busy streets downtown is to get drivers through downtown. And all the city is doing is slowing everyone down. Do you think fewer lanes will make already frustrated drivers any happier? And that's not even factoring in freight trains.
Bottom line: People with bicycles are God's Chosen people in Kalamazoo. Add to that a significant portion of the population can't figure out the one-way street travel pattern, and maybe it's time to do what many other cities have done. It just might be time to build a "beltline" through Kalamazoo. Currently, the vast majority of people use Michigan, Kalamazoo, Park, and Westnedge Avenues to get through downtown to somewhere else. This isn't 1950 when downtown was the center of commerce. The center of commerce is Amazon. Don't believe it?. Look at all the FedEx, UPS, and US Mail trucks on the streets, even on Sunday.
But the city is hell-bent on making getting through downtown as difficult and slow as possible for good, God-fearing, hard-working Michiganders. So let them have all their streets and let's build a beltline around it all to get us from the east side to the west side and back with as little stress as possible.