I've been thinking back and looking ahead in recent weeks; inspired by my new friends at Bike Friendly Grand Rapids - Josh Leffingwell and Tyler Doornbos - and their earnest, but frustrating, efforts at positively affecting the recent and ongoing Revision Division 'road diet' in downtown Grand Rapids.
Thinking back about my time spent with the now defunct Heartside Mainstreet organization and how I was (am) fighting for many of the same things as Josh & Tyler. Looking ahead at how we might do better and move faster in our efforts to build our City. Many of the things that I, and others, pushed for in the reconstruction of Division in the early 2000's are coming to pass in the Revision Division efforts: that is very good. But more than 10 years of advocacy for a new and discontinuous striping pattern is not nearly good enough.
The Michigan Department of Transportation 'owns' Division from Oakes SW all the way North to Leonard NE. MDOT's vision of what makes a successful street is very different than mine: MDOT sees Division as an extension of their freeway and I see Division as our Main Street. MDOT continues to be an impediment to physical and policy improvements that would make Division Avenue a vibrant urban corridor instead of a MDOT racetrack for getting the hell out of town.
We need to aim higher: the City of Grand Rapids should own Division not MDOT. MDOT needs to be bought out of its ownership of Division (and its connections on Oakes and Leonard et, al) so Grand Rapids can craft the street the way we know it needs to be to foster our urban community.
The current progress is writ in the new paint on the street: frustratingly temporary and desperately incremental. We can and need to do better.