biking between ann arbor and ypsilanti, and how to protect against google street view

A few days ago I ran in to a reader of this site named Kevin and he and I started talking about our shared desire to use our cars less. Eventually the conversation turned to biking between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, where we both work. He maintained that, after months of work, he’d found the perfect route. His way, he told me, was direct, and, if you did it right, there were hardly any cars. So, I asked him if it might be possible for him to sketch it out on a map so that I could share it here, as a public service. I think he was a bit reluctant at first, which, given the comments that some of you leave here on the site, isn’t surprising, but he eventually warmed up to the idea of sharing his secret with the rest of the family, and acquiesced.

I just received the map and it’s incredibly detailed. It’s even color coded, with each leg of the trip getting its own individual write-up. It’s really impressive.

I’m not up for anther big event right now, but I was thinking that later this summer it might be nice to put together a community bike outing during which a bunch of us would ride out to Ann Arbor. Or, better yet, we’d set out toward Ann Arbor at the same time that a bunch of Ann Arborites set out for Ypsi, we’d meet in the middle, and we’d hammer a golden bike peddle into the ground… Anyway, if you’re interested, Kevin’s very cool, annotated, Ypsi/Arbor bike map can be found at Google.

[On the subject of Google, I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about he company’s new Street View feature and its implications on privacy… If you haven’t been following the news, the new feature allows you to actually see what a street looks like from street level. You can virtually stand at an intersection, spin around, see what stores are nearby, etc. It’s pretty cool, except that the people caught in the images taken by the Google peeping van don’t have any say about it. The limited rollout has already provided some examples where privacy might have been compromised. Several people, for instance, have been caught exiting strip clubs. My friend was suggesting that Google, since it’s full to the rafters with brainiacs, should be able to find a way to identify people in the images they’re taking and remove them. My idea was easier. It was just that they put an enormous speaker on the vehicle that cruises through town taking these images, and blast a warning message. It would be kind of like an ice cream truck, only instead of pretty music there might be a terrified voice yelling, “quick, cover your fucking faces — it’s Google!”]

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  1. Posted June 20, 2007 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    For some reason that secret perfect route looks awfully familiar. Hmmm. I wonder where I’ve seen it before.

    Oh! I know! On Washtenaw County Parks & Rec’s Border to Border Trail Maps! All of the blue and green parts of that map are part of the B2B trail. He deviates from the trail within Ypsi, though, where his trail goes red:

    At the eastern end of the old railroad right-of-way (the bit through the woods along the south edge of EMU’s athletic campus), bike lanes lead north on Cornell to Huron River Drive. A shared-use path (ten-foot wide pavement) runs along the south side of HRD between Cornell and LeForge. There’s a two block bit there with just sidewalks that will eventually need to be improved on, to Lowell. Lowell’s being rebuilt right now; it’ll have a southbound bike lane when it’s done. (A northbound complement will go through campus, a block to the west.)

    From the south end of Lowell, Forest Avenue will hopefully sport bike lanes within the year, thanks to a CMAQ grant that the City was recently awarded. Those bike lanes will run all the way to Prospect – bike lanes were already included in the Forest rebuild east of Prospect.

    The city should be getting B2B signs from the County soon, as well, to point out the turns. I agree, the crazy turn at Dixboro Road that Kevin points out is nearly impossible to stumble across, but the signs help.

    I’m not going to organize an event, per se, but if you want to ride it, I’d go along with you; I’ve done the route a dozen or so times. It ranges nicely from “tranquil” to “adventurous” along the way.

  2. Posted June 20, 2007 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    (The intent of my comment is not to say, “Kevin sucks”, mind you, but rather, “Yeah, isn’t it awesome that somebody had the vision to put together that much of a network of bikeable links? Washtenaw rocks!”)

  3. mark
    Posted June 20, 2007 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t mean to imply that he cleared the forest himself, with a machete, Murph. Sorry you got confused… I was just impressed at how he put the pieces together. I’ve tried over the years to connect all the piece myself, but I never quite got them all. I thought (and still think) that it’s cool that he took the time to pull it all together and add notes like he’s done. I suspect that a lot of people in my audience will also appreciate it.

  4. Ol' E Cross
    Posted June 20, 2007 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Kevin is a sissy cyclist. That little strip of pavement between the double yellow lines running down the middle of Washtenaw Ave is the only bike lane I need.

    Don’t wear nothin’ but a thong and hold a crowbar in one hand and a forty in the other and ride down that center lane screaming, “GET OFF THE FUGGIN SIDEWOK!” at every commuter who swerves past. I’ll be punchin’ in while you’re still waiting for the ducks to cross.

    Now ya know my secret.

  5. Dr. Cherry
    Posted June 20, 2007 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    From Ypsi, I used to ride out Forest to North Huron River Drive to Clark by the Community College. I’d stay on Clark all the way to Hogback.

    At Hogback I’d turn North and cross the expressway at East Huron Drive. You have to navigate from Huron Parkway to Geddes but it’s a nice way to get into A2 on a bicycle.

    This route is a bit dicier than the bike path route but it may be the fastest way to get over there.

    The bike path, especially in the evening, was typically littered with people walking, roller-blading, and so forth. I gave up on it and made better time on Geddes.

    If you work at the hospital, Fuller makes sense but it’s easer to get Downtown from Geddes.

  6. mark
    Posted June 20, 2007 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Steve… I meant to say it in the post, but I’d love to hear what routes everyone else is taking.

  7. mark
    Posted June 20, 2007 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    And, while we’re on the subject, check out this article on guerilla bike lanes.

    (Maybe we could just turn the inside lanes on Washtenaw into bike lanes, and forget about all of these confusing trails.)

  8. frenchfries
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Yeah, so people are crappin’ on my route–to be expected. Whatever, you’ll be able to find more routes there on my longer rides from Ypsi to Chelsea and in between.

    The B2B signs are only good when they’re there (and you know what it means–now I know).

    Dr. Cherry’s route is the one I used to use to get to HRD and Dexter. N.HRD and W Clark are a jackhammer up your ass–which somepeople might like, I guess. I put in the Geddes alt route. I get honked on Geddes, and the road sucks–sometimes dangerously so. The hills rock though.

    I don’t really care if I save 10-15 minutes. My wife is still driving so we’re not saving the world, I just need to get some damn riding in–I’ve gained too much weight since moving here.

    If I haul ass a little I can do this ride in 35 minutes (no lights would be 30). That’s not bad, and I get to see the cute little baby geese just taking their first craps.

    One last thing: I am not really comfortable riding in Michigan yet. There is like an 8:1 pickup/SUV to car ratio (empty trucks, almost all of them). They take up a lot of space and they seem to have contempt for cyclists (I get honked at on almost every ride). I don’t know about everyone else, but even though I know it is the law that I can take the lane, I try to ride as close as physically possible to the last bit of pavement on the road (not actually that easy, need good bike control). Yet I still catch shit all the time from drivers here. I don’t know what it takes to make them happy–most cyclists I see are taking more road than I am. I have resorted to wearing only local-themed jersies, so they don’t have to get all confused by the strange european words and logos.

    Whatever your route–double-yellow or bike path–get out there and get the cars used to us.

  9. BrianB
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    The map is very cool Kevin. I just thought I’d mention a small shortcut I’ve used to avoid traffic on E. Huron River Dr. – you can cut through the woods in front of St. Joseph’s Hospital on a path off of the Clark St. path and come out right across from the entrance to the WCCC campus parking lot, which you can cut through down to where the bike path picks up along E. Huron River Dr. again. I’m usually pulling a trailer with my kids in it and the cars flying around the curve on E. Huron River always made me nervous.

  10. Posted June 21, 2007 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I love the map. Most of these routes I take already. My main reason for ever biking to ypsi is the corner brewery. I think you should make that the destination of your route. Then perhaps Leopold’s or Dominicks as a destination on the Ann Arbor end. Then this map would be really useful.

    Murph, I had no idea what those B2B signs meant until I read your post. How would I know? Where do they intend for cyclists to find that information? As someone that regularly rides on these routes, it’s weird that I wouldn’t have seen a more detailed sign someplace. I thought they were a strangely targeted ad for something I wasn’t in the know about.

  11. Barry
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Much happiness from me to you, Mark, on the biking, routes, etc. You could even link-up with Karen on one of her rides to work, as Kevin’s route is hers. Oh, and feel free to ask/e-mail me about any other Ypsi bike stuff — if I don’t know it (bikes-wise), I know someone who does.

    I’d be up for a link-up ride whenever it happens. I can help pass the word/organize as needed, too. A warm weekday evening after dinner, followed by a return trip and a stop for beer sounds dandy.

    Also, I’m not sure of your policy about URLs here, but below are three: the first is a great resource site from the League of Michigan Bicyclists; the second is a booklet from the League of American Bicyclists on commuting; and the third is a part of the cycling-relevant vehicle code in Michigan.

    The laws for biking (vehicle code, that is) are a bit more involved (lights required at night, brakes required, helmets on kids, etc.), but the gist of our rights are there. We are legally allowed on *all* roadways unless otherwise marked (viz. interstates), and we *don’t* get the whole lane, just that part farthest right “as practicable.”

    And, I’m sorry to pass on one tidbit of “truth” about biking around here — people in cars will shout at you, “buzz” (pass too close on purpose) you, unsafely ignore you, and otherwise be displeased that you are merely (legally) riding your bike in a way they think is wrong, which is sometimes simply riding your bike at all. I pass this on in hopes that when it happens you will not be discouraged from riding. Most times I ignore this stuff … other times … well, I’ve lost a lot of patience over 24 years of riding … maybe I’ve lost patience with all stupid actions. I’ll provide the litany of weirdnesses over a beer one day.

    Thanks, and here’s to safe (and fun) riding!


  12. Dr. Cherry
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    frenchfries, it’s been a few years since I departed Washtenaw Cty. so I suppose N.HRD and W Clark are in tougher shape these days. I was on a mountain bike with street tires and a little bit of front shocks. I can imagine a road bike being a different thing entirely.

    As far as the empty SUV/truck parade, I found a few things to make my ride a little safer. I think the two-lanes are the most perilous.

    I would ride in the lane, just inside of the outside line. I never ride on the shoulder because this somehow encourages people to zip by you at a high rate of speed. If you’re actually in the lane they slow down more frequently.

    If there was oncoming traffic and someone is behind me honking to get by, I’d just use more of the lane and slow down a little bit. People would say angry things and I’d typically catch up with them at intersections and shoot them nasty stares. I found shouting particular nasty epithets at these white-collar commuters usually causes them to wilt and drive away grumbling.

    I got “buzzed” a couple of times but people usually do it when there’s no witnesses (no traffic). I imagine this is insurance in case they accidentally hit you and need to make a clean getaway. If I was able to find these jerks I’d happily knock their teeth down their throat.

    If we can get a few more bikes out there, drivers are really going to have to make adjustments.

  13. Robert
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I would have thrown my two cents in on this whole bike path thing by now except I’ve been a little agitated lately when talking about bikes. This is because mine was recently stolen. I guess I deserved it for leaving it in plain sight and having locked it up with one of those flimsy rubber-coated chain locks most people haven’t used since the 80s. Using one of those things in Ann Arbor essentially amounts to advertising all day to the bike thieves that they should come get it later while doing their nightly rounds. They might not have noticed for weeks had it not been chained up at all. The pretty bright blue rubber coating kinda gives it away. Anyway, I’m declaring Ann Arbor the ‘Bicycle Thievery Capital of the World!’ Boy are they going to be pissed in Seattle when they find out they’ve been knocked out of the number one spot. Wait, I might be thinking Seg-Ways. Maybe sometime I’ll do some digging and see if I can find some statistics to support my Ann Arbor declaration. Hey, if the label sticks, who cares?

  14. egpenet
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Packard East and West is best … driving or cycling IMHO … it’s even a decent walk with sidewalks on the north side of the road most of the way.

  15. mark
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Barry. I need to talk with you about my bike. I have a 15 year old mountain bike that I hate riding. It’s my back. It kills me to lean over like that now. So, I was thinking about taking the handle bars off and replacing them with something more old school. Is such a thing possible, or should I just give up and start saving for a new (used) bike?

  16. mark
    Posted June 21, 2007 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    And I’d love to help organize a Leopolds to the Corner cruise. It’d be fun.

  17. Manan
    Posted June 22, 2007 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Wild. I just did, more or less, this same path the other day – my first real ride on a bike I bought a few weeks ago that, incidentally, nearly took out part of my finger during a ‘routine’ chain-tightening procedure.

    The Huron River bit is fun to ride. I tend to cut through EMU, which is pretty empty these days, rather than take Oakwood St.

  18. Ol' E Cross
    Posted June 23, 2007 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    If any of those well-acquainted with bike laws are still reading (hopefully Barry), I frequent the new “made for my active lifestyle bike lane on Cross St. Cross St., where the bike lane runs, is one-way (whatever that means).

    Does that mean it’s one way for bikes, or can I legally ride headlong into traffic on my way home? This is a serious question impacting my daily commute. Are bike lanes, by nature, bidirectional?

    Lest anyone think I’m a dirty hippy riding my bike to save the planet, I only do it to show off my insanely muscular calves (I hike my casual business slacks up to my buttocks when riding).

    Despite my buttocks, it’s a sincere question.

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