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NOTE: The following is an excerpt from an article by Michelle Meunier that originally appeared in on 6/25/11. For the full article, please click here.
The Michigan Complete Streets Coalition would like to congratulate James, Katie and Conor for their continued success in advancing complete streets in Michigan. In addition to this new recognition by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, the students also were recently honored in front of Saline City Council by Mayor Driskell, in addition to being recognized by the League of Michigan Bicyclists as Bicycle Advocates of the Year at our 2011 Michigan Bicycle Summit.

Katie Birchmeier, James Kleimola (back) and Conor Waterman speak with Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

For James Kleimola, riding his bike around Ypsilanti gives him a sense of independence.

The 19-year-old Ypsilanti resident has cerebral palsy and can’t drive, so he uses his bike to get to Eastern Michigan’s Young Adult Program, EMU football games and church.
“I’m just going to continue to follow the rules and to stay safe, ride to the EMU young adult program,” Kleimola said. “I would like to ride more places to become more independent, that is what I want in the future.”

Kleimola, along with 10-year-olds Conor Waterman and Katie Birchmeier, both of Saline, were recognized June 22 by the Michigan Legislature as state advocates of the year for their work in making streets safer for bicyclists.

These three youths are students of programs to educate all cyclists, PEAC, and testified in front of the Michigan House and Senate Transportation committees along with the Disability Caucus to help support the Michigan Complete Streets legislation in 2010.

John Waterman, executive director of PEAC said that Complete Streets has to do with road access issues.

“A lot of times we’re designing roads with just cars in mind, but there are individuals like these three that won’t have the opportunity to use cars,” he said. “Looking at our streets for all users we’re really using our public dollars to fund so everyone has access to our community, which is so so important.”

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On Saturday, April 16th, Programs to Educate all Cyclists (PEAC) will be breaking new ground once again by holding the first mobility audit for a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. PEAC invites students, parents, community leaders and the general public to participate in conducting an audit of the sidewalks and streets around Saline. PEAC will be assessing the area for use with both handbikes and wheelchairs. Approximately 16 handbikes will be available for use by volunteers courtesy of the Disability Hall of Fame. Instruction will be provided by Glen Ashlock, a member of the Disability Hall of Fame. This is a free event and a great opportunity to help make Saline a safer community for all pedestrians and cyclists.

The event begins at 9:30 am at Liberty School Cafeteria, 7265 N. Ann Arbor St., Saline, MI 48176

April 16th, 2011 9:30 a.m. - noon

Programs to Educate all Cyclists (PEAC) is a national leader in the field of teachin

g individuals with disabilities cycling skills. PEAC’s mission is to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities by using cycling for transportation, integrated recreation, fitness, and therapy.

Katie Birchmeier (10) and Conor Waterman (9) before adressing the Michigan Disability Caucus on June 23.

On June 23 children with disabilities shared their transportation needs with members of Michigan’s Senate and House. These brave youth addressed the Michigan’s Disability Caucus in the Speaker’s Library of the State Capitol. Katie Birchmeier (10), Conor Waterman (9), James Kleimola (18) and Chris Mistopoulos (25), provided personal stories about their ability to access the community and the challenges they have faced while walking and biking in Michigan.

In addition, PEAC (Programs to Educate All Cyclists) addressed the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Michigan Legislative Disability Caucus. During a one-hour presentation PEAC focused on educating the Caucus about their mission and programs, and advocated for greater state support of cycling by persons with disabilities. PEAC is a Michigan based nonprofit that is recognized as the national leader for cyclists with disabilities.

Representative John Gleason and Senator Randy Richarville with PEAC supporters in the Spearker's Library of the State Capitol.

The ability to travel in active modes of transportation is essential to access our community for all individuals.  Bicycling can become the primary mode of travel for individuals who cannot get a driver’s license.  A key component of the Complete Streets legislation that recently passed the Michigan House, and that is currently being considered by the Senate, is ensuring that streets meet the “varying mobility needs of all legal users of the roadway, of all ages and abilities.” The ability to travel independently is not just an access issue, but an issue of human dignity.  Individuals forced to rely on family and friends to meet all transportation needs reinforce ideas regarding inabilities, burden to others and second class citizenship. Clearly, passing Complete Streets legislation would go along way towards establishing a statewide policy regarding equal access issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Michigan Complete Streets Coalition member, Norm Cox of the American Society of Landscape Architects used his testimony to state that HB 6152 and 6152 is "working to make amends for the lopsided transportation investments of the last 50-60 years," adding, "it's not taking money away, but redistributing it based on changing priorities."

The second House Transportation Committee hearing on Complete Streets legislation,  HB 6151 and 6152, saw the room once again packed with supporters of the policies. The legislation - which seeks to move Michigan away from auto-centric road designs and meet the needs of all roadway users - has attracted strong support from a broad range of advocates. A few of the groups represented at today’s hearing included: The American Heart Association, Crim Fitness Foundation and Citizens for a Safe Community.

The coalition would like to extend thanks to all those who spoke at the meeting today, as well to those that offered written testimony. Chairwoman Byrnes (D - Dist. 52) indicated she plans to hold a vote on the bills next week, and with some organizations like SEMCOG and MML still supporting the bill in concept only, it is important that the committee members continue to hear vocal support for these specific policies.

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