Bicycle & Pedestrian

Bicycling and walking are important elements to a complete transportation system.  With the help of some good planning, many short trips can efficiently be completed using non-motorized means.  

SWMPC transportation staff works with local communities, road agencies, public transit, non-profit groups, and the public (including bicycling enthusiasts) to help non-motorized projects and priorities become a reality. SWMPC recognizes that these alternative transportation modes are a critical tool in moving people, reducing emissions, and improving the quality of life for the residents of our region.

How is SWMPC planning bicycling and walking?

MDOT Region Non-Motorized Planning

Michigan Department of Transportation contracted with SWMPC to develop the Southwest Michigan Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. This plan provides a nonmotorized transportation system vision for MDOT’s Southwest Region, which includes Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties. This plan does not replace local, metropolitan or county plans; in fact, it builds and depends upon these local plans and initiatives.

MDOT Southwest Region Road and Trail Bicycling Guide

MDOT also contracted with SWMPC to develop the SW Region Road and Trail Bicycling Guide. This map not only shows the locations of major off-road shared use paths, but also provides bicyclists information to prepare their own assessment of traffic, roads, and trails, and plan routes appropriate to their riding skills.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Counting

SWMPC has partnered with MDOT to implement the local component of a statewide bicycle and pedestrian counting program. Multiple counts have been taken within the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor urbanized area. This data can be used to better understand and plan for bicycle and pedestrian usage and potential development projects. A draft of the Nonmotorized Data Collection and Monitoring Program Guide and Implementation Plan can be found on the MDOT webpage.

Berrien County Trails Master Plan

SWMPC assists the Friends of Berrien County Trails in its work and various projects. SWMPC helped develop the Berrien County Trails Master Plan. The goal of this plan is to promote trail connectivity, alternative transportation, safety for all users, recreational opportunities and economic development.  A county-wide plan is an excellent resource for governments and agencies securing grant funds to implement the county-wide vision for trails. 

McCoy's Creek Trail

SWMPC staff provides technical assistance to the City of Buchanan for the McCoy's Creek Trail.  The City and the Friends of McCoy's Creek Trail are working to expand the five-mile shared-used path along McCoy Creek that goes through downtown Buchanan and E.B. Clark Woods to connect to the Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail. It is estimated that 75% of Buchanan’s 4500 residents live within walking distance of the existing trail. The expansion is anticipated to increase the number of people taking advantage of the trail and offer health benefits for the community as well as various economic development opportunities.

Marquette Greenway 

SWMPC staff is actively involved in an ongoing ambitious multi-state project to build a trail connecting Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan. Much of the trail is in place, but many sections along the way are still being planned. The Michigan portion from the Indiana State Line to downtown New Buffalo is planned for construction in 2023-2025. The project team for this stretch of the trail includes the City of New Buffalo, New Buffalo Township, Berrien County Road Department, MDOT and SWMPC. 

Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail

Various community stakeholders along with SWMPC staff are working to extend the existing Indiana Michigan River Valley Trail from Niles to Berrien Springs. The trail currently ends near Plym Park and the YMCA in Niles.  The goal is to utilize the old interurban rail line as much as possible between Niles and Berrien Springs for the trail.  There is also an effort to use the old interurban bridge piers in Lake Chapin (St. Joseph River) to construct a non-motorized bridge for the trail to connect into downtown Berrien Springs. The long-term vision is to extend this trail to St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (Lake Michigan). 

Red Arrow Linear Park

The Red Arrow Linear Park will be a shared-use path separated from the roadway connecting New Buffalo to Bridgman. SWMPC helped to secure USDA funding for the 1.3-mile Union Pier section of the Red Arrow Linear Park that was built in 2020. SWMPC also assisted Berrien County in securing a USDA Rural Business Development Grant to complete engineering of the linear park path from US12 to Sawyer Road (excluding the 1.3-mile Union Pier and 0.5 mile section from Harbert Road to Chikaming Community Park which was built in 2021).

Ox Creek Trail

SWMPC is assisting the City of Benton Harbor and partners to plan for and build a shared use path along Ox Creek. This trail will follow the creek and connect downtown Benton Harbor and the Arts District with the retail district in Benton Charter Township. 

Van - Cass Trail

SWMPC, Cass County Parks Department, Cass County Road Department, Cassopolis Village, Vandalia Village, Penn Township and Midwest Energy & Communications  are working to implement a trail connecting Cassopolis to Vandalia, partially following an old railroad.