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Detroit, Michigan: The Non-Motorized City?

Detroit, Michigan: The Non-Motorized City?

Frequently cited as an indicator of an emerging economy, bicycles are becoming the symbol of sustainable and productive communities. From Copenhagen, Denmark, to Portland, Oregon, bicyclists represent a considerable portion of daily commuters. Will the Motor City (Detroit, Michigan) ever relinquish its auto-centric ideals for the benefits of pedal power? A combination of rising gas

RiverWalk Bicycle

Frequently cited as an indicator of an emerging economy, bicycles are becoming the symbol of sustainable and productive communities. From Copenhagen, Denmark, to Portland, Oregon, bicyclists represent a considerable portion of daily commuters. Will the Motor City (Detroit, Michigan) ever relinquish its auto-centric ideals for the benefits of pedal power? A combination of rising gas prices, bus delays, lack of light rail, and limited resources have Detroiters talking.

Do you ride for recreation, community organizing, or the daily commute? Within the Detroit community, public mobility has developed into two distinct exchanges: the first focused on physical redevelopment and the second, community development. On one hand, urban planners, environmental non-profits, and downtown developers are actively engaged in urban design and adaptive-reuse of existing infrastructure for the use of bicycles. While other Detroiter’s are focused primarily on the bicycle user: from recreation and community health to vocational skills and self-empowerment.

Compared to other transportation alternatives, bicycles do not require infrastructural changes. Indeed, Detroit has plenty of roads to share. However, road diets and greenway developments certainly make cities more inviting to cyclists. Detroit’s 40 miles of bicycle infrastructure includes 6 miles of trails on Belle Isle, the 1.35 mile Dequindre Cut, and the 3.5 mile Detroit RiverWalk project.

With financial support from MDOT, Bikes Belong, and Community Foundation for SE Michigan-Greenway Initiative, the Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance and Detroit Works seek to realize the vision of Detroit’s 2006 Non-Motorized Masterplan. Re-branding Detroit as a bicycle-friendly city requires the input of decision-makers and residents.

Dequindre CutFor many, cycling is more than a transportation alternative; it is a culture and a social justice platform for addressing issues of economics, environment, and equity. Focused on youth development, sustainable practices, and community access, Hub of Detroit provides cycling education and maintenance. While Wheelhouse Detroit offers bicycle tours of Detroit breweries, urban farms, automotive landmarks, and historical neighborhoods. Thanks to social media, Detroit has also seen growing participation in PARK(ing) Day, Critical Mass, Thunderdrome, Wolverine 200, and Tour de Troit. Collaborative environmental designers and passionate entrepreneurs – the progress is promising.

Road diets and greenway development to weekly rides and training programs, what encourages bicycle-use in your community? What would you like to see more of?

Credits: All images linked to the sources.

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Alexandria graduated from The University of Michigan with a B.S. in Architecture. In order to gain an authentic understanding of the urban context through the lens of education, she became a Denver, Colorado corps member with Teach for America, teach...

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