The city that put the world on wheels embraces the biking culture
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Detroit has long been the Motor City, the hub of transportation, the city of wheels. But according to artist David Byrne (best known as the creative force behind the Talking Heads), it's also one of the great biking cities in the world. Yet with so much hype about transportation, the transformation to a biker-friendly city is just now taking hold.
Detroit has seen many changes in recent years, and its residents are used to shifting gears — we know how to move forward, to get from point A to point B. We've taken a lot of detours lately, and now it's time for us to be rerouted.
With its ever-expanding miles of bike lanes (55 at last count), the city's bike scene is quickly emerging with new metropolitan bike trails, park trails, city bike tours, and fresh businesses that incorporate rentals and information on navigating and touring the city. With all this happening, Detroit is really cruisin.'
Cycling the City
If you're cycling the city for the first time, there's no better place to start than the Dequindre Cut Greenway. The below-grade pathway, formerly part of the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, has been converted into a scenic greenway for bicycling. The path, which begins near Eastern Market at Gratiot west of St. Aubin, in the shadow of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, runs northwest/southeast and continues at 25 feet beneath grade until it enters the riverfront area just south of Jefferson.
Currently, the cut consists of a paved path with separate lanes for both walkers and cyclists. No cars are allowed, so it's especially safe for children. Bicyclists and pedestrians can access the cut at Woodbridge Street, Lafayette Street, and Gratiot Avenue. And wherever you choose to enter, you can enjoy the graffiti that's been intentionally left in place — artists are encouraged to continue to use the walls as canvas.
Another city trail good for leisurely rides can be found along the Detroit riverfront, which has been artfully redeveloped by the nonprofit Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (detroitriverfront.org) since 2003. The Conservancy has provided public access to approximately three of its 5.5 miles of riverfront, stretching from the Renaissance Center to just east of the Belle Isle bridge. The riverfront now consists of plazas, parks, green space, and pavilions. Since the riverfront is a prime location for locals and tourists alike, the folks at Wheelhouse Detroit (wheelhousedetroit.com) have made it even easier to bike the boardwalk, offering rentals, tours, and repairs.
Just north of downtown is the city's cultural and medical center, all of which may soon be connected by the Midtown Loop. Already in progress, the Midtown Loop is a great new development for students and professionals who bike the Midtown area between Wayne State University, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Detroit Medical Center. The loop is a planned 1.8-mile, shared-use trail that will follow existing streets, including Kirby, John R, Canfield, and Cass, with Warren Avenue functioning as the main connector. The loop aims to accommodate pedestrians, as well as cyclists. And amenities such as bike racks, lockers, dog and human drinking fountains, benches, and LED-lit paths would make the greenway a safe and popular route.
If you're just looking to rent a bike for the day, or if you want to give a tandem a try, here's a list of shops in metro Detroit that provide rentals, sell bikes, and offer tune-ups for grandma's old Schwinn that you might not otherwise be able to sell on Craigslist:
|Hub of Detroit||Bikes, Blades, & Boards||American Cycle and Fitness|
|Hub of Detroit (thehubofdetroit.org), a full-service bicycle shop and co-op in located in Midtown on Cass Avenue, uses 100 percent of its proceeds to benefit Back Alley Bikes, a nonprofit bike shop and community center that provides cycling education and services focusing on youth development, sustainable practices, and community access.||Bikes, Blades, & Boards, better known as B3 (bikesbladesandboards.com), sells and services bicycles and accessories, including products from Specialized, Cannondale, Giant, Haro, and Moots. The staff is expertly trained in helping people find the right bike, as they carry road, mountain, recreation, hybrid, and commuting models.||American Cycle and Fitness (americancycleandfitness.com), with seven different locations in metro Detroit, is one of the most well-respected and convenient places to buy a bike. They carry a wide-range of models, and the staff is professionally trained and certified to work on all bikes, not just the ones they sell. Estimates are always free, and walk-ins are welcome.|
|Fender Bender||Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop||D&D Bicycles and Hockey|
|Fender Bender (fenderbenderdetroit.wordpress.com), a bicycle collective for biking advocates and mechanics, provides a bike shop and resource space primarily for women, transgender, and queer bike enthusiasts in Detroit. They offer mechanic training programs, safety instructions for street riding, and group rides.||Downtown Ferndale Bike Shop (downtownferndalebikeshop.com), owned and operated by bike enthusiast and skilled mechanic Jon Hughes, carries a full line of biking products and offers comprehensive repair services. They also offer group rides and sponsor local events. If there's anyone to talk to about being a part of a biking community, it's Jon. So next time you want to hear a good story, just pop into the shop. It'll be well worth it.||D&D Bicycles and Hockey (ddbikes.com) has served the cycling community since 1977. Their five locations — in Berkley, Brighton, Northville, Waterford, and Westland — are staffed with cycling and hockey experts.|