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Thread: Motor City?

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    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Motor City?


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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Nice article, except it didn't say much about bike commuting in Detroit.

    I grew up in Highland Park, Michigan--a small city that is totally surrounded by the city of Detroit. I now live about 90 miles from Detroit, but I haven't visited as much as I used to. Detroit is still a popular tourist destination (believe it or not) especially for sports and culture stuff.

    If you plan to ride there, keep in mind that the excellent bike riding conditions pertain to the actual city of Detroit itself. The rest of the metro area (suburbs and exurbs) are as sprawled as Atlanta or Houston. You will find there the busy congested stroads that are ubiquitous in American metro areas.


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    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Nice article, except it didn't say much about bike commuting in Detroit.

    I grew up in Highland Park, Michigan--a small city that is totally surrounded by the city of Detroit. I now live about 90 miles from Detroit, but I haven't visited as much as I used to. Detroit is still a popular tourist destination (believe it or not) especially for sports and culture stuff.

    If you plan to ride there, keep in mind that the excellent bike riding conditions pertain to the actual city of Detroit itself. The rest of the metro area (suburbs and exurbs) are as sprawled as Atlanta or Houston. You will find there the busy congested stroads that are ubiquitous in American metro areas.
    An excellent description, Roody.

    I grew up a Detroit in the 1960s on the East Side in a nice neighborhood, that frankly is now as bad as anything you read about in Detroit these days. Nonetheless although Detroit proper is the Motor City, it did develop as a prosperous city prior to post-war suburban sprawl, and IMO has an excellent roadway infrastructure with wide, long roads through interesting, though now often decrepit neighborhoods. When I go back to visit the family in suburban Macomb County though, the suburban sprawl and concomitant highway system really discourages road cycling, though there are some pleasant MUPS to nowhere.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    … Back in the 60’s in the Motor City, I had an “English Racer,’ and longed to tour at about age 14, but joined the car culture. In Ann Arbor MI in the 70’s I really realized the utility of bicycles for commuting, and began touring on a five-speed Schwinn Suburban, but soon bought a Mercier as did my girlfriend, later my wife. We toured in Michigan and Ontario.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    Though my world outlook was much more narrow in Detroit, I recall doing a lot of cycling up to 10-20 miles away from home, sometimes just to roam, or to visit coin shops as a coin collector…
    A few years ago, the architectural critic for the Boston Globe wrote an article describing two types of American studies, the “City of Outdoor Rooms,” and the "City of Towers and Cars” after a visit to Southfield, MI, a sprawling post-war Detroit suburb. If I recall correctly, the first Detroit regional shopping mall, Northland, was developed there, and it epitomized the City Of Towers and Cars as viewed from the I-696 freeway, with no sense of human scale.

    Boston of course was the City of Outdoor Rooms, on a human scale. One can walk through Boston as if walking on a tour through someone's house, going from room to room (neighborhood to neighborhood) and admiring close-up the various accoutrements in the room. I use this motif when I take visitors on walk of about 4 miles through Boston and we pass through seven different “rooms.”

    IMO Detroit City is, on a larger scale than Boston, also a City of Outdoor Rooms.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    IMO Detroit City is, on a larger scale than Boston, also a City of Outdoor Rooms.
    A lot of the rooms are empty. They say the abandoned parts of Detroit--about 40% of the land area--are bigger than the entire city of Boston.

    Detroit never was a very dense city. Most people lived in single-family homes with driveways, garages, and big yards. This made walking and transit impractical, but was great for bikes (and of course, cars).


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    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    …A few years ago, the architectural critic for the Boston Globe wrote an article describing two types of American studies, the “City of Outdoor Rooms,” and the "City of Towers and Cars” after a visit to Southfield, MI…

    IMO Detroit City is, on a larger scale than Boston, also a City of Outdoor Rooms.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    A lot of the rooms are empty. They say the abandoned parts of Detroit--about 40% of the land area--are bigger than the entire city of Boston.

    Detroit never was a very dense city. Most people lived in single-family homes with driveways, garages, and big yards. This made walking and transit impractical, but was great for bikes (and of course, cars).
    You are quite right, unfortunately that a lot of the “outdoor rooms” (neighborhoods) are empty. Furthermore indeed Detroit (proper) never was a very dense city. However my own recollection growing up in an East Side neighborhood was that vaguely-defined neighborhoods were contiguous within the city, unlike separated by major highways or large tracts of land as are many suburban developments; and secondly many services were local within the neighborhood, i.e. storefront businesses on light commercial, walkable streets. And children attended their local schools.

    As a child and early teenager, I could get along quite well in my neighborhood (outdoor room), about 2 miles in greatest length, by walking, bicycling and taking a bus. Unlike Boston though, as you point out the distances were greater (but parking was never at a premium). Also, as I recall, bus services were better, and there was even a street car to downtown.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    You are quite right, unfortunately that a lot of the “outdoor rooms” (neighborhoods) are empty. Furthermore indeed Detroit (proper) never was a very dense city. However my own recollection growing up in an East Side neighborhood was that vaguely-defined neighborhoods were contiguous within the city, unlike separated by major highways or large tracts of land as are many suburban developments; and secondly many services were local within the neighborhood, i.e. storefront businesses on light commercial, walkable streets. And children attended their local schools.

    As a child and early teenager, I could get along quite well in my neighborhood (outdoor room), about 2 miles in greatest length, by walking, bicycling and taking a bus. Unlike Boston though, as you point out the distances were greater (but parking was never at a premium). Also, as I recall, bus services were better, and there was even a street car to downtown.
    I agree that there was and is strong neighborhood identification in Detroit.
    I grew up in Highland Park, which was an incredibly self-contained city surrounded by Detroit. We Parkers were intensely proud of our little city. We had our own newspaper, schools and utilities, which we believed were far superior to Detroit's.

    Perversely, we were even proud of our bad points. When we had the highest murder and crime rates in the nation, our mayor said on national TV that all the crimes in Highland Park were caused by Detroiters and suburbanites sneaking over the border...and almost all Parkers agreed with him!


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    I bought a Detroit Bike, added Detroit Cargo bags to it. Think I will however stay out of Detroit. Maybe it is from growing up in the suburbs of the D. I don't ever take 94 north anymore. I really would love to see the D rise again, I don't think I am the one to do it.
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    Senior Member Ekdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ctg492 View Post
    I really would love to see the D rise again...
    So would I! But perhaps as the Post-Motor City, leading the way to a future that is less dependent on fossil fuels.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ekdog View Post
    So would I! But perhaps as the Post-Motor City, leading the way to a future that is less dependent on fossil fuels.
    I don't think it will ever entirely be a post-Motor city. The Big Three are all headquartered in Metro Detroit, and even Toyota has a presence there. In fact, they have consolidated more in Detroit recently, along with nearby Michigan, Ohio and Ontario.

    However, I do hope the day will come when a lot fewer cars are built. Maybe the Motor City will become the Transportation City--building buses, trains, and bicycles along with a few fossil-free cars.


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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ctg492 View Post
    I bought a Detroit Bike, added Detroit Cargo bags to it. Think I will however stay out of Detroit. Maybe it is from growing up in the suburbs of the D. I don't ever take 94 north anymore. I really would love to see the D rise again, I don't think I am the one to do it.
    Have you ever thought about doing one of the group rides in Detroit? They say there's safety in numbers!


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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Have you ever thought about doing one of the group rides in Detroit? They say there's safety in numbers!
    Detroit has the largest weekley ride in the country. Monday Slow Roll somtimes as many as 2000 people. There is also a Thursday ride from Palmer Park, the north side of the city.
    Then Critical mass the last Friday of each month attracts a big crowd also.

    Detroit has become a great biking city, it is just hard to get many people to believe it lol.

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