I used to live in the area but moved to Florida in 2000. I road my bike to work once. It was 6 miles of crappy roads and crazy drivers. There was nothing like bike tours or Slow Ride Detroit which they have now. I have a fondness for Detroit but don't care to go back.
when did I become vintage?
Cycling in Detroit? When I was in Detroit, we kept the doors locked and drove as fast as we could straight to the manufacturing facility we were visiting. I don't think I could ever cycle in Detroit.
Ride no faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!
People tell me the same about New York City, Newark or even Philadelphia. Nothing ever happens!
Back to Detroit. Since the city went bankrupt, they slashed public transit to the bone! If I lived there, I'd probably have to bike commute every day.
I interviewed for a job in Midtown Detroit a few years back (which was kind of exciting, as I'm a Michigan native). When I go on these interviews, I always kind of look around and think about where I might live and how I might get around without a car.
Detroit's downsides seemed to be gnarly potholes, certain areas that should probably be avoided, and a lack of decent groceries in the city. As a bike-accessible town, it had a lot going for it: a grid system, a path along the river, non-terrible traffic in the city, and a mild climate (more East Coast cold than Midwest cold). There were people commuting on bikes, even when I visited in December.
For better or worse, I didn't get that job. Still, I think it would have been do-able car free, and the wild mix of gentrification and abandoned buildings is a very cool aesthetic and would have made for interesting commuting.
"There are no fast bikes - only fast people." - Some smart person
It's less dangerous than Chicago, depending on neighborhood. The industrial pollution in the southwest corner and downriver may be acceptable if you can drive away from it.
I grew up in Detroit and biked all over--back in the 1970s when crime rates were much higher than they are now. There was a lot more traffic then also. The potholes are no worse than other cities in Michigan (which, granted, are pretty bad.)
The dangers of Detroit are HIGHLY exaggerated! I think about moving back there when I retire in a few years.
"Think Outside the Cage"
I think there are a handful of things that make the difference between whether a rough neighborhood will be safe for you or dangerous. Number one is why are you there. In my case, I'm wearing an orange vest and driving a utility truck. I've got a reason to be there and I'm not suspicious or intruding on anyone's turf. Some others would be your age and gender. Young males can view other young males as competition. When you're pushing 50 like me, you're no longer a competitor. Another is vulnerability. Predators prey on the weak. You don't have to appear to be Brock Lesnar, but you shouldn't look like an easy mark either. Don't go into certain neighborhoods after dark. Even in the ghetto there are good and bad areas. Early in the morning however, even before sunrise, is often the best time to be there. That's when I used to disconnect people. Lastly, there are certain things that should make you think, hey, it's time to clear out of here. If people are getting rowdy out in the street, just move along.
Finally, one danger people often completely overlook...dogs. There are tons of loose, chained up and poorly contained pitbulls in just about any ghetto, (black, white or Hispanic), and you are much more likely to encounter one of them snarling at you or biting at your tires than a gangsta packing an Uzi.
There are you some "you can't get there from here" areas, where pedestrian access is blocked by a mess of highways and vast industrial yards.
I think I would rather bike through down town Kabul.
"Think Outside the Cage"