Cycling in Detroit

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Bike to Work event on Woodward Avenue

Detroit is a popular city for cycling. It is flat with an extensive road network with a number of recreational and competitive opportunities and is, according to cycling advocate David Byrne, one of the top eight biking cities in the world. The city has invested in greenways and bike lanes[1] and other bicycle-friendly infrastructure. Bike rental is available from the riverfront and tours of the city's architecture can be booked.[2][3][4]

The city has a strong cycling heritage, and first embraced cycling during the "golden age" of the 1890s.[5]


Dequindre Cut, looking south

On-road Infrastructure[edit]

Detroit is an excellent city for cycling with flat terrain and an extensive but often virtually traffic free road network; according to David Byrne it is one of the top eight biking cities in the world.[6] The city has invested in greenways and bike lanes[1] and has a number of plans to further develop the cycling infrastructure.

The city of Detroit installed its first bike lanes along portions of Atwater Street as part of the Renaissance Center redesign of 2002/2003. The Atwater plans were never fully realized.

As of early 2012, there are over 43 miles of bike lanes in Detroit, including 6 miles on Belle Isle Park and about 20 miles throughout Southwest Detroit; there are also in-park shared-use paths at Rouge Park, Palmer Park, Patton Park and throughout the city parks in the Lafayette-Elmwood neighborhoods. The Dequindre Cut, a major greenway designed for cycling, links to the Detroit International Riverfront which also allows cycling along the waterfront. Portions of the Conner Creek Greenway on Detroit's east side are also completed.[7]

Though still in the early planning stages, United States Bicycle Routes 25, 30, and 36 provide connection through Detroit.[8]

The 'Detroit Non-Motorized Master Plan' calls for 400 miles of bike lanes primarily through road diets.[9] The plan's implementation was started in summer 2009 with initial projects completed in 2010.

The Detroit Health and Wellness Promotion Department (DHWP) is leading the effort to educate the community and elected officials on the value of Complete streets. Groups are working to bring a Complete Streets ordinance before the Detroit City Council by summer 2012.[10]

The Adventure Cycling Association together with Michigan Trails, Greenways Alliance and the Michigan Historic Trails Commission has developed a new 400-mile spur through Detroit to the existing 2,100-mile 'Underground Railroad Bicycle Route' which follows historic Underground Railroad sites from Mobile, Alabama to Owen Sound, Ontario in Canada. The tour map from Oberlin, Ohio to Marine City, Michigan via Detroit is completed.[11] A shorter route just within Detroit has been developed and a brochure is planned.[1]

Trails and greenways[edit]

Main article: Trails in Detroit

The 'Detroit Greenway Network' is currently under development and would create a city wide network of greenways encompassing more than 70 miles of greenways and use additional miles of bike lanes (based on the City's non-motorized plan) for on-road connections. This Network would also provide connections to other neighboring and regional efforts.

Bikes and transit[edit]

All Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) line haul buses are equipped with bike racks capable of holding two bicycles.

Bike racks are installed on most Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) buses.[12]

The Detroit People Mover allows bikes to be brought on board and stations are equipped with bicycle racks.

The Windsor Transit Tunnel Bus does not carry bicycles unless they are disassembled and within a bike bag. Even then, the driver may not allow bicycles on board if the bus is full. According to Transit Windsor, "Due to licensing regulations, bike racks cannot be deployed during Tunnel Bus services, including transportation to Comerica Park or Ford Field."[13]

There is no current means for bicycling between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada across the Detroit River. The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel does not allow bicycles, nor does the Transit Windsor tunnel bus. The Ambassador Bridge was open to bicycles and pedestrians from its opening in 1929 but was closed in 2001.[14] Efforts are being made to gain bicycle access across the planned Detroit River International Crossing and through proposed water taxis.

Recreational and competitive facilities[edit]

The Michigan Mountain Biking Association and Student Conservation Association are developing a hiking/mountain bike trail in Rouge Park on Detroit's west side. As of 2009, 1.5 miles are completed and signed with additional miles planned.[citation needed]

The North Corktown neighborhood created a pump track in October 2009.[15]

The Dorais Velodrome Detroit is in a state of disrepair but was cleared of weeds in 2010.[16] The annual Thunderdrome event is held at Dorais Velodrome and includes races from track bicycles to motor bikes.


Shops and rental[edit]

There are a number of bike shops, notably Wheelhouse Detroit on the riverfront, Hub of Detroit, a Bicycle shop and co-op in Midtown and Bike Tech on Detroit's eastside. Wheelhouse Detroit also offers bike rental and tours of the city. Motor City Bike & Brew Tours offers historical bike tours. Hostel Detroit and Fender Bender also rent bicycles.

Detroit does not have a public bicycle sharing system at this time, however Wayne State University is leading an effort to bring a public bike sharing to Detroit. Bike Share Detroit has also proposed starting a program. There is Zagster bike sharing within the downtown area, however it is for employees of Quicken Loans and their affiliated companies.

Events and tours[edit]

2008 Tour de Troit
  • Beat the Train - 6 am Saturdays April through October at Fort Wayne.[17]
  • 'Bike the Bridge' - Cycle rides across the Ambassador Bridge.[18]
  • Bike to Work Day - This annual Detroit Greenways Coalition event is part of the national Bike-to-Work Day effort.[19]
  • Criterium Detroit City - The inaugural race was July 9, 2010.[20]
  • Critical Mass - the last Friday of each month.[21] An estimated 375 people took part in June 2010.[22]
  • Detroit Agricultural Network Tour - Guided bike tours that highlight Detroit's urban agriculture.[23]
  • Fender Bender - A monthly LGBT bicycle education and training evening.[24]
  • The 'Mad Anthony Cyclocross race' is held in the fall at Historic Fort Wayne.[25]
  • Ride of Silence A slow-paced bicycle ride on the third Wednesday each May to honor cyclists killed or injured while cycling on public roadways.[26]
  • Slow Roll - This is a large slow ride that occurs every Monday and can attract over a thousand cyclists.[27]
  • Tour de Ford - A bicycle ride fundraiser for the Henry Ford Health System
  • Tour de Troit - One of the largest bicycle tours in Michigan with over 7,000 cyclists participating in 2012.[28]
  • Wolverine 200 - An annual endurance event held each spring on Belle Isle. This event has not been held since 2008.[29]

Proposed developments[edit]

The following three greenway projects would link the Detroit International Riverfront through Corktown and Mexican Town to connect to the River Rouge and from there up-river to the River Rouge Park and The Henry Ford.

  • Corktown-Mexicantown Greenlink[30]
  • Southwest Detroit Riverfront Greenway[31]
  • Rouge Gateway Greenway[32]

Other proposals include:

  • Conner Creek Greenway (and Milbank), a nine-mile pathway along Conner and St. Jean from Eight Mile Road to the Maheras Gentry Park on the Detroit River.[33]
  • Detroit Rivewalk[33]
  • Fort Street Greenway.[33]
  • Hamtramck Greenway, a 1.5-mile link to connect Downtown Hamtramck with the Dequindre Cut.[33]
  • Lyndon Avenue Greenway, a 1.5-mile section of Lyndon Avenue.[33]
  • Midtown Loop Greenway, a 2-mile greenway trail following Kirby Street, John R Street, Canfield Street, and Cass Avenue.[33]
  • Southwest Detroit/Dearborn Greenway, paved pathways through Patton Park and around Lapeer park with an on-road signed bike route to connect the two.[33]

Organizations and Clubs[edit]


Velocipedes preceded highwheeler and safety bicycles on Detroit's streets. Ben Fletcher rode the first velocipede in Detroit on December 18, 1868.[45] Velocipedes were "in common use" by 1875.[46]

The Detroit Bicycle Club was formed in 1879 when "only a few persons in Detroit rode."[47] By 1890, the club merged with the Meteor Bicycle Club and the Star Bicycle Club to become the Detroit Wheelmen. The Unique Cycling Club (1894 to 1911) was the women's equivalent to the Wheelmen and often shared their clubhouse.

In 1891, the League of American Wheelmen held their annual meeting on Detroit's Belle Isle.

In 1896, the Detroit Wheelmen boasted 450 members and built a $40,000 clubhouse near Grand Circus Park.[48] Famous Detroit Wheelmen include John F. Dodge, Horace E. Dodge, William E. Metzger, Truman H. Newberry, Horatio Earle, Tom Cooper (driver) and Edward N. Hines.

Also in 1896, Henry Ford bicycled behind as Charles Brady King drove the first gasoline automobile in Detroit. Ford drove his first car, called the Quadricycle, just 3 months later. His vehicle was built using various bicycle components, including four bicycle wheels.

Detroit's bicycle shop owners, manufacturers, racers, and enthusiasts became the city's automobile pioneers.[5]

Wolverine Sports Club[edit]

The Wolverine Sports Club (WSC) originated in 1937 as a touring and racing club.[49] The club’s headquarters became Mike Walden’s Continental Bike Shop in Detroit, and followed the shop's moves ending up in Hazel Park. In 1949, a board of directors was established to guide the club philosophically. Other sports that were a part of the club at this time were: hockey, boxing, track and field, speedskating, and cross country skiing. In 1950 WSC merged with the Berkley Speedskating Club and grew considerably in size. In 1972, cross-country skiing was added as a major sport and the club assumed its current form and became known as the Wolverine Sports Club. WSC was voted the United States Cycling Federation Club of the Year in 1991. Up to that time 28% of all National medal winners came from WSC. In 1997 the WSC became a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "REI Grants $20,000 for Bike Route". Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  2. ^ "Dequindre Cut extension opens Thursday". 
  3. ^ Todd Scott (May–June 2010). "Detroit". Momentum magazine. 
  4. ^ "Street racing Detroit: Alleycats explore a rideable city". Although it may be synonymous with the automobile, Detroit is home to a thriving underground bike culture 
  5. ^ a b "How the bicycle put Detroit on wheels". Detroit News. 
  6. ^ "Go Green: David Byrne's Favorite Biking Cities". National Geographic Adventure. September 2009. I found myself riding through vast vacant lots, covered over with grasses and some filled with rubble. Once in a while there was evidence of some habitation, but mostly it was a postapocalyptic landscape at its finest. One of the best and most memorable bike rides I’ve ever taken. 
  7. ^ "Conner Creek Greenway". 
  8. ^ "U.S. Bike Route System". Adventure Cycling Association. 
  9. ^ "Detroit Non-Motorized Master Plan". Giffels-Webster Engineering. 
  10. ^ "DHWP Complete Streets project". 
  11. ^ "Adventure Cycling Underground Railroad Bicycle Route". 
  12. ^ Bikes and Public Transit
  13. ^ Tunnel Bus To Downtown Detroit, City of Windsor
  14. ^ "Ambassador Bridge". 
  15. ^ Corktown Pump Track on Facebook
  16. ^ "Detroit Velodrome Mow". 
  17. ^ "Beat the Train". 
  18. ^ "Detroit Bikes! - Two Wheeled Tours of the "Motor City" 2010". 
  19. ^ "Detroit Bike to Work Day". 
  20. ^ "Criterium Detroit City". 
  21. ^ "Detroit Critical Mass is on Facebook". 
  22. ^ "Detroit: The Return of the Repressed (Bicycling Culture)". SF-StreetBlog. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  23. ^ "Detroit Agriculture Network Tour of Urban Gardens and Farms". 
  24. ^ "Fender Bender". 
  25. ^ "Mad Anthony cyclocross race". 
  26. ^ "Tours". Wheelhouse Detroit. 
  27. ^ "Detroit Slow Rollr". 
  28. ^ "4,500 bicyclists take tour through Detroit". Detroit News. 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  29. ^ "Recent News". 
  30. ^ "Greenways Ways – Parks and Greenspace". Greater Corktown Development Corporation. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  31. ^ "Southwest Detroit Riverfront Greenway". The Greenway Collaborative Inc. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  32. ^ "Rouge River Gateway Project and Oxbow Restoration". Archived from the original on 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  33. ^ a b c d e f g "Detroit Trails". Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. 
  34. ^ "Detroit Greenways Coalition". 
  35. ^ "Downriver Highriders on Facebook". 
  36. ^ "Eastside Riders Bike Club on Facebook". 
  37. ^ "Fender Bender Detroit". 
  38. ^ "G.M.O.B. on Facebook". 
  39. ^ "m-bike". 
  40. ^ "League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB)". 
  41. ^ "Metro 313 Cyclones". 
  42. ^ "Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance". 
  43. ^ "Wayne State Cycling Club". 
  44. ^ a b "Wolverine Sports Club". 
  45. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  46. ^ Silas Farmer. History of Detroit and Michigan. Silas Farmer & Company, 1884, p 352.
  47. ^ Landmarks of Detroit By Robert Budd Ross, George Byron Catlin, Clarence Monroe Burton
  48. ^ The Detroit Wheelmen Clubhouse on Adams, Detroit Wheelmen clubhouse
  49. ^ Oakland County Planning. Bike Route, 1975, page 28.

External links[edit]