Can bicycles help revitalize Detroit?

by Tom Schuelke, Challenge Detroit fellow

Challenge Detroit ModeShift3Hello Beaumont Readers and Happy New Year! I hope that you had a refreshing holiday season and have a jumpstart on your New Year’s Resolution (for my take on Detroit’s New Year’s Resolution click here). As we strive to hit temperatures above zero outside it may seem like a strange time to talk about bicycling in Detroit. However, that is the challenge that the Challenge Detroit fellows took on and finished up in mid-December.

Why Bicycles Are Important to Detroit

Growth of the bicycling community in the city can help play a significant role in the revitalization of Detroit because bicycling can contribute solutions to some of the city’s greatest challenges. For example, I mentioned in my last post that Detroit has some troubling statistics surrounding the health of its population. Bicycling can help make our residents healthier. Studies have shown that riding a bicycle just 3 hours/week reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%. Additionally, adolescents who bicycle are 48% less likely to be overweight as adults. (Stats courtesy of People For Bikes.) Beaumont has also taken a leading role in bicycle advocacy in the metro Detroit area for these reasons. Check out their Oakland County bike map here.

Challenge Detroit ModeShift4Population decline is another well-known problem of the city. Since the height of its prosperity in 1950 when the population was over 1.8 million people, Detroit has consistently been shedding its population to where it now has only 700,000 people. In fact, the new mayor Mike Duggan has already stated that his entire tenure should be graded on if the population rises once again. Bicycling can again help here. 47% of Americans say that they want more bike paths, lanes and trails in their community. Continued growth in Detroit’s bicycling infrastructure could help the city stabilize its population; maybe even help to grow it.

Challenge Detroit ModeShift1Finally, bicycling can help Detroit with perhaps its biggest challenge right now— its economy. Bicycling is an $81 billion a year industry. Wisconsin, with a climate similar to our own, has seen a boost to their annual economy of over half a billion dollars due to investments they’ve made in their bicycling infrastructure. Surely fostering a community such as this in the city of Detroit could reap large benefits.

Challenge Detroit’s Contribution

Challenge Detroit ModeShift2Working with Mode Shift, a bicycle advocacy group in Detroit, Challenge Detroit took on a 6-week project that involved researching city policy, creating a bike safety campaign, exploring the feasibility of innovative bike parking options, and piloting a new bike map for the city of Detroit. For more details of what we accomplished, please see the post I co-authored in the official Challenge Detroit blog. You can also read about the challenge in this post written by Mode Shift.

Next up for the fellows is working with the Coalition on Temporary Shelter as we take on homelessness in the city. Stay tuned as I will keep the updates about Detroit coming! In the meantime, if you have any comments or topic requests I would love to hear them! Until next time, stay warm Detroit!

Tom is Beaumont’s Challenge Detroit fellow for the class of 2013 – 2014. For more information about the program, please see the Challenge Detroit website. Follow him on twitter @Tom_Schuelke and read his Challenge Detroit blog here.

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2 thoughts on “Can bicycles help revitalize Detroit?

  1. Adam VanBuren says:

    Check out “Slow Roll Monday Nights” on facebook, its a group of over 2000 people who hold a bike ride of 500-700 people in Detroit every monday night. Starts up in the spring and goes until semtember.

    -Adam VanBuren

  2. Al says:

    As an avid cyclsist (and an auto driver) I can say from personal experience that an important element that seems to be missing in a lot of plans to improve and expand cycling is education. This applies to both bicyclists that don’t know the rule of the road as it applies to them, and to motorists that don’t know how to share the road with cyclists.

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