by Tom Schuelke, Challenge Detroit fellow
Hello 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.
Population 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.