Detroit, Michigan is paving the way towards a more sustainable urban space by investing in bicycle infrastructure. Since 2006, the city has created 170 miles of bike lanes, and since 2000, bike commuting rose 400 percent — and that number is still rising. Today, the city famous for its cars has the fastest-growing rate of bike commuters in the United States.
The home of General Motors, Detroit was built by the car. But now it is quite different than its automotive heyday. Between 2000 and 2010, Detroit’s population dropped by 25 percent and much of the city remains abandoned. Still, there is an eye to the future. With less than 1 percent of the population commuting by bicycle, Detroit is still quite behind cities like Cambridge, Massachusetts, where nearly 10 percent of residents commute by bike. But cultural and political change is fueling a new era of biking that shows no sign of slowing down.
Infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, the first of which opened this year, is important. However, it is only part of the city’s transformation. “We talk about the building blocks of a bike-friendly community, and it really takes several pieces—focusing on not just the infrastructure but also on education, the policies and laws to protect cyclists, and planning,” says Amelia Neptune, program manager at the American League of Cyclists. Bikers in Motown have been increasingly participating in acts of solidarity, such as the 4,000 rider strong Slow Roll Detroit.
Slow Roll riders join many other Americans who are biking more frequently. Cities like Berkeley and Davis, California are not the only places where bikers are taking to the streets. “You see rural communities, you see small communities, you see places geographically spread out. It’s diverse across the country,” says Neptune. Although the United States still has a long way to go, the biking movement is certainly energized and on the move.