By Todd Scott
Illustration by dougscottillustration.com
Photos by Vanessa Miller
It’s been said that bicycling in Detroit is not often pretty, but it’s always pretty interesting. There’s always something new to discover.
If you want something a little fast-paced, you’ll want to ride with the Beat the Train group. This ride starts at Historic Fort Wayne on the Detroit River every Saturday and loops throughout the downtown Detroit area.
For those who want to explore, there are many landmarks and neighborhoods worth considering.
Belle Isle: At nearly 1,000 acres (404.7 hectares), this is the largest city park island in the US and a very popular spot for bicyclists since the 1880s. The park was designed by Frederick Olmsted and includes a six-mile bike lane route around its perimeter. Make sure you check out the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the nation’s oldest.
RiverWalk: Extending along the Detroit River, this trail will eventually stretch 5.5 miles (8.9 kilometers) from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle. With the recent expansion of the Milliken State Park, the completed RiverWalk is now over 2.5 miles in length. A trip to the RiverWalk isn’t complete without a ride on the custom-built carousel at the Rivard Plaza. Continuing inland from the river is the 1.2 mile (1.9 kilometer) Dequindre Cut. This trail is surrounded by green space and world class urban graffiti and provides a connection to Eastern Market, America’s largest historic public market district.
Heidelberg Project: This is an “only in Detroit” effort that has turned neighborhood blight into outdoor art that simply defies description. Stretched across a couple city blocks, the Heidelberg Project is best seen by bicycle.
Hamtramck: This small city within Detroit boasts a very diverse population and many great stops for food and drink. Its strong Polish heritage is well-represented with restaurants, bakeries and bars. One must-see attraction is the Hamtramck Disneyland, Dmytro Szylak’s folk art masterpiece built on his two garages and hidden in an alley. Your best bet for directions is to stop by Café 1923 on Holbrook. The Café offers enclosed bike parking and outdoor seating in the back.
Corktown: This is Detroit’s oldest surviving neighborhood and is just west of downtown. It is home to the now-demolished Tiger Stadium as well as the iconic yet abandoned train station. Construction plans have been completed to add 16 miles (25.7 kilometers) of bike lanes and routes to Corktown in 2010. This will solidify its unofficial title as Detroit’s most bike-friendly neighborhood. It also helps that they have great restaurants and bars that cater to cyclists, including Le Petit Zinc, Mudgie’s Deli and Slows BBQ. Just west of Corktown is Mexicantown, home to many great bakeries and restaurants as well. Ste Anne de Detroit is located here, the second oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic parish in the US.
Midtown/Cass Corridor: Like Corktown, this part of Detroit will be getting even more bike-friendly in 2010. The city is adding north-south bike lanes to connect this area to New Center, Wayne State University and Downtown. Construction has also begun on the Midtown Loop, a two-mile biking and walking trail that will connect the many cultural museums, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Center for Creative Studies and MOCAD. Don’t miss the Detroit Historical Museum, home to the Huber & Metzger bike shop – originally opened on Grand River in 1891. Midtown also boasts one of Detroit’s best bakeries, Avalon, which also hosts Saturday bike rides throughout the summer. Similarly, Honest John’s offers fine food and beer, as well as weekly rides.