Mode Shift Asks City Cyclists What Detroit Needs to be bike-friendlier

DETROIT—The League of American Bicyclists advised Detroit to assign more dedicated municipal staff to biking and add more bike lanes. Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coordinator, says the City needs to adopt a Complete Streets Policy, a Uniform Vehicle Code, and establish a connection with Canada.

So what do Detroit cyclists think?

Mode Shift reached out to cyclists across the city to ask those who pedal Detroit’s pavement how the city can be a friendlier place for two-wheeled travelers.

Jason Fiedler has been cycling in Detroit since 2007. In his view, what Detroit needs to be bike-friendly is education.

“Bicycles and cars can share the road,” says Fiedler. “However, people need to view each other as humans. If a driver views me as 'in their way' instead of a human being that can be killed if they hit me, there will be no safety on the road.”

Gary Glenn has cycled in the city for 20 years.

“Drivers need to understand that the sidewalk is not safer for me,” says Glenn. “Drivers need to understand that honking a horn is not necessary, I can usually hear them coming, that they can change lanes and give me space to ride, and even if they need to slow down to change lanes, they have only lost a few seconds from their life.”

Joel Howrani Heeres, who has cycled in the city for a decade, agrees but adds that the need for education goes both ways.

“Many people think that bikes don't belong in the road and many bikers think you are supposed to ride against traffic, says Howrani Heeres.

Bikers were unanimous on one thing: Detroit roads need major improvement.

“The condition of the roads is a problem,” says Tony Taylor, founder of Born Riderz, a local cycling group.

“Bikes are generally on the side, and that is where the road conditions and trash are the worst,“ says Megan Norris, who rides in the city for recreation.

Debris and trash in roadways and bike lanes is a common complaint.

“Sweeping streets more frequently would help,” says Howrani Heeres.

The lack of adequate streetlights is another issue.

“It is worse when you can't see those potholes you are about to hit,” says Fiedler.

Cyclists are more divided on the topic of bike racks. Some see them as an essential; others prefer to make do.

“Bike racks are nice but I can usually find a street sign or fence to lock to,” says Fiedler.

Others want a more formal arrangement.

“Bike racks at venues are needed,” says Steve Roach, who has cycled in the city since 2000. “I do not like to lock my bike to a light pole or to a fence.”

Public safety is more of an issue for some than others.

“Increased public safety, including better responsiveness to ‘minor’ criminal activity, will result in a significant improvement to the comfort cyclists feel,” says Roach.

But John Waterman, a cyclist in the city for 20 years, has had little problem.

“I have never been harassed except by motorists racing downtown,” he says.

Some see bike lanes as a necessary amenity, others see them as a waste of money.

“You can spend money on bike lanes, but that doesn't stop drunk suburbanites driving in them on Trumbull by Motor City Casino every time I'm over there,” says Fiedler. “That infrastructure hasn't made me safer as far as I'm concerned.”

Taylor disagrees.

“What I think Detroit needs to be more bike friendly are more bike lanes and laws that keep motorists a certain (number of) feet away from cyclist,” he says.

Prasad Nannapaneni, Traffic Engineer with the City of Detroit, says the city plans over 400 miles of bike lanes.

“Providing more bike lanes along with appropriate ambiance will help promote bike-friendliness,” he says.

Fiedler point out that as Detroit grows, what makes the city bike-friendly today may not be the same as tomorrow.

“As more people move to Detroit and our streets begin to fill up again, infrastructure will become more important,” says Fiedler. “While it is easy for me to say ‘education’ right now while the roads are still mostly empty, that will change in the years to come.”

Do you think Detroit has what it takes to be 'bike-friendly'? Have your say at our event this Thursday.

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