Detroit Bike To Work Day Encourages Biking As Healthy Alternative To Cars

DETROIT—As part of National Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 17, several organizations are working together to encourage workers to bike downtown for Detroit Bike to Work Day.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, along with partners Miller Canfield, American Cycle & Fitness, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and Mode Shift, is hosting a breakfast reception from 7 - 9 a.m. in the courtyard near its office building at 600 E. Lafayette, Detroit. The reception will include breakfast, drinks and giveaways.

“We really want to make it a great event and show them that bike commuting is a viable, fun and healthy alternative to get to work,” said Sven Gustafson, spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and a member of its Active Blue organization that promotes fitness and health in its employees.

The event will include coordinated bike routes from four main pick-up spots throughout the region, including:

  • Royal Oak, following Woodward Avenue
  • Dearborn, using Michigan Avenue
  • St. Clair Shores, following Lakeshore Drive/East Jefferson
  • Northville, following Hines Drive to Michigan Avenue

Each route will have a group leader who will guide riders along bike routes chosen for safety and efficiency with times and specific locations to be determined at a later date. Return bike routes from downtown back to the suburbs will also be coordinated.

“We want to take them on a route they’ll feel comfortable riding by themselves, so they’ll be able do it more often,” said Todd Scott, the Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

While this is the first year of the Blue Cross Blue Shield reception, Detroit has participated in the Bike to Work event since 2006. Scott has helped organize the ride in the past and said the event has usually been low-key with between 70-100 participants. This year, he said, they’re better organized and plan to offer more food and giveaways and hopefully draw more than 100 participants.

Cycling to work is nothing new to southeast Michigan, where several area businesses have been selected as “Bike Friendly Businesses” by the League of American Bicyclists, including The Hub of Detroit, REI Troy, OmniCorpDetroit, Wheelhouse Detroit and Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

Michael Faraday is a nurse at Beaumont and a member of its “Green Team,” an employee organization that focuses on making the hospital more environmentally-friendly, including promoting bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation.

Faraday estimated between 60-80 employees bike to work regularly during warmer months and said Beaumont has encouraged cycling with its employees by adding “sharrows,” street markings that indicate roads should be shared with bicyclists, and installing and adding labeled, secure bike racks. He said the hospital also offers a free bike group where members have access to hospital showers.

Most recently, Beaumont is sponsoring the publication of an Oakland County map highlighting safe bike routes to its most popular destinations. The map was created by Faraday and other area cyclists, approved by the county and will be officially revealed on Bike to Work Day before being distributed for free across the county.

Beaumont is also having its own Bike to Work day event at the hospital for employees, including giveaways and breakfast.

Though it doesn’t technically have any “bike friendly” businesses on the list, Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan are designated as being a bike-friendly “Community” and a bike-friendly “University” by the League of American Bicyclists.

Eli Cooper, the transportation program manager for the city of Ann Arbor, said the city’s close-knit relationship with the university and its compact downtown have created both an environment and a culture that have supported bicycling for decades.

“There’s a strong reliance on bicycling as a means of transportation, particularly with the city and university being interwoven,” he said.

The city itself, he said, has incorporated non-motorized transportation as part of its master plan and regularly reviews and updates its policies to keep up with trends in alternative transportation. Currently, he said, the city includes a network of bike lanes or shared road signs throughout its downtown and campus that has increased over the past decade, as well as an increasing number of bike racks. He said the downtown also includes regular stop signs and stop lights to prevent vehicular traffic from going too fast, making bicycling safer.

Cooper said Ann Arbor has also recently secured a federal grant to develop a shared bicycling system where participants can access community bikes that can be picked up and dropped off at various points throughout the city.

While Ann Arbor has a strong bicycling culture, Detroit is not far behind. The city has installed more than 70 miles of dedicated bike lanes and developed biking events such as Tour de Troit and bike manufacturers such as Shinola and Detroit Bikes. Gustafson said he hopes Detroit Bike to Work will continue to boost biking culture but also the city as a whole.

“For Blue Cross, I think it really fits our mission of not only supporting good health and physical activity but also highlighting Detroit and showing support for the city we call home,” he said.

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