Achille Bianchi

Spring ride to benefit Conner Creek Greenway

DETROIT—As people and organizations across Michigan build and begin to recognize Detroit as the next cycling city, amenities like bike lanes and greenways are becoming increasingly important.

Many cycling infrastructure projects, however, still lack funding. While the vision of a connected cycling and walking utopia exists in the eyes of many residents who live here, the culture still lacks a degree of visibility.

Such is the sentiment of Wheelhouse Detroit co-owner and Tour de Troit organizer, Kelli Kavanaugh.

"A lot of people in Detroit see biking as hip, but it's so much more than that," she says. "Cycling here is a very common form of transportation, it's just not visible."

That's why Kavanaugh has paired up with the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative to host Cycle into Spring - a benefit for the Conner Creek Greenway.

Located on Detroit's east side, the five-mile greenway stretches from Maheras Gentry Park on the Detroit River to Mack Ave., with jaunts and connecting routes in between. There is another four miles of greenway planned, yet currently lacks funding for construction.

Calling it the "Little Sister" of Tour de Troit, Kavanaugh thinks it's an opportunity for people to feel closer with the advocacy and activism components of the ride that may get drown out by larger rides.

Up to 80 participants have already signed up for the 20-mile ride that will take riders from the river to 8 Mile Rd. For $15 to $35, attendees can ride the route and see infamous landmarks along the way, including the Chrysler Assembly Plant, City Airport, and a recently completed greenway halfway through the ride called the Millbank Trail.

The greenway also passes through Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Detroit's largest, and will take riders underneath Conner St., which Kavanaugh says is "really cool." The full-length route is documented on Google Maps.

Kavanaugh sees the Conner Creek Greenway as an integral cycling amenity not just for those who ride for recreation, but for Eastsiders who ride, and have ridden, their bikes everyday for years.

"Many Eastsiders don't know the greenway is there - I think [they] will enjoy learning about the recreation amenities that are right outside their door," she says. "I think it's a part of the city that's underrepresented. It's a different feeling over there."

Kavanaugh says another reason people might be interested in the ride is because of its intimate nature. Calling it the "Little Sister" of Tour de Troit, she thinks it's an opportunity for people to feel closer to the advocacy and activism components of the ride that may get drowned out by larger rides.

"It's about getting people [to use it] on just regular days as a form of exercise, transportation and recreation -- not just big events," she says. "Every bike lane and every bike rack helps. [They're] like a gateway drug to get people cycling more regularly."

Registration for the inaugural Cycle into Spring ends Monday, May 14. If you can't participate in the ride, you can still donate on the Conner Creek Greenway website.

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