Southwest Detroit is one of the most active, vibrant communities in Detroit. It has at least three solid commercial strips with tons of activity on all of them. Bagley Street is packed full of Mexican restaurants and shops. Cycling Bagley reminds me of a small town main street where businesses are centralized, and turn of the century homes can be found just outside the business district. Michigan Avenue, that wide road leading from downtown to the suburbs and beyond, features a number of Mercados (markets) and small restaurants catering to the heavily populated Hispanic neighborhoods found in that section of the city. Bicycling on Michigan is a breeze because of its wide lanes and relatively light traffic. But, like many major roads in Detroit, watching for potholes and other road hazards is a given.
Another major street in that part of Detroit is West Vernor Highway. It’s not really a highway in the true sense of the word, but a narrow, slow-moving major commercial street that cuts right through that section of the city. It is probably the most active commercial street in Detroit, and it features restaurants, Mercados, bars, clothing stores and several other small businesses and coffee shops.
The numerous times I’ve ridden it, it has been jammed bumper-to-bumper with SUVs, dazzlingly colored, “low rider” vintage cars, pick-up trucks of all makes, and smoke spewing beaters. Add pedestrians crossing Vernor to the heavy vehicle traffic, and it can create a somewhat challenging bike ride. Also adding to the challenge of riding this street is its narrowness and cars parked along the curb. People swinging open their doors may not be expecting someone on a bicycle to come rolling by.
Having to concentrate on the various biking challenges of Vernor and the many congested streets in that area of Detroit, I’ve overlooked some great wall art found along those streets. Once I began to notice them, they seemed to be everywhere. I started to see wall paintings on sides of restaurants and markets, on buildings facing parking lots and numerous other locations in the area. Some are two stories tall!
Hispanic influence is evident in many of the beautiful wall art paintings. Several use bright colors as well as muted, soothing pastel tones. Some feature scenes of the southwest, historical themes and other beautifully crafted images reminiscent of their heritage. Cycling throughout the area, I’ve also spotted lots of colorful, highly detailed religious icons painted on buildings.
Looking beyond the busy streets while bicycling through this lively area of Detroit is a visible feast for the eyes. The wall art of Southwest Detroit is incredible.