Those that read this blog on a regular basis know that I’m an urban bike rider. I’ve never ridden in any of Detroit’s suburbs beyond 8-mile Road. I’ve never been to the 13 area Metroparks or on any of the Michigan Trails or Greenways. It’s not that I have anything against those places; it’s just something I’ve never done. That changed a few weeks ago when I decided to commute via bicycle to work, which is a short 10-1/2 mile ride through northeast Detroit and three suburban communities. So I pulled out a map, plotted my route, and at 7 a.m. one Monday I headed out.
The first 4-1/2 miles or so were through the streets of Detroit to 8-mile Road, where I crossed into the first inner-ring community of Eastpointe. There, I worked my way through the grid-patterned, residential streets that are lined with modest 1950s and 60s brick ranch homes, to Gratiot Avenue, a major six lane road with a grassy boulevard. I crossed over the Avenue, headed up to Hayes Avenue, took a right and rode into the next neighboring community of Roseville. There I followed well-worn paths along non-side walked Groesbeck Highway, a major truck-laden highway packed with small manufacturing facilities. After about a half-mile of bouncing over driveway cut out curbs, muddy ruts and makeshift pavers, I crossed over the highway into the city of Warren to my office building.
Riding in the suburbs three to four times per week, over a number of weeks was quite different from cycling in Detroit. In Detroit the streets are wide, and traffic was noticeably lighter. There are bike lanes in Detroit. I saw none of them on my route through the suburban communities.
In Detroit most of the houses I passed were one of a kind. In the suburbs, most were simple brick ranch or frame homes. However, some of the suburban streets I rode did have a few 1920s Arts & Craft style homes. On one street in particular, there is a gorgeous restored Victorian era house.
In the suburbs I saw the same kids, morning after morning, waiting for school busses at the same intersections. In Detroit, I saw the same city kids, day after day being picked up by taxis or jumping into their parent’s car to be driven to school.
In Detroit, drivers gave me lots of room when passing by and never yelled at me. In the suburbs, the drivers were much more aggressive, many times forcing me to the curb. During my first week of riding, two suburban drivers yelled at me to get out of the street and get on the sidewalk where I belong!
In the suburbs the teenagers I passed gave a wave or completely ignored me. In Detroit, they stared at me with a tough street wise look.
In Detroit’s early morning light, I had raccoons cross in front of me. On the ride home I saw and heard pit bull dogs behind fences. In the suburbs, I saw squirrels darting by with their tails high in the air, and spaniels behind fences.
In the suburbs, most of the streets were quiet (not Groesbeck with its many semi-trucks), and general public transportation buses were not around. In Detroit, the streets were noisy with car stereos blaring, sirens in the distance and buses with diesel-powered engines cruising by leaving black smoke in their wake.
As I soon found out, there is a difference between city and suburban riding. For me, Detroit is a much more interesting place to ride.