I might just take my next bicycle vacation to Detroit after watching this inspiring video produced by my old college friend Donna Terek, now of the Detroit News. While Madison, with all it’s bicycle paths, bike lanes, and B-cycle bike share system might fit the League of American Bicyclists’ (and most people’s) definition of a Bicycle Friendly Community, Detroit appears to be a genuinely friendly city for people who want to ride bicycles. The difference is more than semantics.
I’m not saying Madison is not a friendly community, it is. And while I am sure lots of people who ride bicycles in Detroit would love to have all a bike share system like Madison B-cycle, and all the bike lanes (Detroit does have 170 miles of bike lanes), paths and other cycling amenities that Madison boasts, Detroit appears to have developed a wonderfully diverse, grass roots, urban bicycle culture that should serve as a DIY model of how to grow bicycling for free, even before you have the bicycle friendly infrastructure.
To become a League of American Bicyclists designated Bicycle Friendly Community, you have to fill out an application and the LAB scores your town based on a wide variety of factors. Here is their quick assessment guide:
Does Your Community Have A Comprehensive, Connected And Well-Maintained Bicycling Network?
Is Bike Parking Readily Available Throughout The Community?
Is There A Complete Streets Ordinance Or Another Policy That Mandates The Accomodation Of Cyclists On All Road Projects?
Is There A Community-Wide Safe Routes To School Program That Includes Bicycling Education?
Are There Bicycling Education Courses Available For Adults In The Community?
Does Your Community Educate Motorists And Cyclists On Their Rights And Responsibilities As Road Users?
Is There A Specific Plan Or Program To Reduce Cyclist/Motor Vehicle Crashes?
Does Your Community Have A Current Comprehensive Bicycle Plan?
Is There A Bicycle Advisory Committee That Meets Regularly?
Does Your Community Have A Bicycle Program Manager?
Do Law Enforcement Officers Receive Training On The Rights And Responsibilities Of All Road Users?
Does Your Community Have Law Enforcement Or Other Public Safety Officers On Bikes?
Do Local Ordinances Promote Safety And Accessibility For Bicyclists?
Does Your Community Have An Up-To-Date Bicycle Map?
Does The Community Celebrate Bicycling During National Bike Month With Community Rides, Bike To Work Day Or Media Outreach?
Does The Community Host Any Major Community Cycling Events Or Rides?
Is There An Active Bicycle Advocacy Group In The Community?
Those are all traditional goals that we at the Wisconsin Bike Fed advocate for in communities across our state. What we at the Bike Fed have not done a good job at is helping to grow grass roots bicycle culture through welcoming fun rides. Milwaukee has some similar rides in the Monthly Group Ride and Underwear Ride organized by Steve Roche of MKEBKE, but there is something about the Slow Roll Rides in Detroit that look even more inclusive. Perhaps because the start and end a little earlier, the Detroit rides get a wider range of ages, where as Milwaukee’s urban rides start later and draw mostly young people. Stevens Point has some similar rides organized through the Poky Pedaling blog.
As I said, I feel that we at the Wisconsin Bike Fed could do a lot more to help this sort of bicycle culture grow. I am going to discuss the Detroit model with our Executive Director and the rest of the Bike Fed staff and see what we can do to start some similar fun, open rides in communities across that attract a diverse group of people who just like to ride their bicycles. Stay tuned
Way to go Detroit! I’ll let you know when I can get a chance to come over for a visit to sample your Motown bicycle flavor.