When I moved to Detroit earlier this year with nothing more than a few suitcases of clothes and an assortment of mismatched furniture, kitchen supplies, and favorite books, there was much uncertainty; at the time I was working a part-time job (getting barely enough hours to make rent), looking for full-time work, and volunteering with a different organization every week to network. Perhaps the one thing that was very clear, however, was that I would certainly be without a car.
I’ve already shared my views about Detroit’s bus system; while I’ve recently-dare I say, upgraded?-to my lovely, five-speed road bike with red handlebars, starting off car-free in Detroit would have been extremely difficult without Detroit’s Department of Transportation. Maybe it’s because the memories of waiting for 20 plus minutes in minus 10 degree weather has long faded but I do think the buses fill a definite need in the city. That said, there is also a need for more buses on some of the heavier utilized routes, like the Woodward (and one piece of advice if you were ever to ride buses here: Detroiters refer to buses by street name rather than number…it took me a long time to pick up on this, as I am much better with numbers and constantly referred to my bus of choice as the “53″ rather than the “Woodward”). Like a fellow rider once joked: “You got a can opener?” as we boarded a packed bus one afternoon, riders are indeed crammed like sardines at rush hour; it’s during those crammed 4:00pm rides down Woodward, as the bus driver darts in and out of traffic, is the need for a light rail down this main drag most evident.
But those days are now behind me. I’m happy to report that I’ve been bus-free for well over two weeks now and couldn’t be happier. Sure, I have my criticisms about sub-par road conditions and unaware drivers, but in general I’ve enjoyed beginning to explore Detroit by bike. I also can’t help but think that there is so much potential for Detroit to become a biker-friendly city. As a colleague recently pointed out, if there’s one upside to the loss of population here, it’s the amount of under-utilized roads that can serve as unintentional bike lanes.
Now that I’ve acquired a bike and a job, it’s time for the next challenge: figuring out a way to lure Zipcar into the city.