Experiences In The D | The Blog for Visit Detroit
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Bike It Baby: Wheel Your Way Around Detroit
"I love my commute to work. Yeah, I said it."
Most people would compare their commute to getting a root canal or listening to the sweet sound of a baby screaming. But not me. Some days I drive the 10 miles from Ferndale to Quicken Loans' headquarters on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit; other days I take the bus. But my favorite way to get to work is by bike.
People don’t think of Detroit as a bike-friendly city, but in fact a few of Detroit’s most well-known innovators, the Dodge brothers (Horace and John) and Henry Ford, revolutionized their industry by first dabbling with bicycles. The Dodge duo invented the first ball-bearing bike and later went on to assist Ford in creating automobile engines. Ford’s first automobile, the Quadricycle, was made using four bicycle tires. See what he did there? It’s like a bicycle, but because it has FOUR wheels, he called it a Quadricycle. Oh Henry, you jester you.
That little fun fact is fine and dandy, but you may be wondering why I choose to ride my bike in Detroit. The answer is simple. Biking is the best way to experience the outright beauty of the city and the renaissance that is happening on its streets. Buildings are being renovated, people are bustling around, businesses are open and active, and the city is thriving. On bike, you can see someone’s smiling face, smell the amazing breakfast at the Hudson Café and hear the music being played at Campus Martius Park. You just don’t feel that same energy if you blast by in a car. I readily encourage everyone who comes to Detroit in fairer weather to give pedaling a go. You’ll see a new side of Detroit that you might not have expected.
Dig My Ride
Whether I’m riding to or from work, Dutch Girl Donuts on Woodward Avenue, the best donut shop in the nation, is a required stop. Yes, Portland, you can keep your wacky, cereal-topped Voodoo Doughnuts. I’ll take a straight-up, no frills, piping hot and delicious Dutch Girl over an Oreo-covered monstrosity any day. Open for more than 60 years, Dutch Girl Donuts is ready to meet your donut needs 24 hours a day. With a couple glazed gems in my backpack, I’m ready to pedal just about anywhere.
If you get the chance, you must ride through Detroit’s Midtown area. Midtown is one of those energetic and diverse neighborhoods that has literally erupted with activity. Historic buildings are getting facelifts for residential and commercial purposes left and right. Hip restaurants and bars are aplenty. And you can always spot students and resident creative types from nearby Wayne State and the College for Creative Studies hanging around. I like to pop by Z’s Villa. Housed in a three-story, 100-year-old building, Z’s serves up pizza and burgers in a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere. Z’s back patio is a must in the summer. There’s a full volleyball court and horseshoes for you to enjoy while you sip a beer and eat a burger with a polish sausage stacked on top. Yes, that’s right, an entire polish sausage on top of a burger. It’s the American melting pot in burger form. And for those who think my donut snobbery contradicts my anything-goes hamburger philosophy, all I can say is that I’m a complex person. I like what I like.
Be sure to follow your nose and ride by El Guapo, the city’s first traveling food truck. Wait, who am I kidding? You can’t just ride past El Guapo — make sure you stop and get a taco or three. El Guapo usually splits its time between Midtown and downtown, but check out Twitter (@elguapogrill) for the latest on its exact location.
|Retail and rental bikes|
If you’re biking downtown, make sure you cruise past the recently renovated Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority and travel the paved and always busy and beautiful Detroit RiverWalk, where you can see another country, Canada, just across the Detroit River. Take a jaunt over to the scenic island park of Belle Isle or ride up the Dequindre Cut, the railroad line turned paved pedestrian and bicycle path. It’s part of the 40+ miles of designated bike lanes and paths that currently exist in Detroit. (Visit bikedetroit.com for routes and maps.)
What’s exciting about this whole travel-by-two-wheels idea is that when you start to hit spots by bike, you’ll soon realize that the final destination is only part of the fun. That’s what still happens to me every time I ride. I’ve met friendly people, discovered interesting and transforming spaces and seen a vision of Detroit’s future by working, playing and biking in the city. But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself. Get on your bike and ride.
Amber Hunt is a copywriter for Quicken Loans and a Detroit evangelist. Some of her favorite pastimes are karaoke, hustle dancing and improv comedy, and you can find her doing these things in Detroit on any given night. New bars and restaurants, great food, friendly people, rich culture and a diverse history are just some of the reasons she thinks Detroit should be on everyone’s must-visit list.
For D-centric stops along your bike journey, and interactive map of the city, visit www.visitdetroit.com/features/88-bikeitbaby.