Detroit bicycle use – 8 years ago

Despite what others have said or written, there is no accurate bicycle use data for the city of Detroit.

So, we rely on anecdotal evidence. Everyone we’ve spoken with have been impressed with the increased bicycle use during the past couple years.

Jason Hall wrote about it this excellent overview, The State of Biking in Detroit.

You see, bikes are becoming more and more a part of everyday life in the Motor City. On that very same 5 a.m. ride to work, I’ll pass five cyclists and maybe one car. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I ride all the time that I notice bicyclists more often, but the fact of the matter is that the bicycle community has grown.

Jason Hall and I were on the FlashPOINT program with Devin Scillian. (The bicycling segment begins at 16 minutes.) Scillian noted the increasing number of bicyclists at the Detroit fireworks.

And we just came across this document from 2004, Detroit’s Downtown Transportation Master Plan. Yes, it calls for improved biking and walking facilities, but what we found more intriguing is its assessment of bicycling in downtown Detroit circa 2004.

Bicycling is currently one of the least used of all transportation modes in the downtown area. According to SEMCOG, less than 1 percent of home-based trips into and out of downtown are made by bicycle. While recreational bicycling is relatively common along the riverfront areas, little utilitarian bicycle use has been observed within downtown, as a lack of roadway facilities and end-of-trip amenities (such as bicycle parking or shower/change facilities) is prevalent throughout most of the area. In addition, inclement weather during significant portions of the year diminishes the ability for individuals to consistently use of bicycles for non-recreational transportation.

We disagree with their take on weather, but not on their observation of few people using for bicycles for transportation back then.

That’s not s a statement one could make today.

The Downtown Plan also adds this:

Between the years of 1997 and 1999, approximately 15 bicycle-automobile crashes occurred downtown, with no fatalities. Because of the low volume of bicycle activity occurring downtown, the number of crashes occurring indicates a need to further consideration of bicycle safety and the improved integration of bicycles into the transportation fabric of downtown.

Seeing the number of bicycle crashes, we looked at the most recent three years of data. From 2009 to 2011, there were just 7 crashes and no fatalities. In fact, most of the crashes didn’t involve injury.

This is a significant drop from the late 90s. It may indicate that the increase in cyclists has helped changed drivers expectations.

There is safety in numbers, and Detroit’s cycling numbers have definitely grown.

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2 Responses to “Detroit bicycle use – 8 years ago”

  1. Derek Hollaway Says:

    As another biker that rides through the city, I would like to say that there are many areas that are going to need more lanes in the future. I’ve seen the plans for east riverfront, but there is still going to be a need for those lanes in the rest of Detroit, especially along the main roads: Woodward, Gratiot, Jefferson, and most importantly Grand River. There may have been some that I forgot, but every day I ride my bike to get around Detroit, there are more people like me who do the same thing.

    It helps to know that DDOT and SMART has accommodated us to make things easier. Now, if only they can work together to provide excellent regional mass transit…I would look forward to the day when that happens as well.

  2. Todd Scott Says:

    Thanks for mentioning that. I’ve heard many comments similar to yours. There is work being done on E. Jefferson now, which is road owned by the city of Detroit. The other roads you mentioned are owned state and MDOT has not been as progressive in adding bike lanes. They are getting closer to having a Complete Streets policy, which should help, but we’ll need to push them more in the near future.

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