Seven years ago our only major biking and trails proponent was packing up his desk at the Detroit Mayor’s office and heading back to a job in the private sector. Our city support was looking bleak.
What a change we’ve seen since then!
We now have supporters throughout most city departments and in the Mayor’s office. Though Detroit has many challenges and priorities, our work is seen as an important quality of life issue from the neighborhoods to downtown.
This summer we’ve gained another supporter with the new Planning and Development Director Maurice Cox. We heard this support firsthand at a recent event on the Detroit RiverWalk.
With help from the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative and Bedrock Management, Detroit Greenways Coalition held its inaugural Bike Trails and Cocktails event on September 17. It began with a guided eight-mile bike tour of nearby greenway projects with assistance from Detroit’s Eastside Riders bike club. This tour included recently completed portions of the Detroit RiverWalk, the Dequindre Cut Extension, the planned Beltline Greenway and Elmwood Connector.
At the ride’s conclusion, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy provided more updates on its work and answered questions.
Next up was Cox who made a statement by riding to the event. This was not atypical for him though. He bikes to work, to Eastern Market, and all around town. Biking has been his primary means of transportation long before he got to the Motor City and he sees no need to change.
Living in Lafayette Park, he uses the nearby Dequindre Cut often. He told the attendees that every Detroit neighborhood deserves a great greenway like this — something that’s very much in line with the Detroit Greenways Coalition vision and Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative goals.
One major project that will bring a greenway to many Detroit neighborhoods (as well as Hamtramck, Highland Park and Dearborn) is the 26-mile Inner Circle Greenway. Cox spoke highly of the project and the opportunity to look beyond just the trail. He added that the greenway can be catalyst for development similar to the Atlanta Beltline.
He also stressed the value in having the Coalition in Detroit to help show community support. He told the crowd that he would join the Coalition before the event was over. He also noted that he was heading to Copenhagen the next day as part of a study tour that looks at progressive European transportation and public space designs that are people-focused.
Beyond greenways, another Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative goal is to pass a Complete Streets ordinance in Detroit. Cox’s voice will certainly help as the ordinance is introduced to the city council this fall.
Todd Scott is co-chair of the Detroit Food & Fitness Active Living Committee and executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition.