Photo by Dave Hogg on Flickr.

Although people may not associate Detroit with biking, there are a few things Washington can learn from the Motor City. I recently got to ride 2 new trails that include features which could work well in our region.

The Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance and the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative recently invited me to Detroit for a bike tour and to talk about biking in the nation’s capital. My tour guide, Todd Scott of Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance, showed me the Detroit Riverwalk and the Dequindre Cut Greenway, a rails to trails project in the heart of Detroit. 

Detroit is still in the beginning phases of building a bike infrastructure, their trails already sport some excellent features.

Separate bicycles and pedestrians

The trail is wide enough for a bike lane in each direction plus a wide pedestrian lane.  For the most part, everyone stayed in their allotted space.  I was on the trail during the middle of a weekday, so I can’t speak for when the trail is busy on a weekend.


Dequindre Cut Greenway. All photos by the author.


Make wayfinding and signage clear

Immediately I noticed the signage along the trail.  Below is the sign at the beginning of the trail that serves as wayfinding and provides the rules of the trail.


Sign at the entrance of the Dequindre Cut.


The trail mile/kilometer markers are spaced every 0.1 mile. In the background there are banners on the lights.  I didn’t get a good photo of them, but they say things like “play,” “bike,” and “fun.”


Mile Markers along Dequindre Cut.


Incorporate public art

Public art gives an area a sense of place.  There are murals all along the Dequindre Cut on the walls and bridge underpasses. Some range from graffiti to elaborate works of art.  This mural was my favorite.

Ensure security and safetyI saw security guards patrolling the trails.  In addition, there are emergency lights about every 200 feet along the trail.  They have security cameras and an emergency button.
I really enjoyed the bike tour of Detroit.  They have aggressive plans to implement new bike infrastructure, including a new bike sharing program. If they can keep expanding the system, bicycling could become a real travel option for a great many Detroit residents.

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Veronica O. Davis, PE, has experience in planning transportation, urban areas, civil infrastructure, and communities.  She co-owns Nspiregreen, LLC, an environmental consulting company in DC.  She is also the co-founder of Black Women Bike DC, which strives to increase the number of Black women and girls biking for fun, health, wellness, and transportation.