Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

Evolution of the Wheel

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

The following editorial ran in the August 5th, 1899 Detroit Free Press.

This year was arguably at or near the peak of Detroit’s golden-era of bicycling. What’s striking is how the benefits of bicycling are practically the same today as they were more than a century earlier. Surprisingly, the health benefits of bicycling are not mentioned.

Evolution of the Wheel

There could be no more fitting time to apostrophize the bicycle. The pavilion dedicated to it last evening at the island is a monument to one of the most marked and widely appreciated innovations of our modern civilization. The evolution of the wheel has been steadily toward the ideal. In beauty, speed and utility, its record is one of unbroken progress. It has made itself a formidable factor in the social problems, in politics, in war and in the ever pressing question of personal economy. It is the foe of monopoly, the handmaid of pleasure, the companion of loneliness and the champion of good roads.

Like many other great successes in this uncertain world, the bicycle was of humble origin. It sprang from the wheelbarrow, and no one blames it. This is the reason that you can fall so far and be so long about it when you are mixed up with one of these machines, no matter what price or what model. The velocipede, which the best authorities testify was a connecting link, was uglier than anything except a three-humped camel trying to escape its keeper. The device will best be recalled as propelled by a small boy with a straw hat over his ears, his busy feet on a level with his chin and his shoulders settled down on his waist line. Then came the ungainly affair with the enormous fly wheel in front, and a pitiful little baby wheel trailing. To drop from it was like falling off a load of hay and it forced upon short, fat men the indignity of mounting from a second story window or a convenient shade tree. Nearly all of those who were thrown from it and survived are miscellaneously maimed.

But it is through such rugged stages that success is reached. The bicycle became a thing of beauty and a joy forever, with pneumatic tires that are blown up as they deserve it, artistic finish, ball bearings, spring seats and an unaccountable disposition to participate in a scorch. At last they have thrown off their chains and have the highest degree of freedom attainable by things inanimate. They neither eat nor drink but are always merry. They toll not, neither do they spin — when a policemen is looking — yet Solomon in all his glory could not have ridden one of them to save his life. They do not shy at firecrackers, a cow in the road, or a locomotive whistle, it does not require two hands to hold them when an interested couple are going home, as it does a horse headed for the oats bin, and they will stand without hitching, wherever the bicycle thief permits. In time, it is predicted, they will have wings, and humanity itself aspires to nothing more desirable.

The pavilion mentioned in the editorial was Bicycle Pavilion on Belle Isle. It still stands but is now called the Athletic Pavilion.

The Good Roads movement led by bicyclists in 1899 is similar to today’s Complete Streets movement.

A “scorch” is riding fast on a city street. Those who did that often were called scorchers.

Wings? Well that prediction came up a bit short.

Woodward Complete Streets planning comes to Detroit & Highland Park

Monday, June 17th, 2013

A Complete Streets planning project along the entire length of Woodward — River to Pontiac — has been setting up visiting parts of M1. For the next three days it will be focusing on Woodward from Jefferson to McNichols.

You can drop in to their pop-up offices at 2990 Grand Boulevard in the New Center from now until Wednesday at 7pm.

There are also a three free special events planned for tomorrow, June 18th:

  • 9am — A walkability audit starting at 2990 Grand Boulevard. If you’ve never been on a Dan Burden walkability audit, you don’t want to miss this. It will give you a newfound common-sense perspective on what works and what doesn’t in the walking environment.
  • 4pm — A second walkability audit starts at the old Ford Admin building on Woodward just north of the Model T Plaza.
  • 6pm — A biking audit start at the Hub of Detroit, 3535 Cass. Bring a bike we’ll tour Woodward discussing how to improve it for all cyclists.

There’s more information on the Transform website.

Woodward Complete Streets meeting on April 17th

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Woodward Complete Streets flyerThe Woodward Complete Streets planning project has been underway for months, but now it’s time to engage with residents and stakeholders.

To accomplish this, a series of five 3-day open houses are being announced along Woodward. The first is April 17th through the 19th with a focus on Woodward from McNichols (6 Mile Road) north through Ferndale.

The meeting location is the St. James Catholic Church at 241 Pearson Street at Woodward in Ferndale.

A special focus group meeting for cyclists is scheduled for April 17th at noon. Yes, lunch will be provided. This is your best bet to giving feedback on how to make Woodward more bicycle friendly.

If you can’t make this meeting, there are drop in hours:

  • April 17th from 9am until 5pm
  • April 18th from 12pm until 8pm
  • April 19th from 9am until 3pm

There’s also a walking audit with Dan Burden. We’ve been on many of his tours that are full of common sense traffic solutions. He strongly recommend you consider attending one of these.

More information is available on this Woodward Complete Streets flyer.

Detroit pursuing improved bike upgrades at Dorais Park

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Riding the Dorais velodrome in Detroit

One of those is the Farwell/Dorais Park. The city will be applying for a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant to match their $125,000 contribution.

As you may know, Dorais is home to an old concrete velodrome built by the Wolverine Cycling Club in 1969. The city was looking into options for restoring it. Dale Hughes came in to offer his advice. Hughes is an international expert on velodrome construction and his father-in-law, Mike Walden built the Dorais track.

His advice was it’s beyond repair. It would be easier to build a new one.

Why?

Water began seeping through some seams early on, which caused the sand base to erode. That erosion led to small cracks. When cars and motorcycles starting riding on the track, the cracks became far more substantial. The cracks are larger enough that one could not simply lay down a thin layer of blacktop.

Besides, the track has an irregular design. It was surveyed prior to grading but vandals removed half of the survey markers. With no time to redo the surveys, the north oval was made using an outstretched garden hose.

Despite the defect, this track still produced hundreds of national champions and even world champions.

But unfortunately the replacement cost far exceeds what the city can provide, not to mention the cost of programming the track. So, the city instead plans on doing some additional patchwork to fill some of the large, tire-sucking seams.

New Trails

The majority of funding would go towards a crushed stone trail around the park, a singletrack climb up Derby Hill, a multi-use, banked downhill, and more.

If you want to provide comments , you can this Wednesday at a public hearing or via writing the Recreation Department. The details are below: (more…)

Detroit bicycling in 1898: No other city compares

Monday, March 4th, 2013

1898 Detroit Official GuideWe recently purchased the Detroit Official Guide from 1898.

The city was growing then and it appears this guide was intended for newcomers. Most of the pages list “reliable merchants”, including sixteen bike shops around the downtown area, nine of them on Woodward Avenue.

Beyond the retailersr, bicycling has a prominent place in the guide. The appendix lists city officials first then bicycling information.

And it speaks very highly of Detroit’s cycling opportunities. Detroit and Brooklyn were America’s best cycling cities in 1898? We’d like to think so, but it could just be visitor’s guide boosterism.

From the Guide:

With perhaps the exception of Brooklyn, noted for its cycle paths, no other city in the country can compare with Detroit in the facilities which it offers for pleasant bicycle runs. The suburban runs are especially fine. Elsewhere mention has been made of the streets and avenues of the city, and they need only be referred to here in passing. Miles of excellent macadam extend in all directions leading to scenes of beauty and interest. The course around Belle Isle is famous but that is only one. In reaching the Island you ride past some of the finest homes in the country beneath a canopy of foliage of trees planted more that a century ago, on a perfect asphalt pavement. To write of the attractions of the various cycle paths would be to write a long story. Suffice it to merely point them out:

Going out Fort St. West, rides may visit Ecorse, 9 miles; Wyandotte, 12 miles, Trenton, 17 miles; Flat Rock, 25 miles.

Michigan Ave. — Dearborn, 10 miles; Inkster, 15 miles; Wayne, 18 miles; Canton, 23 miles; Denton’s, 26 miles; Ypsilanti, 30 miles; Ann Arbor, 38 miles.

Jefferson Ave. — Grosse Pointe, 10 miles; McSweeney’s Club, 24 miles.

Woodward Ave. — Highland Park, 5 miles; Whitewood, 7 miles; Royal Oak, 12 miles; Birmingham, 18 miles; Bloomfield Center, 21 miles; Pontiac, 28 miles; Drayton Plains, 31 miles; Waterford, 33 miles; Clarkston, 35 miles; Orchard Lake, 32 miles. The road out Woodward Avenue is always good.

Grand River Ave. — Greenfield, 8 miles; Farmington, 10 miles.

And the bicycling ordinances? There weren’t many. Remember there were no stop signs, traffic lights, one way streets, or expressways. To the 1898 cyclist, the condition of the road surface was the most important information needed for a productive ride.

Of course the ordinances were important as well — and they were quite simple. We especially like the ordinance permitting businesses to have bicycle racks.

From the Official Guide:

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