Posts Tagged ‘East Side Riders’

Building community in Detroit with bicycles

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

The Free Press special report Living with murder: Complete coverage contains some positive coverage of Detroit residents building community. One story highlights bicycling’s role in the community fabric.

The brothers have lived for 40 years in a run-down house on the corner of Bessemore and Georgia. They’re members of The East Side Riders, a custom-bicycle club that gathers for casual rides. They hold workshops for neighborhood kids to show them simple things such as how to change a flat tire, to more difficult tasks such as customizing — or tricking out — their bikes. What started as fun has become a crime-fighting tool.

When the bodies of women were being found scattered on the east side inside abandoned houses and lots in the summer of 2009, the brothers rode around, handing out flyers and warning women not to walk alone. On Angels’ Night, the eve before Halloween, they’ve patrolled the neighborhood. They even ride along with children as they walk to and from school.

“We just want to keep it safe where we live,” said David Jarrell, 47.

This article also shows the great value places like the Hub of Detroit bring to the community. It’s great that we can find millions to build walking and biking facilities, but it’s challenging to find those same kinds of dollars for this bicycling support network. Both need to be supported if we’re to be successful in getting more Detroiters choosing bicycles.

Sharrows on Gratiot and Fort Street

Recently the East Side Riders asked for bike lanes on Gratiot, a route they often ride to get Downtown and to the RiverWalk. That request was passed along to MDOT. Years ago MDOT had discussed adding bike lanes to Gratiot but that would have removed the on-street parking – a non-starter for the city.

Now MDOT is looking to simply add sharrows, shared lane markings that remind motorists to share the road while providing guidance to cyclists on where to position themselves on the road. MDOT hopes to have them installed next year from Conner Avenue/Conner Creek Greenway to the Dequindre Cut. These may be a forerunner to some eventual bike lanes.

We recently spoke with Tim Springer from Springer Consulting in Minneapolis. He visited Detroit to share his experience with their Midtown Greenway and look at opportunities in Detroit.

One of his thoughts was to add separated two-way cyclepaths to our major spoke roads such as Gratiot and Grand River. Yes, it would take away some vehicle travel lanes, but those roads have extra capacity. While surveys find many Detroit residents would feel comfortable riding in bike lanes on major roads, other cities are finding that many more would feel comfortable on physically-separated bike lanes. And as Springer noted, the spoke roads are often the fastest routes to get across the city so we should prioritize investing in them for better bicycling.

As for sharrows, MDOT is also looking to add them on Fort Street in Southwest Detroit, a route used by the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route.


Mobbing on Angels’ Night

Friday, November 18th, 2011

This video from the Detroit Je t’aime shows many of the city’s bike clubs riding together as Angels’ Night volunteers.

It’s interesting to hear Mike Neeley of the Eastside Riders talk about how biking uniquely brings together riders from all parts of the city.

Mobbing on Angels’ Night from Detroit je t’aime on Vimeo.

Detroit’s East Side Riders

Monday, September 27th, 2010

If you haven’t already picked up a copy of the recent Metro Times, do so immediately.

This issue includes a great, great story on a Detroit neighborhood cycling group called the East Side Riders. This group has become much more than just some guys biking around. They’re building community in a challenged neighborhood.

Here’s an excerpt:

In early summer, with the body count rising, [Georgia Johnson] called the local TV stations and newspapers and scheduled a press conference. To show that other residents in this sparsely populated part of town were behind her, she asked the guys she’d seen riding those outlandish bikes to appear in front of the cameras with her, to demonstrate community strength. They were the biggest group she’d see gathered in the area.

“They didn’t really have nobody to come out,” Mike says. “So they said, ‘Bring the bikes up there and we want y’all to represent the neighborhood.'” And the cameras saw the surreal sight of an elderly couple, a handful of concerned residents and a large crew of large men rolling up on these strange bicycles.

Before the East Side Riders showed up, it was left to such as 79-year-old William Johnson, Georgia’s husband, to slowly walk the long distances between houses and hand out fliers, one at a time.

Instead, the bike club took a stack of them, spread themselves out and covered the streets in a fraction of the time, leaving a copy at each house. Suddenly, CARA had a fast-moving, mobile unit at its disposal. “They were a godsend,” Georgia says. She was so thankful, she made everyone in the East Side Riders members of her group. Once again, the bikers were drawn into community service.

Now there was no doubt — the club had transformed into something bigger than before. And it became a point of pride among its members.

This is much welcomed news. While it’s great that hundreds show up for Detroit’s Critical Mass ride and thousands more are at Tour de Troit, but both groups are mostly white and often suburban. The Detroit cycling scene could definitely benefit from more diversity and more neighborhood clubs like the East Side Riders and Southwest Detroit’s Latino bike clubs.

And at this year’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference, Romona Williams from the Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity mentioned that bike lanes aren’t always welcomed in predominantly black St. Louis neighborhoods. Bicycling is too often seen as an early step towards white gentrification.

We have not yet heard of such a response in Detroit. Having a highly diverse bicycling culture might keep us from ever hearing it.

The article’s author was also on WDET’s Craig Fahle show last week. The podcast is on-line. The East Side Riders discussion begins at 1:36.