Wednesday, December 2, 2015

NBC's upbeat look at Detroit bike culture

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 10:12 AM

This new video from NBC News presents a favorable view of Detroit bicycle culture, even if it overstates things a bit. It features interviews with a diverse group of Detroiters engaged with cycling in one way or another, and presents the city in an upbeat light. Even as aerial footage depicts a joyful group ride as it passes by iconic ruins, it doesn't feel like spectacle. (What appears to be a drone shot over the Packard Plant is beautifully executed, making the segment worth that alone.)

If anything, the segment may be a little too taken with Detroit's "transformation." Over the last 10 years, several local businesses catering to bikes opened, and the city laid down some lanes on the streets. The real story is, as Todd Scott says, the traffic our roads were built to accommodate is largely diminished, presenting some good environments for biking. (We said as much 12 years ago, noting "wherever you need to cycle, you can find a route with minimal competition from the automobile.")

Of course, while it's great for people who love cycling, it's a mixed bag for everybody else. Detroit is a city set up for cars, one in which an estimated 1 out of 3 residents can't even afford one. Those people might see bicycles as children's toys, and poor replacements for cars. So, no, Detroit has not completely transformed from Motor City to Cyclist Central. Not by a long shot.

So what's really going on? Cycling is a trend, an interesting response to the post-industrial landscape, and not part of a "sea change" that's totally making over of the city. That said, Detroit's group rides are a celebration of cyclists' growing profile, and most people here welcome them (though there are naysayers).

Anyway, you can tell a piece is pretty fair with our city when we judge it to be a wee bit pollyanna. Have a look.

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