I never thought I would be riding my bike along Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit, stopping at a trendy new hotel (Shinola) and eating a tuna melt outside from a trendy bakery (Avalon) overlooking the old Hudson’s department store (now a construction site) but it all happened today. This is not the Detroit of my childhood and amen to that. We brought our bikes down to the famous Eastern Market, east of downtown, on a quiet Tuesday and glided onto the Dequindre Cut greenway, an urban trail that was once a sunken railroad line. It’s a straight shot two miles to the Detroit River, past urban decay turned urban cool, with murals painted onto worn overpasses and hulking remnants of industrial buildings now looking sculptural Instead of menacing. It reminded me of a more urban version of the Greenway in Minneapolis.
We ended up biking west along the scenic riverwalk past RenCen to joe Louis Arena, then back past Hart Plaza to RenCen where we got off the trail and hit the downtown streets. Although there were maps suggesting a trail, we couldn’t find any bike lanes but the traffic was manageable and we rode from Beaubien over to Woodward, passing though greektown (one of the few places we used to go downtown in the 1970s) to near commerica park where the Tigers play and then to Woodward. As always, you see so much more when biking. For the first time I saw how places connect to each other and where they are in relation to each other.
We ate a sandwich outside overlooking Woodward and marveling at how it has changed. It’s not bustling with people, which may be due to the pandemic, and it being a Tuesday. But it wasn’t desolate either and there were enough people around that we felt comfortable. A light rail train glided soundlessly past us.
Hopping back on the riverwalk we rode east almost to the bridge to Belle Isle. The trail appears to be a work in progress. We passed some beautifully restored hulking red brick buildings along the water and then rode past some battered and deserted industrial buildings, a few that seemed to be inhabited by young artists. There are also some new waterfront apartments. What a fascinating area. Can’t wait to explore it again. And so happy for Detroit and detroiters.