In a testament to the continued rise of bicycling in America's automotive heartland, its biggest group ride has broken records yet again. 4300 bicyclists paraded down Motown's streets last Saturday in the tenth annual Tour de Troit - not bad for an event that began in 2002 with a bike trailer serving as the sag vehicle.
Thankfully, the snowballing of the Tour hasn't detracted from its friendly, advocacy-oriented character. The Tour is somewhat unique among similar group rides around the nation in that the money it raises ($40,000 last year) goes directly to building bikeways. This year's participants got to see the results of previous years' rides in the freshly painted bike lanes and route signs of the Southwest Detroit Greenlink.
At present, the Tour's riders are mostly - though not entirely - suburban. There's some poetic justice to the fact that they're pitching in to subsidize bicycle infrastructure in the City of Detroit. For decades, money and concrete for highways flowed in the opposite direction. Transportation tax dollars went mostly to build a network of freeways stretching far out into the suburbs. Southwest Detroit got sliced and diced by not one, not two but three Interstates: I-75, I-96 and I-94 on its northern edge.
It's nice to think that Tour de Troit riders are helping, in a small way, to redress this inequity, bringing active transportation infrastructure to the Motor City on their dime - all while having a great time, too.