Bike ride commemorates Martin Luther King’s historic Detroit march

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published January 6, 2017

 Each year, more than 250 riders bundle up and take to the streets of Detroit to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.

Each year, more than 250 riders bundle up and take to the streets of Detroit to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo by Kelli Kavanaugh

DETROIT — Tour de Troit, the largest organizer of group bike rides in Detroit, is inviting the public to grab their bikes and dress in layers for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bike Ride.

This is the fifth year the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bike Ride has taken place in Detroit. It follows the path of King’s 1963 Walk for Freedom through Detroit during his fight for civil rights.

“Tour de Troit is a nonprofit organization, and we host Michigan’s largest one-day bike ride,” explained Kelli Kavanaugh, the Tour de Troit organizer. “We do several rides through Detroit throughout the year, and we try to bring money to and raise awareness for Detroit’s nonmotorized infrastructure while promoting local businesses.” 

The ride will kick off at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16, at the McGregor Conference Center on the campus of Wayne State University.

“It’s great for people to do something meaningful on this day,” said Kavanaugh. “Families should come out on their day off and think about why they have the day off.”

More than 250 people join the ride each year. The route will be 10 miles long and will loop through the heart of downtown Detroit.

“We start at Wayne State University, who is partnering with us to organize the ride, at the McGregor Conference Center,” said Kavanaugh. “We ride down to Cobo Hall, which is where King made his speech after the historic walk in 1963. We usually follow King’s path during the Walk for Freedom through the city, but we had to change that this year because of the M-1 Rail construction. Hopefully we’ll be able to change the route back next year.”

The tour is designed to show off many of the sites around the city that have significance to the civil rights movement. However, several of those sites were not reachable on the route due to the construction downtown.

“In addition to Cobo Hall and Wayne State University, we go down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as well as Rosa Parks Boulevard, named in honor of the civil rights leaders, and travel through Milliken State Park, which was named after Gov. William Milliken, who took part in King’s Walk for Freedom. Unfortunately, there are several historical sites — such as some churches downtown — we had to cut out of the tour because we had to change the route this year.”

Helmets are mandatory for the ride, and those taking part are advised to dress warmly. Warm refreshments will be offered at the start and end of the ride, and Tour de Troit also has assistance along the route for those who require help due to health problems or mechanical issues.

“It’s a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., and it’s a gathering of people who will follow the route King took for his march,” said Henry Ford II, who has taken part in the ride the previous four years it has been hosted. He has no relation to the Ford Motor Co. family. “It’s so great to see the city this way.”

Those who join in on the ride say it shows both the history of Detroit as well as its present and future. The only catch is that riders have to be prepared for potentially cold conditions.

“It’s fun getting a group together every year to do this,” said Ford. “There’s low traffic because most people have the day off, and there’s always police escorting us to make sure it’s all safe. It’s going to be cold, so dress warm and make sure your bike is prepared. As long as you’re ready and you know what you’re getting into, it’s a really great day.”

Kavanaugh said it’s a nice way to honor King.

“I find this to be a very meaningful, as well as fun, event,” said Kavanaugh. “A lot of people don’t think about riding this time of year because of the cold, but just layer up and you can have a great time.”