Storytelling bike tour to start in Harper Woods

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 8, 2017

 The Pedal to Porch program will offer the public the chance to view Harper Woods from their bicycles with intermittent stops to hear stories about the community’s history from designated storytellers.

The Pedal to Porch program will offer the public the chance to view Harper Woods from their bicycles with intermittent stops to hear stories about the community’s history from designated storytellers.

Photo provided by Ernestine Lyons

HARPER WOODS — The public will soon be able to experience Harper Woods’ history firsthand while viewing the community from a bicycle.

The Harper Woods Pedal to Porch program was founded by resident Ernestine Lyons. Those taking part will gather at a meeting place with their bicycles, volunteers will lead them through the city, and the group will make stops at particular locations where designated “storytellers” will share personal stories about Harper Woods.

The program is based on a similar program in Detroit created by Cornetta Lane, who has helped Lyons bring this new group to life.

“Cornetta Lane hosts this sort of event all over the city of Detroit, and I thought this would be a good thing to expand to Harper Woods,” explained Lyons. “There are positive changes in the community, and I thought it would be good to spotlight that. We’ve been working with her to bring it to Harper Woods.”

The tour will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3, and will begin and end at Harper Woods High School. The tour will visit different areas of the community, where the four storytellers will share their stories and memories of the city.

“We hope to bring to light the city is an increasingly diverse one in terms of socio-economic status, but at the same time is very much a charming Archie Comics-style small town,” remarked Lyons. “We are keeping our city alive and thriving despite some outward appearances, and that sees everyone coming together from all walks of life.”

People can sign up for the free event and find more information at www.pedaltoporch.strikingly.com. Those wishing to participate as storytellers or assist with the tour can contact Lyons directly at ernie1786@gmail.com.

Several members of the community have expressed their gratitude toward Lyons for bringing this project to Harper Woods, and they think it will be beneficial.

“I think it’s a positive thing. It’s a nice idea, and I think it will be a plus for the city,” said Harper Woods Director of Parks and Recreation John Bobek. “People will be able to learn some things they may not know. It should be fun and interesting and very good for the city.”

The storytellers on the inaugural run will include Mayor Kenneth Poynter and his wife, Margrit; Harper Woods Planning Commission member Gowana Mancill; and employees at Nona’s Pizzeria. Lyons also is talking with the St. Sabbas Orthodox Monastery to share some of its stories.

“This is a great experience for people, and this city has such a rich history. I decided to do this because I’m a lifelong resident of Harper Woods. I have a long history here,” said Poynter. “One story I’m considering is how I went to school in a two-room schoolhouse in the 1940s. Another is how Eastland Center came into being after a farmer sold his land so it could be built on it, with the stipulation that he could still live on the land even after the mall was built, and did so in his house at the edge of the parking lot until he died.”

Lyons said she would like to see the program continue, but also would like to experiment with other projects that improve life for Harper Woods residents.

“I would like to serve my community and continue to bring these sort of events to the city,” said Lyons. “My background is in foreign languages and international relations and cultures. I would like to, as my next project, incorporate some of these elements into an experience for the residents of the city. I already give a series of cultural workshops to high school students on the importance of learning foreign languages and travel.” 

Lyons wants to shine a light on what she called a small town in an urban setting. She believes Harper Woods is a unique place with a lot of untold history.

“When I moved to Harper Woods, it was an idyllic town (where) you could raise children free from danger, and it is still a great town with great resources like the library,” she said. “The neighborhood shaped me as a person who likes to look at the world through a broader lens. I want to show how it is still that place, but how it also has evolved over time.”