DETROIT — Thousands of cyclists from around the metro Detroit area took to the streets of the Motor City for the 11th annual Tour de Troit Sept. 15.
More than 5,500 cyclists toured the city in a 30-mile course that traveled from southwest Detroit to Belle Isle and back, in a not-so-direct route that took riders through residential neighborhoods and the downtown area before ending where it started at Roosevelt Park.
For some, the excursion into the city was a first-time event in itself.
“It was such a great experience to experience firsthand going down these streets, and being able to do it on a bike, so you can look at things slowly and precisely,” said Rosie Priester, of St. Clair Shores. “It was just amazing — all the beautiful homes throughout Indian Village — I was so shocked. It’s beautiful. Everyone was so friendly. Everyone was on their front porch waving.”
“I’ve only been to Detroit one time before,” said cyclist Adam Wright, a Texas native studying law at the University of Michigan.
For avid cyclists, the event serves as a great way to push forward a hobby to which they’re already dedicated. It costs $40 to register in advance, and $65 to register the morning of, and all the proceeds go to creating bike paths and greenways in Detroit.
With a record turnout, this could be the event’s most successful year.
“It started with 24 riders, and the idea was just to talk about how non-motorized transportation is really simple to do in the city and how it’s really important for a healthy city,” said Vittoria Katanski, co-director of Tour de Troit. “We’ve developed up to 5,500 riders this year, up from 4,400 last year.”
The final numbers aren’t in yet, but even with the massive turnout, event organizers aren’t sure what profits will be like this year, because this year, for the first time ever, the event featured a closed route.
“The roads are closed to cars, so people can ride a little faster,” Katanski said.
Officers from the Detroit Police Department put up barricades along the route and directed traffic throughout the duration of the event, allowing cyclist to rule the road.
“There’s something really special being able to take up a whole road and ride in places you’ve never been before,” said cyclist Ben Clark, of Ann Arbor, who was partaking in the metric course, a 60-mile route reserved for a couple of hundred experienced riders.
Clark is an experienced cyclist, having ridden across Iowa for kicks a couple of summers ago. For him, 60 miles isn’t anything new, but he’s forced to take a break to help a friend fix a tire flattened by a broken piece of glass.
“This is really cool, but there are some roads that are like an obstacle course, trying to dodge things on your bike,” Clark said.
Even for experienced riders Detroit can have some pretty rough terrain, but that’s all the more reason to be riding.
In the decade since it started, the event has raised $120,000 to forward its mission of creating bike paths around Detroit.
“The money we’ve raised has gone towards 17.2 miles of bike lanes throughout southwest Detroit,” said Kelli Kavanaugh, a co-director of Tour de Troit.
“This year funds will go towards the GREEN Path Course — a developing system of bike lanes throughout the east side from the Dequindre Cut to Kercheval to West Village and Indian Village; the Belt Line, which runs from the Uniroyal site north to Mack; and an East Jefferson bike path.”
There isn’t a single source for information on them, but www. southwestdetroit.com has information on lines in that area, and thevillagesofdetroit.com has information on the upcoming east side greenways.
While still in the process of wrapping up the 11th annual Tour de Troit, event coordinators have already begun work on next year’s event — slated for Sept. 21, 2013. Registration will open in January and run through the day of the event.
For both the diehards and the new fans, next September can’t come soon enough.
“This is our second year, and we’ll definitely be back again,” said David Carris, 42, of Warren.
“This is our first time, and we are so excited to be here,” said 54-year-old Molly Mech, of Grosse Ile, who was riding a tandem bike with her husband. “We loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it. We decided we want to try and be in the planning committee next year. We love it that much.”
“It’s just one of those events that people love,” said Kavanaugh. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s unique for an event to fundraise for infrastructure.”
For more information on Tour de Troit, visit www.tour-de-troit.org.
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