Open Streets Detroit Is Paving the Way for a More Bike-Friendly Motor City

open streets detroit
Ali Lapetina for Downtown Detroit Partnership

Detroit is credited with paving the way for modern-day streets: the first patch of concrete highway went down in 1909 on Woodward between 6 and 7 Mile. Since then, MDOT brags, they’ve paved enough roads in Michigan to build a one-lane road from the Earth to the moon.

Not that we’re totally ungrateful for smooth, shiny asphalt (or even know what that feels like, to be honest), but we’ll wait for Elon to sort out space travel before we take a Michigan-built highway to outer space, thanks.

It’s clear that our dear city planners got a little carried away with the pavement revolution: the surface parking lots only utilized by Tigers fans’ on Opening Day, the highways cutting straight through otherwise quiet and lovely neighborhoods… I mean, we’re no revolutionary urban planners here at Thrillist, but even we could think of some better use cases for these streets as our desire for other forms of transportation only grows, albeit slowly.

Sure, running bleary-eyed at 8am across five lanes of Michigan Avenue traffic, dodging exposed train rails and potholes to get a morning cup of coffee at Astro is a decent enough workout. But we have a Citizen Yoga now.

So when Open Streets -- a global movement to shut down local roads from use by basic-ass cars, at least for a day -- became a thing in Detroit for the first time ever this past Sunday, we were pretty amped to hit these motorist-free streets. Not only did we get to enjoy glorious 70-degree fall weather, but between the hours of noon and 5pm, Michigan Avenue and Vernor Highway became promenades for the people, by the people. Almost four miles of MDOT’s finest asphalt were available for "people to experience streets in a new way, whether by walking, running, biking, rollerblading or skateboarding."

We were also promised "health and wellness activities" along the four-mile route, but we mostly observed a missed opportunity for a four-mile continuous stretch of biergartens and outdoor dining. Still, for five sweet, sweet hours, you could ride your bike down Michigan Ave without the very real fear of being hit by a car. We’re fairly certain that makes Open Streets a major success, and we’re down to do it again. We out here in these streets, Detroit.

Now, if only there was something we could do about those potholes…

If you missed out on the first Open Streets, you can still participate in Part Two on October 2nd. We recommend you grab a bike and a to-go cup. Find all the details here.

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Ashley Tyson thinks Motor City Wine should be setting up for a sidewalk sale on October 2nd, amirite? You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter but these days she’s more interested in Snapchatting herself making bacon @AsherTSnaps.