Henry David Thoreau famously once said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” And if good old Hank were here, I think he would have approved of this past weekend’s bike excursion. My ride cobbled together an usual set of destinations — two iconic buildings and a reclaimed vacant lot — all with the goal of seeing Detroit through new eyes.
“Don’t let them win by continuing to hold onto the anger,” my sister reminded. So in that moment I turned to what I often do when I need to clear my head: exercise. It was getting late, but there was enough daylight left for a decent ride around my old standby Belle Isle.
Everything was fine and familiar until I snapped back into reality up near Palmer Park and noticed that the directions were about to take me onto Woodward Ave. My brain argued back. Now Siri and Google were clearly conspiring to kill me in an auto-on-bicyclist showdown. This was the “beta directions” part they always warn you about… Maybe it was the hubris of conquering mountains that got to me, but I decided to take that challenge and give old Woodward a go. And as cars whizzed by, I started thinking more about what the road is and what it means to Detroit(ers) today and what it will mean for us in the future.
When work involves spending hundreds of hours on the ground in unfamiliar cities, Google Maps quickly becomes your best friend. But do we not lose something when we let the computer decide every time how we get from point A to B? Is the most direct route really the best way to go? When we respond obediently to the automated lady as she tells us to turn left, what are we missing? All of this is another way of saying that I decided to shut off Google Maps when I biked home yesterday and had a cool experience for it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not referring to anything transcendental here. Just ice cream.
Detroit’s Dequindre Cut is another gem here in the city which hides from many right in plain sight. Tucked down below grade, the Cut is our rails-to-trails project. On Saturday morning, I set out on another adventure that’s been on my list since moving to Detroit: a bike-powered urban photo safari. As with seemingly every other day here in the city, exploring by bike brought me in contact with my neighbors in new, unexpected, and serendipitous ways.