Detroit, the “motor city” is on hard times. Population has dropped to less than half of what is was in it’s hey-day of the early 1950’s, from 2 million to 900,000.
If you are a cyclist, here is a picture of what a week day looks like crossing Woodward Avenue.
Nice wide streets, devoid of cars. Isn’t this what every cyclist dreams about?
A fellow from Detroit wrote about this very place the other day in the New York Times. Here is a snippet:
“ONE night a little over a year ago, crossing Woodward Avenue, I crashed my bicycle. As I flew head over heels across Detroit’s main boulevard, I thought, well, in any other town, I’d be hitting a car right about now. But this being the Motor City, the street was deserted, completely motor-free.
While bike enthusiasts in most urban areas continue to have to fight for their place on the streets, Detroit has the potential to become a new bicycle utopia. It’s a town just waiting to be taken. With well less than half its peak population, and free of anything resembling a hill, the city and its miles and miles of streets lie open and empty, beckoning. And lately, whether it’s because of the economy or the price of gas or just because it’s a nice thing to do, there are a lot more bikers out riding.”
This isn’t a small area because it is sprawled out. Here is what a map of Detroit looks like compared to other, older cities. Three older cities would fit into one Detroit.
But not just cyclists have their eye on Detroit.
“Hopes and plans to repopulate the city and to redevelop all the city’s vacant land, are unrealistic, at least for another generation. Some redevelopment deals will succeed, but realistic Detroiters should seize the opportunity to become a leaner, greener city for the 21st Century.
“What if a lot of the vacant land was allowed to begin to become green?” Pitera said. “Could Detroit truly become the greenest city in the United States?”
This abundance of vacant land has people talking about new uses, such as urban farming, reforesting the city, and large-scale recreational areas. Urban farming is getting the most buzz. Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is among the groups touting urban farms as a solution for Detroit’s vacant land.”
Doesn’t this all sound wonderful? Especially to a particular reader of this blog?
I see a major problem, though. Those streets don’t stay pot-hole-free by themselves. It takes a lot of money to keep them up and I remember a time in Florida when the tax base couldn’t keep our streets and roads in good repair. Montana has some of the highest taxes in the country because it is so lightly populated, yet their roads serve just about everyone. (Frost heave has a lot to do with the cost of keeping their roads up.)
Companies will not move into an area that they think will tax them too much and without businesses, there are no jobs and without jobs, taxes can’t be paid.