I rode my bike into town for this first time today after visiting The Hub last week and picking myself up a sparkly maroon two-wheel-ed friend. On the way into town, I cruised through the Comerica Park complex and air-high-fived our snarly concrete mascot. (That might well become a superstitious in fact if the Tigers do well tonight).
On the way back, though, I took a different route - Mack east to Mt Elliot, Mt Elliot south to Kercheval, and then Parker south to my front door.
This route takes me through the neighborhoods of Detroit and right past the Heidelberg Project.
It was a lovely ride and it brought up this idea that I’ve been having for awhile now:
I’m either blind or naive or completely and utterly brainwashed.
I’ve been in Detroit a couple weeks now, and I keep on waiting to meander over some magical line across which this city will descend into complete chaos, into a total war zone.
And yet, that just doesn’t seem to ever happen.
Now, I haven’t been out walking or biking after dark outside, and no, I have not been into every corner of Detroit yet.
I have driven through a lot of it, though, and bike and walked a fair bit during the day. I’ve been through neighborhoods where only one or two houses on the block seem occupied. I’ve been to the Packard Plant, and I’ve definitely been the only white person on the street a couple times.
And yet, the most dangerous aspect of my ride home today was the crumbling infrastructure and auto-centered planning.
Pot holes, missing curb cuts, overgrown sidewalks, eight lanes of unchecked highway and sharp looking debri all threatened me and my bike’s safe passage.
The people, though, were consistently either friendly, or ... totally uninterested in my existence.
This is what I meet everywhere I go in the city.
The buildings are scary and falling down and dangerous looking, and the people? The people smile, or they ignore me (we don’t know each other and they are presumably, like me, just moving through their day).
Maybe there is some deep dark scary corner of Detroit that really is unsafe at any time of day, and I just haven’t found it. This city is, after all, measurably more violent than any other place I’ve lived, and that violence has to be happening somewhere.
The fact still remains, though, that many parts of Detroit are completely safe - the same parts that probably would have scared the shit of me a couple months ago.
Blind or naive or brainwashed.