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I Should Not Need a Car To Get To Detroit's New Skatepark, at Riverside Park

Insights from a skateboarder's perspective after my first year in Detroit

Photo of Justin Bennett
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Michigan Central Station

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One of my first cultural introductions to Detroit came via watching The Crow (1994), based on the work of James O'Barr. While one of the characters, Sarah, carries a skateboard throughout the movie, the presentation of Devil's Night, sheds light on some of Detroit's landscape. I have skateboarded, off and on, since 1985, primarily as transportation. My hometown, San Francisco, CA had been part of the Highway Revolts, and maintains its public transit infrastructure. For reference, the effective range on a skateboard is about 1.7 miles and about 30 minutes. Anything beyond, and I personally would start to look to public transit; effective range ~25 miles and no more than 1.25 hours.


Where Detroit's Hustle Works:

Though my first year I'd been housed at Michigan Veterans Foundation, Grand River proved itself as a viable alternative transit route to access downtown. If one looks at the road condition on this stretch, there's a dedicated bike lane, adequate lighting, and most important to skating, decent road conditions (rocks not withstanding).


Detroit's implementation of curbside bike lanes along Cass seemed odd at first, but in utilizing them, I feel this approach much safer than placing the bike lanes adjacent to vehicular traffic. Also noteworthy, Woodward's wide sidewalks, from Hart Plaza to LCA, if not Martin Luther King/Mack Avenue, allows for easy mixing, and encouragement of, pedestrian, e-scooter, bicycle, and skateboard utilization.


Over the past two summers, Detroit has provided engaging attractions. Specific to skateboarding, in having Tony Hawk maintain property in Woodbridge, I have enjoyed two of the Tony Hawk Foundation skateparks:

1) Wayfinding skatepark (no longer available, though Modern Skateshop maintains the ramps in storage)

2) Skatepark at Detroit's Riverside Park


Where Detroit Needs to Hustle Harder

I presently work at Detroit School for Digital Technology, instructing CompTIA IT certification courses; adjacent to a current Ford Resource and Engagement Center, and within the Ford's Michigan Central Station impacted area. Additionally, I chose to live in Detroit, not Detroit Metro, and rent an apartment adjacent to the Boston-Edison neighborhood.


From downtown Detroit I have transited through the impacted area on skateboard.

Ste. Anne du Detroit, route taken: W Lafayette Blvd. Neither the sidewalk, nor the street were enjoyable to skate on, rough enough that I walked most the way. Neighborhood surrounding Ste. Anne, in being asphalt were great. There's a small park in the area as well. Return route taken: Bagley St. Overpasses railroad tracks, great view of Michigan Central Station. However, Bagley's junction with Michigan Ave and M-10 isn't great.

Michigan Avenue this road is an absolute nightmare. Attempted skating once, and ended up aborting the attempt - returning to Downtown. Brick is perhaps the worst surface for skateboarding, only beat by gravel (ahem, Riverside Park Parking area) and I recall the sidewalks being pretty gnarly too. Recommendations for improvement: replace Michigan Avenue's brick with asphalt, don't just pave over, actually remove the brick. I'm aware of Detroit's previous transit rail lines, occasionally poking though previous road improvements. Points of interest to me along this route: MGM Grand Detroit, Roosevelt Park, The Luckenbooth, and occasionally, all the way to Dearborn for Starbucks.


From my place of employment, DSDT, I have visibly noted that Bagley Bridge has become a local unofficial skateboarding spot. This leads to my closing observation, and the title of this article. In between this location, and Riverside Park's skatepark, stands the Ambassador Bridge, and depending on the route taken, crossing I-75 twice. While transiting via St Anne street keeps one primarily in the Richard-Hubbard residential neighborhood, with asphalt streets and minimal automobile traffic exchange; transiting from St. Anne to 24th street via Fort Street or W Jefferson, provides no crosswalk opportunities. Thus far, I have driven between work and Riverside Park, though from this distance involved, this should be skateable, and allowing me to leave the car at work.



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3 comments

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Photo of Alina J Johnson

The Cass Avenue implementation of bike lines, in my opinion, is compleyely asinine and bonkers. To implement the same transportation solutions on roads that are clearly as UNalike as can be (Fort Street, Michigan Avenue...and CASS) shows an utter lack of understanding and care about residents. I even wonder about Michigan Avenue because I cannot tell you how many times I have visibly seen - while walking or driving - someone almost slammed into those cars parked in the middle of the street when lanes are not even being used to the right. That being said, you bring up great points! I'm looking to partner with anyone ready to take these ideas to the next level, get them on paper, and submitted for implementation. Hope to hear from you soon - RFP opened August 28th!

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Justin Bennett Hi Justin, thank you for your detailed post! There is a lot of great information here! I am a Michigan Central Station Challenge facilitator. There have been some similar posts that outline the difficulties with crossing Michigan avenue, getting from one side of I-75 to the other, and difficulty getting to parks and rec areas. Your post adds a lot of great additional insight, especially around skateboarding.

Here are some of the additional posts from community members who have similar concerns. Perhaps you can reach out and collaborate!

https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/detroit/explore/non-car-transit Andrew Fons 

https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/detroit/explore/human-frogger Brian Nash 

https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/detroit/explore/getting-to-parks-and-trails-without-a-car Adrian Laurenzi 

Photo of Boratha Tan

Thanks for sharing Justin Bennett ! To be honest with you, I have not thought about skateboarding as a means of mobility. Thanks for sharing your experience here. I think all of us agree that the roads need to be maintained better (not just Michigan Ave!). I know you mentioned that there are wider sidewalks between Hart Plaza and LCA... Any other ideas you might have, which might benefit people who would use multiple ways of transportation?