Region lacking bike commuters

In a previous post, we examined the rates of bike ridership in Detroit and in Michigan as compared to other Great Lakes states and cities. We found that bike commuting is growing in Michigan and Detroit at a fast rate, but that the rates land it somewhere near the middle of peers at this time.  In this post we will explore the rates within the region and city to better understand the local numbers.



The state of Michigan’s average rate of bicycle commuting is 0.59%, but at the county level, most of the regions fall behind this average. It is only Washtenaw County, with two large universities, that has a higher rate of bike commuting. College towns like Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor often have such high rates of bike commuting because of the large student population. The Bicycle League of America recognized Ann Arbor, and its 4.9% rate of bike commuting, as third-highest in the Midwest for a city of its size, as shown on the table below. Ann Arbor ranked just behind Madison, Wisc. (6.2%, home of University of Wisconsin), and Evanston, Ill. (5.3%, home of Northwestern University), and just ahead of Minneapolis (4.5%, University of Minnesota, others), and Bloomington, Ind., (3.9%, home of Indiana University).




While the college towns stand out when looking at the township-and-city level, other areas show high rates of bike commuting, including Dundee and Monroe in Monroe County, City of Wayne and the Grosse Pointes areas in Wayne County, New Baltimore in Macomb County and Port Huron in St. Clair County.

Macomb and Oakland and Livingston counties, primarily suburban in nature, have low rates of bike commuting. Oakland has had a slight uptick in bike commuting along the Woodward Corridor.  Just five communities in Oakland meet or exceed the state average, while 20 others have 0% of commuters using bikes. In Macomb, it was three communities that meet or exceed the state average, and 12 have no bike commuters.


A closer look at Wayne County at the Census tract level shows a varied juxtaposition of biking neighborhoods with non-biking neighborhoods. Much of the City of Detroit and the near Wayne County suburbs follow a pattern of concentrated bike commuting. For example, Highland Park, inset in Detroit, is comprised of six Census tracts. The two tracts east of Woodward average a 1.35% bike commuting rate, while those west of Woodward have no bike commuters in the data. Some areas along Jefferson Ave., near Downtown, in Midtown or in Southwest Detroit also show higher levels. Other communities that  included some areas with high er commuting include  Allen Park, Canton, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Grosse Ile, Hamtramck, Lincoln Park, Livonia, Southgate, Taylor, Wayne (city), and Wyandotte.

Detroit tops growth in bicycle commuting, though overall rate still low

If it seems like there are more bicyclists on the streets these days, it’s because there are. Data from the 2012 American Community Survey, compiled by the League of American Bicyclists in their 2014 annual report, indicates Detroit had the fastest-growing community of bike commuters among 70 of the largest American cities. With a 464.4 percent growth in bicycle commuting since 1990, Detroit tops the list of growth ahead of more well-known cycling locales as Portland, OR which had 430.3 percent growth and San Francisco, which had 292.2 percent growth. It appears through events like Tour de Troit and Bike the Bridge along with policies such as Complete Streets, Detroit is becoming a Midwestern bike Mecca. It only seems plausible this notion can become true with the light traffic, urban roads and flat terrain within Detroit city limits. However, this chart-topping growth has pulled Detroit to merely 44th out of 70 large cities for bike commuting. When further looking into the data, it shows that while Detroit may be the fastest growing in the region and nation, it has challengers on its back wheel.

Detroit has experienced the largest increase in bike commuting since 1990, according to the American Community Survey 5-year estimates (2007-2012). Cycling to work has nearly quintupled in the 12-year span. The average growth in cycling among Great Lakes cities is high, with a mean growth of 251.9 percent. The Highest growth was in  in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Buffalo.

An examination into a subset of those years, 2005-2012, indicates that Detroit has experienced leading growth among Great Lakes peers for the shorter period as well. Although Buffalo is close behind with 269.6 percent growth, Detroit’s recent 272.3 percent expansion in bike commuting indicates a more healthy growth than the region’s 171.2 percent growth in the urban areas, according to the 2012 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

An examination into a subset of those years, 2005-2012, indicates that Detroit has experienced leading growth among Great Lakes peers for the shorter period as well. Although Buffalo is close behind with 269.6 percent growth, Detroit’s recent 272.3 percent expansion in bike commuting indicates a more healthy growth than the region’s 171.2 percent growth in the urban areas, according to the 2012 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

The rest of the state, has not had the same dominant growth pattern. At the state level, while there is still persistent and healthy growth in the number of bike commuters, Michigan falls in line with its peers. Second in growth at 81.7 percent, it falls behind Pennsylvania (84.1) and barely edges Illinois (81.6). The largest rate of growth in the country was in Maryland at 112.8 percent, the average growth was 45.0 percent and just five states saw a decrease in bike commuting since 2005 (Arkansa, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Iowa and Montana).

Despite growth, Michigan lags behind the national average with a 0.51 percent rate of bike commuting, leaving it fifth in the region, ahead of just Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the 2012 American Community Survey. It also places Michigan at 24th of 50 states.

Connection weak between number of internet providers and households with the service

The following post examines residential internet connections in Southeastern Michigan. We show the number of high speed internet connections per 1,000 households, as well as the number of providers across the region. The number of providers is not necessarily correlated with the number of households with high-speed internet. The exception to this is in the City of Detroit, where, the number of households with internet connections and the number of providers are both low in most Census tracts.

The above four maps show the residential internet connections per 1,000 residents in Southeastern Michigan.  Overall, majority of the Census tracts in the region have 200 households or more per 1,000 residences with a high bandwidth connection. As can be seen when examining all four maps, there are only five Census tracts in the region where the number of bandwidth connections per 1,000 residences is 200 or less. Three of the Census tracts are located in Detroit and then one each is located in Macomb and Oakland counties. Oakland County has the largest number of Census where there are greater than 800 connections per 1,000 households. Overall, the number of connections per 1,000 households in the City of Detroit mirrors those in the rural areas of St. Clair County.

The above two maps show the number of residential high speed internet providers in each Census tract in the region. In the rural region of St. Clair County and the inner core of the Wayne-Macomb-Oakland area, there are fewer providers, approximately four or less. There are generally more providers in the outer areas of the region. For example, on the west sides of Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw counties there are 6 or 7 providers. In some of these areas, particularly the far west areas of Livingston and Washtenaw counties, there are less than 400 connections per 1,000 households. Overall, the data shows that there are fewer providers where bandwidth connections are low. This is seen both in the rural areas of Southeastern Michigan and the City of Detroit.

Population continues to grow for those with Mexican ancestry

The first residents of Michigan with Mexican ancestry arrived in the early 20th Century as recruited farm labor in the state’s beet fields, or came to Detroit to work in assembly lines (Herrada, 2007). Beets crashed in the early 1920s leading to a farm-to-factory migration of Mexican-Americans from rural Michigan to Detroit, nearly quadrupling the urban population to 15,000 before the Great Depression (Herrada, 2007). Due to the high rates of unemployment during the Great Depression, the City of Detroit, federal government and Mexican government adopted a policy that stated unemployed workers would have to move back to Mexico to live in newly formed agricultural colonies, on marginal land. The urban population dropped to about 1,200. (Herrada, 2007). These residents remained clustered in Southwest Detroit near Holy Trinity Catholic Church. In the 1940s though, a federal effort was made to bring in labor from Mexico to work on Detroit wartime industries (Alvarado & Alvarado, 2003).

As in many part of the United States, the number of Mexican immigrants grew in the post-War years. A number of service, political, cultural and religious organizations focused on Latino – and predominantly Mexican American — causes and interests began to flourish in Southwest Detroit and Pontiac in the 1960s and 1970s. Beginning in 1970s, Mexican American communities formed in into other neighborhoods in Detroit, including the area around Greenfield and Grand River as well as the North End area, west of Woodward . The population also grew in Redford and Plymouth (Wayne County),Monroe Monroe County, Ypsilanti (Washtenaw County), Capac (St. Clair County); and Hartland (Livingston County) (Alvarado & Alvarado, 2003).

Many of those clusters were still present in 1980. The 1980 Census reported more than 130,000 residents in Southeast Michigan claiming Mexican ancestry. More than 72,000 were in Wayne County, followed by Oakland County with 27,000 residents claiming Mexican ancestry. A look at where residents with Mexican ancestry were located in the 1980s shows clusters that had already formed in Southwest Detroit and near Pontiac with smaller clusters in Erie Township in Monroe County and Capac in St. Clair County.




The following chart shows the growth in residents with Mexican ancestry in the region using Census data and the American Community Survey’s 2012 5-year estimates. It shows consistent growth across counties and over time:

Flashing forward to 2012, the Mexican-American population in the region has nearly tripled since 1980. The Interstate corridors in Livingston and Washtenaw are seeing an influx of residents with Mexican ancestry. Enclaves near Monroe city and Capac have expanded too. In Capac’s case, neighboring Mussey and Berlin townships now exceed the state average. The corridor between Howell and Brighton in Livingston is now 11.6% residents with Mexican ancestry. The outskirts of Ann Arbor have also seen an increase in the proportion of residents with Mexican ancestry.


The enclave that began in Pontiac in Oakland County has expanded outward to adjacent areas, such as Auburn Hills and Waterford. There are now 13 Census tracts with more than 10 percent of the population claiming Mexican ancestry.  Areas along the Interstate 75 corridor in Macomb are also seeing a growth in their population with Mexican ancestry, especially in multi-ethnic Sterling Heights and northward.


The number of residents claiming Mexican ancestry in the Downriver area of Wayne County has grown proportionally as well. Areas such as Melvindale, Lincoln Pak and Allen Park have Mexican-American populations that exceed 10 percent.


Southwest Detroit, often referred to as “Mexicantown” expanded and became more densely Mexican by 2012. Most of the area is comprised of Census blocks with more than 30 percent of the population identifying as having Mexican ancestry. One tract even contains 50.2 percent of residents reporting .

Works Cited

Alvarado, R., & Alvarado, S. (2003). Discovering the Peoples of Michigan: Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Michigan. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press.

Herrada, E. (2007). History of Latinos in Michigan and Detroit. Detroit, MI.