If you want to be a city of tomorrow, you need to have the building blocks for it. And tomorrow — even today, as Ford and General Motors have acknowledged with their recent investments in mobility — involves many different kinds of transportation options.

Keith Crain’s editorial on June 17, “Say goodbye to the Motor City” was emblematic of old Detroit thinking. Detroit thinking from the world of 1950, not 2018.

Lots of Detroit’s leaders talk about bringing back the city’s glory days. To me, the “we’ve always been the Motor City” trope feels similar.

Here’s a newsflash: To lots of Detroit residents, especially those of African American descent, Detroit’s glory days in the 1950s weren’t such a great time. We white folks don’t like to talk about it, especially in business circles, but it’s a real thing.

Black and brown folks were extremely limited as to how they could participate in Detroit’s community and commerce back then, and when you focus on the glory of Detroit’s past, that was a glory that didn’t include what is now the city’s supermajority population.

It was great in old Detroit if you had money and you were white. If you were a person of color, you could only live in certain parts of town, the jobs available to you were greatly reduced, not to mention the rampant segregation of the era mostly shut you out of Detroit’s success. 

And don’t even get me started on how car-centric development in later years decimated neighborhoods in Detroit and emptied out the city.

Personally, I think I live in a city that wants to look forward while taking the best parts of the past, be inclusive, and celebrate all different kinds of people and preferences.

Why do I bring this up? Keith’s response reeks of privilege. He doesn’t need to think about any other transportation options.

But many of my fellow residents do. About a quarter of households in the city of Detroit do not own a car – putting it in the top 10 for cities with more than 100,000 people. Michigan is also a state that’s seeing a decline in households that own a car. Don’t they deserve safe travel, too? 

A bike is a real thing people use to get to around. I know. I live over by Livernois and Six Mile. I see it every day. I see the bikes on the front of DDOT buses. When I come downtown, I see MoGo bike share bikes being used by all kinds of people as an alternative to hopping in your car for a mile-long trip.

And as to a “powerful lobby” he refers to? The Detroit Greenways Coalition is basically one guy, Todd Scott, supported by a lot of grassroots folks.

It says something about the fragility of the halls of power at the Detroit Athletic Club if one guy and a like-minded movement of passionate urbanists can rattle their cigar lockers and make someone wonder why THE Keith Crain wasn’t included with an embossed invitation.

Crain says there must be some master plan we haven’t seen. But there have been a lot of public presentations and meetings on the topic.

We at Daily Detroit covered some of those meetings. We’ve devoted our small resources multiple times to these events. You chose not to go, not to see it.

I remember that bike lanes were also talked about in the Detroit Future City planning process, I want to say in 2011 or 2012.

The bike lane projects haven’t been perfect in their rollout, but if we’re honest with ourselves, almost no infrastructure project is.

Speaking of  “I am not sure whose idea it was,” If you had been paying attention to this topic — even to the excellent reporters at your own publication — you’d know that another champion for bike lanes has been Detroit Mayor Duggan’s own planning guru Maurice Cox.

Cox brings a global, urban perspective to a city and a leadership community that’s not used to embracing outside ideas, even if they’ve been proven time and time again. He’s been a mayor himself. He’s worked in Italy and around the United States. I could go on an on, but he’s basically a true Detroit renaissance man.

He has seen that the rest of world that’s attractive to young talent has basics like bike lanes. Bike lanes aren’t the answer, but they’re part of the solution along with functional mass transit and, yes, smartly designed roads.

This may be uncomfortable for Crain to think about as a member of the Automotive Hall of Fame, but for many people, the car is no longer the center of the conversation.

Even Bill Ford Jr. picked up on the fact that times changing and bought the old train station in Corktown, among other properties, to position his company for the future of mobility. And mobility means a variety of ways to get around, not just the traditional car. If that’s not enough to convince you, his Fontinalis Partners invests in all kinds of startups that aren’t just about four wheels.

Maybe it’s time you, Keith Crain, and the others that think like you in Detroit’s leadership set, picked up on that fact, too.

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