US 12 East Michigan Ave.

Headed out on the bike this morning – wasn’t expecting an “all-terrain” ride and was glad to have my mountain tires.

This section of US12 runs through the centre of Ypsilanti and this stretch of industrial hinterland (see photos). US12 is the old cross-state hwy which starts in New Buffalo on the west side of the state and ends in downtown Detroit at Hart Plaza. A distinct “auto” theme is still very present on US12 with hundreds of autopart shops, dealerships, the world head quarters and massive Ford plant in Wayne.  The history, impact and decline of the automotive industry in metro-Detroit can be seen here – the factories, the dealerships, the residential areas, entertainment (drive-in movie theatres), and food (24-hour service, drive-thru, drive-up window service).

It didn’t come as a surprise to me that there are no bike lanes on this part of US12.  Lack of bike lanes is one thing but there are no consistent sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists. The solution: people make their own.  I was thinking of referring to these impromptu sidewalk extensions as desire ruts – the lesser know form of desire paths or desire lines.  Desire ruts are not only “undesignated” short-cuts but legitimate lanes of traffic for the ones forgotten by auto-centric road planners.  An “each to his own” and a “fend for yourself” mentality is rampant in this area.  Many businesses will only pave the section of sidewalk that belongs to their property after that you’re usually left with shrubbery and grass – this is where the ruts begin.

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