Bicycle group aims to ‘Close the Gap’ between city and suburbs

Nic Childers and Andrew Schwartzenberger are planning a one-day, 35-mile bike ride on August 4 from Ferndale to Detroit and back again to show people the city’s overlooked nooks and crannies.

Called Close the Gap, the ride begins and ends at Rosie O’ Grady’s in Ferndale. It includes the Dorais Park Velodrome, Hamtramck’s “Disneyland,” La Gloria Bakery, Z’s Villa and more. If you look at the path mapped out on their website, you can see they cut around the more popular destinations in Midtown or Downtown.

“By bringing people who would maybe only go to a Tiger’s game and back home to the outskirts and not to the typical places Downtown, they might see there’s more to do in our big city than we previously thought,” Schwartzenberger says. “There are a lot of things that come with that. If we get people to come down, they’ll be spending their money down here. Those are the kind of things that will be a part of helping make this city what it can be.”

So far there are more than 40 riders from 20 cities including Royal Oak, Rochester Hills, Macomb, Shelby Township, Bloomfield Hills, Allenton, Southgate, Harrison Township, Dearborn, Roseville, Ortonville, Birmingham, Pontiac and others. The organizers try to make the event as inclusive as possible. Both city and suburban dwellers are welcome.

This isn’t an event just for people in Olympic-level shape. So if your reaction is anything like mine (“nice thought, but there’s no way”), the duo has a couple points of reassurance for those on the fence.

“It’s in no way as far as you think,” Childers says.

“It’s only 16 miles from Ferndale to the river, and that’s not even taking a direct route. That’s our scenic route, ” Schwartzenberger chimes in. “Also, think about this. You’re in this group and you’re pedaling with people. Inevitably you’re going to talk with people… get to know people you don’t know, and all of a sudden you’re at the next stop. You’re not crushing your legs and you’re not working a bunch of cardio.

“The idea isn’t that we’re just here to get exercise. We’re here to enjoy the time.  So not only will it not feel like six miles, which is the longest distance between any stops, even the six miles will go by fast,” he says.

Biker spandex is also optional.

“Every year we’ve gone it’s the group of people that makes it fun. You don’t necessarily get cliques. You ride and talk to people, then drop back and talk to more people,” Schwartzenberger says.

While it’s sure to be a fun day of bike riding and exploring, Close the Gap is looking to make more of an impact. It’s donating every penny of the registration fee to the Animal Aid Foundation, a group that helps find rescued animals homes.

A tour like this might also help riders realize much of our landscape is bike-able. Detroit may have a bigger problem with suburban sprawl than most cities, but Close the Gap contends that this doesn’t mean riding a bike is impossible.

“Ferndale is a very close neighbor, but from Rochester and Shelby, even Canton… you can get to Detroit so much faster than you can possibly imagine,” Childers says. “There are a bazillion little routes you can take. If people bike as the crow flies, you can get to Detroit in fewer miles and sometimes less time on a bicycle.”

Close the Gap takes place Saturday August 4. For more information or to register for the ride, see their website. You can also find them on Facebook.

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