Biketober online challenge aims to get more people riding bicycles in Detroit

This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

The city of Detroit is celebrating bicycling this month with a special event called Biketober. Sponsored by Detroit's Office of Mobility Innovation (Detroit OMI), Biketober is a month-long competition where participants can log miles online and potentially win prizes.

The city hopes the contest will inspire more people to become first-time riders and help those who are to become better connected.

"It's open to everybody," says Samuel Krassenstein, deputy director of Detroit OMI. "We have an online platform called Love To Ride that people can go to to get signed up.  And it allows people to set biking goals, log rides, and most importantly encourage others to bike and build positive reinforcement for people in the biking community."

Biketober is the last leg of a larger Detroit Bike Challenge event that began in May and wraps up this month. The overall competition is made up of five different events: two month-long challenges in May and October and three mini-challenges, which took place between June and September. 

Participants register themselves and their workplaces on the Love To Ride site and get points for each mile logged, each day ridden, and each new person registered. Scores are tracked on a leaderboard that lists the best-performing individuals, top-ranking workplaces of similar sizes, and other categories. The grand prize is a $1,000 gift card and there are also opportunities to win various other gift cards, as well as a new bike worth $500 and a helmet. 

In May, 400 people and 19 organizations registered for the competition, logging 1,600 trips totaling roughly 23,000 miles. 

The competition is funded by a grant from World Resources Institute's New Urban Mobility (NUMO) alliance, which has been sponsoring similar challenges in a variety of other U.S. cities like Chicago, Portland, and Nashville. Other partners involved with the Detroit Bike Challenge include the Detroit Greenways Alliance, MoGo, NextEnergy, and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

The city and its partners plan to hold a closing celebration for the Detroit Bike Challenge on Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bennett Playground (444 Smith St.) in Detroit's New Center Neighborhood.

"That event's going to be a lot of fun," says Krassenstein. "It's the culmination of all the hard work people have put in and a just celebration of biking. And there's a MoGo [bike rental] station right there, so people who don't bike will be able to [ride]."

Organizers with Detroit OMI will use data from this year's challenge to inform similar programming and determine whether to continue or expand the event next year.

The Detroit Bike Challenge is part of a larger city of Detroit initiative, started in 2019, that aims to promote use of the city's biking infrastructure as a response to COVID-19. Last summer, in a related effort, the city also launched a program to lease e-bikes and e-scooters at reduced rates to Detroit-based hospital, grocery store, pharmacy, and manufacturing workers who live within six miles of their place of employment.

Visit the Detroit Love To Ride website to register for Biketober and learn more about the Detroit Bike Challenge.

Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.
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