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In the limelight: Biking towards a better environment

"In the limelight" is a monthly series showcasing the ways people are using Google products to be better to the environment. Explore ways you can be greener with help from Google products on the Google Green website.

May is National Bike Month, an opportunity to celebrate the bicycle and its many benefits. All month long, Bike to Work Day activities are taking place in cities across the country. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a casual cruiser, biking can save you money, improve your health and help you explore your community. As an added benefit, biking is better for our environment, too.

One way to discover bike routes in your community is Google Maps biking directions, which currently provides biking directions and bike routes in over 200 US cities, Canada, Australia, and 14 European countries. You can use Google Maps to plan your route for Bike to Work Day (or any day).

Today, we’re sitting down with Todd Scott, the Detroit Greenways Coordinator, who made cycling easier for his community. Using Google Map Maker, he’s built a comprehensive, accurate and accessible map of biking directions and routes in and around Detroit. Todd is helping build community and preserve the environment in an effort to transform the Motor City into “Cycle City.” 

Detroit is the birthplace of the automotive revolution. What is Detroit's connection to bicycling? 

Active bicycling clubs began forming in Detroit in the 1890s, preceding the automotive revolution. These early bicyclists became the entrepreneurs, industrialists, race car drivers, salesman, and mechanics that led to Detroit becoming the Motor City. In many ways, we're getting back to cycling -- and for many reasons: improved health, being green, saving money, being social, and just having fun. 

How did you come up with the idea to use Google Map Maker? 

I was at the 2010 National Bike Summit when Google first launched bicycling directions. I realized that in order for them to work well, we needed reliable map data that made it easy for people to discover bicycle friendly roads and trails. Google Map Maker lets me do that. 

What do you consider the key benefit of promoting cycling in your city? 

There are so many benefits to cycling in Detroit that it's tough to choose just one. However, I hear from residents and visitors alike that they see a different Detroit on a bike than they do in a car. A ride from the abandoned Michigan Central Station to the Ford Rouge Plant is pretty amazing. This takes you through the heart of Southwest Detroit with many great restaurants, bakeries, murals, parks, etc. On a bike, it's so much easier to stop and appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells of these neighborhoods.

What are other ways in which your city supports cycling? 

The city of Detroit has lost nearly two-thirds of its population over the last half-century. That means our roads have very little vehicle traffic and are very bike friendly. Still, we’re focused on adding more trails and bike lanes in the city. This year we're adding 100 miles of bike lanes and expanding some of the city's most popular trails.

What does being green mean to you? 

For me it's core to my decision making process. I do try to bike and walk to work, the grocery store, the bank, and other local businesses. Sometimes this lifestyle is trumped by other factors. I do turn up the thermostat in the winter when my girlfriend visits.

You can find local bike trails and routes using Google Maps biking directions and start enjoying a healthier, greener lifestyle today! 

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