Detroit Bikes is awesome – this we know.  Detroit Bikes donated a brand new bicycle for the grand prize in our Highways for Habitats Contest, which was a big indicator of awesomeness.  But our conversation with owner Zak Pashak revealed even more about this still-new company and what they’re doing in Detroit.  As an entrepreneur and business owner in Detroit, as well as transportation advocate, we were curious about Zak’s thoughts on cycling, Detroit, cycling in Detroit, and transportation.

Zak was born in Calgary, Alberta, and after a visit to Detroit that drew him in, he moved to the Motor City in 2011.  Zak is interested in both policy and transportation, and their intersection; he believes that transportation policy is in some ways the cornerstone of urban planning, and therefore is vital to a city.  “We tend to build our cities around how we get around them. We create our system of roadways, parking lots, trails, etc., and everything branches out from there.”

Zak was inspired by Detroit’s vibrancy – the interesting shops, businesses, and creative ideas – and wanted to be a part of it.  After hearing the refrain, “Detroit needs more jobs,” he explored business ideas to bring to the city.  He considered Detroit’s history, what the city made and why, as a place to start.  He says there is a reason we’re a good manufacturing state: “Michigan is full of talented people, we have access to leftover manufacturing facilities and equipment, and people trust products that come out of here – they know it is built well.”  He paired this with his interest in transportation policy and the shift in mobility trends, and decided cycling was a great opportunity.

Detroit Bikes opened 2011, and provides a “transportation tool with a lot of potential.”  Not only is the bike manufactured in Detroit, it is well made and designed for its purpose.  As a very sturdy, functional one-size fits all ride, a Detroit Bike is made to suit all types of commuters: active committed riders will be amazed by the Chromoly hand-welded frame and other features, while newer cyclists will find it compelling because it looks good with an attractive price point, and they will be able to invest in their new tool with peace of mind about its durability.

Zak and Detroit Bikes are capitalizing on the current shift towards more multi-modal forms of transportation happening throughout our hometowns.  “Consumers are understanding that transportation is a big part of the general direction they are going – wanting local, healthy alternatives, ways to live longer and feel happier in everyday life.”  He says that while some changes, like switching from a car to a bike, might seem like a big sacrifice at first, ultimately people that make that leap into cycling feel really rewarded.

Zak was willing to support the Highways for Habitats Contest because he believes that any way to get people thinking and opening their minds, which motivates citizens to get creative and proactive, is beneficial, especially for those communities making changes.  His goal is to remain a public policy advocate to help build stronger communities, and to use Detroit Bikes to do it too.

As Detroit Bikes looks to extend its reach, we hope you find ways to extend yours.  While the city of Detroit may have a ways to go, it does offer activities – like neighborhood rides and the Tour de Troit – and quality bicycle manufacturers to help you take that leap.  “The mindset in many Detroiters is a great mindset to push things forward,” Zak reminds us.  Onward, friends!

Join Let’s Save Michigan Tuesday September 17th for a live discussion–via Twitter–with three of the nation’s leading experts on urban planning and design.  The conversation will help you learn all about planning and designing our roads to balance the many demands they serve.

AngieSchmittAngie Schmitt: a writer and activist working for Streetsblog, a national transportation advocacy group, and founder of Rust Wire, exploring urban issues in industrial cities.




SeskinStefanie Seskin: Deputy Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America, assisting in theimplementation of Complete Streets Policies across the country.




JessZimbabweBrickWallJess Zimbabwe: Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute’s Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership and the ULI Center for Cities, guiding education, policy and practice forums on topics in public/private real estate development.




A shift in the culture of our cities towards more multi-modal transportation and livable downtowns has grown an initiative to reimagine our highways.  Throughout the country and world, cities and towns have been redesigning their street infrastructure – from complete highway removal to rerouting, downsizing and improving.  The positive effects generated are clear time and again: strengthening the economic vitality of downtowns, improving walkability and the climate for alternative transportation, enhancing the connectivity of communities, and making streets safer.

To encourage Michigan’s transportation leaders to continue on a path towards transportation alternatives and strategic planning, we are hosting a ‘Highways for Habitats’ Contest for our Michiganders.  We encourage you to redesign a highway to show them that we want more complete streets, and the Twitter Town Hall is meant to help you in this process.

During our Twitter Town Hall, the experts will share examples of successful road designs balancing needs.  They will discuss who to talk to get involved, and give tips for where to start when planning for a more livable city.

To participate in the conversation, follow the hashtag #LSMhighwayscontest on Twitter on September 17th from 12:00 – 1:00 PM EST. You can also follow our Twitter feed @LetsSaveMich.

In the meantime, what questions do you have about street design?  Tweet with #LSMhighwayscontest between now and the event, and we’ll ask our panelists during the town hall.

Let’s Save Michigan would like to give a huge thanks to our sponsors at Detroit Bikes for providing the grand prize – a shiny new bicycle!