Motor-less City? Bankrupt Detroit’s booming bike industry


Before there was the Model T, there was the Quadricycle. Henry Ford fashioned his original automobile from four bicycle wheels and a chain at the height of Detroit’s 19th-century bike (yes, bike) manufacturing boom. If Detroit rose and fell on for four wheels, its past—and potentially its future—was built on just two. As the city wends its way through bankruptcy court this fall and its core industry lurches back to solvency, the Motor City is revving up to become a manufacturing hub again, this time for a vehicle that has no motor at all: the bicycle.


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Most $800 bicycles tout features such as a carbon fork and high-end components. At Heritage Bicycles, the $800 base-model, single-speed bike doesn’t even come with handbrakes—yet they are rolling out the door so fast that the almost three-year-old bike-and-coffee shop in Lakeview will generate more than $1 million in sales this year.

When Salvatore, 33, opened Heritage in early 2012, coffee generated 70 percent of revenue. That figure has dropped to 35 percent, but the coffee shop still draws year-round traffic and is so popular that he is opening three coffee-only outposts, one in Fulton Market and two in Uptown—the first of which opens this month.

Salvatore lives above his store with his wife, Melissa, a photographer, and their son. Melissa Salvatore runs her photography studio out of Heritage Littles, a kid-themed version of Heritage a few blocks south of the bike shop.

The co-entrepreneurial ventures represent a family reinvention: Michael Salvatore spent part of his 20s as an options trader in Chicago before leaving in 2009 to build bikes for Bowery Lane Bicycles in New York. The family moved back to Chicago in 2011 to start Heritage, which has 23 employees.

Salvatore, who has a 2003 bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Arizona, knows more than what excites his own generation. He anticipated that millennial shopping habits would go mainstream and that, as he puts its, “more people would begin to want something authentic, something made locally, and appreciate the story of a mom-and-pop shop.”

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9 Things Drivers Need to Stop Saying in the Bikes vs. Cars Debate

Roads are designed for cars?

So I looked into it and, as it turns out, roads have been around for many thousands of years. And for much of that time, they’ve carried a wide variety of things: feet, carts, horses, wagons, streetcars, buses, bikes, and automobiles. It’s only in the last six or seven decades that we’ve decided cars should get priority.

The roads don’t control us, we control them. We can design them to carry whatever types of traffic we feel are useful, and provide for safe and convenient passage of those different modes. But after World War II, many forces in the US—suburban planning, interstate highway development, the movement of the middle-class out of cities—conspired to create a motorist-dominated streetscape.

Don't Kill The Messenger | Bryan Derballa

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The Danes Wheel Out Their Bikes as Cars are Eliminated

In the past two years, the share of Copenhageners who ride their bike to work or school has risen from an already high 36% to 41%. But, as far the city planners are concerned, even that’s not enough. “Pretty much everyone here rides a bike: young, old, both sexes, all levels of education,” reports Andreas Røhl, head of the city’s mobility department. “One of our challenges is, with so many people biking, where can we increase the number? Biking shouldn’t be a sacrifice.”


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Take a close look at this bike!

Priority Bikes hit a home-run with this bike design.  3-speed internal hub, belt drive, puncture-resistant tires, pull-back handlebars.  This city bicycle has done everything Self-Propelled City has been begging bike shops to do for years.  On their kickstarter page you could have ordered one for $350 but they were sold out quickly.  Their kickstarter goal was $30,000 and they ended up raising $556,286 so I would say these bikes will be in demand, and bike shops in cities all over the US should take a very close look at this design and specs.  But they will be for sale on the Priority Bike website for $400 and that includes a floor pump with gauge.


I was lucky enough to meet David and to check out the Priority Bike workshop where they are gearing up to build them when they arrive at the end of the year.  This bike is one SPC can REALLY get behind.  The only thing I would have added would be fenders.  But to keep costs down they are something you can add later.  All of the needed braze-ons are there to add standard fenders.  This bike is about minimalism.  And I just have to accept the fact that most people would not go riding in the rain like me, so fenders are not required for those buyers.

NOTE: The rear dropouts on this bike are horizontal, rear facing “track” dropouts in the final design.  The Gizmodo article shows the front facing horizontal dropouts that were on the frames of earlier test bikes.

For more information visit Priority Bicycles website:




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Cargo Bike Undergoing Renaissance in Germany

Cargo bikes are undergoing a renaissance in Germany as companies attempt to battle city congestion and pollution.


The bikes were popular at the start of last century before the car dominated transport, and in the past five years they have regained popularity as a means of moving light freight.

The German government wants to see more freight moved by cargo bike instead of truck or car and spends more than 80 million euros every year supporting cycling infrastructure.

Transport ministry spokeswoman Birgitta Worringen says more than three-quarters of all journeys in Germany are less than 10 kilometres and cargo bikes can deliver all sorts of uses.

“It’s a good means of transport which doesn’t make any noise or pollution,” she said.

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A Nature-Inspired Scooter Reinvents The Cargo Bike So That It’s Easier To Pedal

Cargo bikes might not pollute the air, but they often don’t work particularly well. The bikes tend to be heavy, difficult to steer, and prone to tipping over. Students at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán aimed to reinvent the bikes without adding a motor.

The result was Mocan, a simple vehicle that looks like a scooter, with extra room in front to carry boxes or other goods. Designed as part of the Biomimicry Student Design Challenge, which asks students to look for inspiration in nature, the Mocan imitates the squiggle movement of centipedes and snakes. Instead of pedaling, you move a handle back and forth to move quickly down the street.


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Europe is going car-free (and loving it)

Looking to reduce pollution and congestion, European cities are banning vehicular traffic — and creating vibrant shopping zones in the process.


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Bicycle roundabout in the sky in the Netherlands, Hovenring

hovenring_bike_roundaboutknown for its bicycle-friendly streets and bike paths, so you’d probably think that bicycle infrastructure in the sky would be completely unnecessary there. But even this bike leader has intersections that are excessively large and centered too much around cars. In the case of one such intersection between Eindhoven and Veldhoven, planners and designers created the Hovenring, a beautiful bicycle and pedestrian roundabout elevated above the roadway.

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EdgeRunner — Excellent Urban Cargo Bike

There’s a unique version of the cargo bike available from Xtracycle, which can not only carry bags or boxes with ease, but can also accommodate a passenger or two as well. Xtracycle’s EdgeRunner model combines a passenger seat, a bike rack, a bike bag, and more, into a “long-tail” cargo bike that is efficient to ride, handles responsively, and is lighter than a lot of other cargo bike options on the market.

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