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Detroit’s best neighborhoods for walking, biking, and transit

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A row of red MoGo bikes at a downtown station Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Detroit might not be the best big city for car-free living, but the Motor City is making progress in walkability, biking, and transit options every year. The mayor discussed his vision for 20-minute neighborhoods last year, where residents should get what they need in a 20-minute radius—without a car. What might be the best neighborhoods to live in if someone doesn’t have a car? There are clear options, with few surprises.

We’re looking to to find our rankings, which ranks cities and neighborhoods out of 100. One missing area we might add—West Village and the Riverfront. Expect higher scores in these areas in the coming years. Here we go.

1. Midtown

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Midtown—or as Walkscore calls “University”—ranks high in all categories. It scores 87 in walkability, 76 in biking, and 52 in transit. The area stretches from 75 to the south and east, up to 94, and bordered by the Lodge. The new addition of the QLINE could improve these rankings in the near future, along with the shiny new bike lanes along Cass Avenue.

Photo by Mark Hall

Many bus lines pass through the neighborhood, making it easy to navigate and get to other parts of the city. Groceries are close at Whole Foods or University Foods, and there are many restaurants in the area. Is it any coincidence we often see some of the highest rental and condo prices here? These scores could increase as new development, including City Modern in Brush Park and residential in the District Detroit, are added in the coming years.

2. Downtown (also Corktown and Lafayette Park)

Coming in second is a large area comprising the greater downtown, including Corktown to the west and Lafayette Park to the east. This region has high walkability at 74, an average transit score at 51, and a bike score of 58. The Rosa Parks Transit Center is located right downtown, along with the Greyhound Station in Corktown. Many MoGo bike share stations are in these regions, along with the People Mover and the QLINE.

In terms of groceries (which Detroit lacks everywhere), City Market is a dense food shop right in Millender Center, while Lafayette Park has Lafayette Foods. Corktown and downtown are full of restaurants, while Lafayette Park has some of the best green space in the city. Condos downtown are rare and selling at high prices. Corktown offers chic lofts and quaint Victorian single-family homes. Lafayette Park is known for its midcentury co-ops, creating a dense, beautiful community.

3. Central (New Center, North End, Boston-Edison)

Perhaps one big surprise on the list is this designated Central region, which spans from 94 up to Highland Park, bordered by 75 and the Lodge. Here we find a variety of neighborhoods and homes, from the northern part of Wayne State into New Center, to the large mansions of the Boston-Edison Historic District. The QLINE runs up to the Boulevard, and many argue it should run all the way through this district and up to 8 Mile at least. The Amtrak station is also located here, at Baltimore and Woodward. The new bike lanes on Cass Avenue come up this way to the Boulevard.

The population is much denser in New Center, with many multi-family homes and apartment options. The North End has many older homes, but still many that need to be renovated. The food choices are much slimmer here, even though the North End has many urban farms. King Cole Foods is located right off of Woodward, south of Boston-Edison. We hear there may be a co-op on the way. Real estate is tricky over here, ranging from million dollar homes in the historic district, to affordable condos in New Center, to large fixer-uppers in the North End.

4. Vernor (Southwest, Hubbard Farms, Mexicantown, Delray)

Another surprise is the placement of Southwest on the rankings. While we think it should be higher, we’re guessing it’s coming in at number four because it takes up such a large area. While Hubbard Farms and Mexicantown are extremely walkable and bike friendly, other areas like Delray are heavily industrial. Basically, the closer one lives to West Vernor Highway, the higher the score.

We’d go as far to say that Hubbard Farms and Mexicantown are likely the closest Detroit has to 20-minute neighborhoods. Groceries and food are plentiful here, and there are plenty of shops to get other basic needs. Transit only scores a 32 in the region, but biking scores high at 71. MoGo bike share stations are located near Clark Park on West Vernor and near the pedestrian bridge at Bagley.

5. Bagley

The area for the Bagley neighborhood on Walkscore runs from McNichols to the south up to Seven Mile, bordered by the Lodge and Livernois. We imagine this area will improve in its scores—64 for walking, 41 for transit, and 54 for biking—as the nearby Fitzgerald redevelopment takes shape. Nearby, you’ll find Marygrove College, University of Detroit Mercy, and the Avenue of Fashion. Shops and restaurants are plentiful. It’s also very close to the one big grocery store in Detroit, Meijer. The area has about seven bus lines running through it, plus restaurants and food options mainly on the bordering streets.