I came across this very interesting article, Biking in the Motor City, from Meg Mulhall (originally posted on GlobalSitePlans.com, but I came across it on CNU.org) about Detroit grassroots resurgence. I am aware of the work being done in downtown and some of the politics behind it, but was completely unaware of the investment being put into green infrastructure. At the same time that it is stunning to see The Motor City become much friendlier to other modes of transportation, it isn't. Simply because Detroit's population and consequently tax revenue has dropped so drastically that they are essentially starting from scratch and that means finding inexpensive solutions their problems. Bike infrastructure is cheap, much cheaper than highways and parking garages, which offers a poorer population to continue to have access to jobs and the cities resources and opportunities.
To answer the question at the end of the article; Infrastructure. People, no matter their place in life, will be much more inclined to ride a bike if the paths are there. The paths have to be direct, accessible from key points in the city, well maintained, safe, and user friendly if they are to succeed. I know I would be very inclined to take my bike to work if it were a 10-20 minute safe ride and so would a lot of other people. With the infrastructure in place the growth and use will follow. Personal financial savings from bike use will rise, health of the population will increase, small business will grow and the city will become much more engaged.
Personally, I think only good can come from a solid bicycle infrastructure and am very excited to see what the city does with this enormous opportunity to be a national archetype in restructuring our older, ailing cities.